A review of last night’s “Community” coming up just as soon as I rub Purell on my brain…
“Community” gets dismissed in certain corners as being too snarky and/or hip for the room. While I can certainly understand people being turned off by the meta commentary and the referencing, “Community” is, in fact, one of the more sincere, heartfelt comedies on television. Yes, it does random asides about itself and about pop culture, but at its heart its a story about friendship, and how learning to care about other people can make you a better person yourself.
“Accounting for Lawyers” was a very strong example of the show’s core themes, and one that took its wiseass leading man very seriously.
Abed notes that Jeff’s old lawyer buddy Alan (Rob Cordry) is “from your origins,” and much of the episode was a Jeff Winger origin story. We not only see where he used to work and get a sense of the jerk he was when he worked there, but in talking with old boss Ted (a very sleek Drew Carey) about why Alan should make partner, Jeff revealed the painful childhood reason for why he wanted to become a lawyer in the first place. He wanted to be someone who, like the guy in the slick suit and car, could “rise above the sloppy stuff and look at the bottom line.” His life at Greendale, meanwhile, is all about the sloppy stuff, and though he tries to resist the study group’s attempt to pull him back there, he ultimately realizes that while caring can make you vulnerable, it can also make you much happier than he was in his former life.
And what I liked about Jeff’s part of the A-story was that it didn’t push too hard for jokes. (Though I did love the line about why Shirley shouldn’t sue the stripper: “She’s a stripper. Life sued her and she lost.”) Though he and Abed talk about how cartoonish the school is becoming, Jeff himself doesn’t become a caricature of himself when he goes back to law world, when I imagine it would have been very easy for the writers to do just that and tell Joel McHale to set his d-bag levels to 11. He doesn’t treat the study group especially badly; he just wants to hang out with lawyers again. And that low-key style made the emotional beats of the story feel more real, and then made the notion of placing the heartwarming climax at the Pop-and-Locktoberfest contest even sweeter, and funnier.
While Jeff was on a very human level, everyone around him got to push up against the cartoonishness he and Abed talked about. Pierce flips out when Alan bounces back the baldness insult, and later knocks over the champagne flutes. (Chevy + slapstick = funny. Almost always.) Everyone gets confused about whether people were impersonating Johnny Carson, Jon Stewart’s impression of Johnny Carson, or Britta doing Stewart doing Carson. Ted weirdly has a hole in his hand, and drops a coin through it as a reward to the staff for never asking about it (and note the popping sound when he and Jeff shake hands later). And in my favorite bit of strangeness/hilarity, Annie chloroforms the janitor – twice! – while Troy runs around screaming and crying. (Donald Glover + crying = funny. Always always.)
I think I probably laughed a little more at the season premiere, but “Accounting for Lawyers” felt even more like the show “Community” is at its best.
What did everybody else think?