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Sandwiches and pillows

By Jason Wong
On April 8, 2012


The comedy series "Community" has returned from a three-month hiatus. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure it should have. 

Don't get me wrong, I've been watching "Community" from the beginning, and it has had its moments - it's had plenty of them. I love the whole parody of tropes and satire thing they've got going on. But I feel like the four episodes since the hiatus have been weaker on the whole and less clever about their humor. That is not to say that they didn't make me laugh - they were still funny. Just not as funny.

The first episode after the hiatus was "Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts," in which Pierce and Shirley try to open a sandwich shop at Greendale, and Shirley and Andre get remarried. What was interesting about the episode was that unlike many others, it didn't have a gimmick to it beyond traditional sitcom tropes. That is, there were no zombies, no paintball wars and no animated scenes. It was a "normal" episode; even Troy and Abed acted normal. That alone was more unsettling than their usual strangeness. The episode wasn't the best "Community" there ever was - but I think it was a nice break from the norm. 

Following, in "Contemporary Impressionists," the group helps Abed get rid of debt by impersonating celebrities. This episode was a bit more out there than the previous, but again lacked a gimmick. The plot didn't make much sense. Abed is somehow in debt because he hires celebrity impersonators to help him recreate scenes from movies. Suspending the disbelief that such a service exists is easy - not so much that Abed couldn't just do this in his Dreamatorium. Moreover, while he's weird, Abed still functions in normal society, and unlike the Christmas episode, there was no catalyst that made him behave strangely. Overall, the episode made funny pop references and continued running gags - but honestly it felt more like filler than a standalone episode.

In the next episode, "Digital Exploration of Interior Design," the vice dean of Greendale's Air Conditioning Annex plants the seed for discord in Troy and Abed's friendship by exploiting their positions on the recurring idea of blanket forts. That entire plotline again seemed more like a set-up than a standalone; it was really the other plot of the episode that stole the show. Namely, Subway's corpo-humanoid. "Community" usually shies away from political statements, but I thought this one was pretty obvious. Best of all, it wasn't just a one-time joke, and kept laughs going throughout the episode.

Finally in "Pillows and Blankets," Troy and Abed's relationship hits a breaking point. This is the first gimmick episode since the hiatus, where the entire episode is done in the format of a Civil War documentary. The episode was hilarious, but I felt it was weird for anyone besides Abed to be documenting Greendale events. The episode relied almost entirely on the absurdity factor and established character roles for laughs. 

All in all, "Community" is still a show worth watching, especially if you have been from the beginning. Still, I hope that the writers are able to see when the show should stop, and end it on the perfect note, as Bill Watterson did with "Calvin and Hobbes."


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