A review of last night’s “Community” coming up just as soon as someone sends me a tiny, thoroughly underwhelming message…
After last week’s character-centric bottle episode, “Community” was back to riffing on popular culture with “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design.” But because the show had just done an episode like “Cooperative Calligraphy,” and because the parody this time was much smaller-scale and less specific than the “Apollo 13” or zombie episodes, it didn’t feel like an overload. And as long as we can get a balance between the two kinds of episodes – Pierce’s mom dies one week, Annie’s got a gun(*) the next – then I think the two “Community”s can easily, happily co-exist.
(*) Between this and “Modern Family,” it was a good week for attractive women shooting off fake guns on sitcoms.
“Conspiracy Theories” really only used four of the regulars (though the random glimpse of Britta hanging out in the freakiest corner of Fluffytown was wicked funny), and even Troy and Abed weren’t used a ton. (I suspect Chris McKenna and the other writers recognized that the blanket fort was a fun little lark they should only spend so much time on.) So really, this was a Jeff and Annie episode, with a sprinkling of poor Dean Pelton and his non-time-traveling hoodie. And while that story was also a goof, I appreciated that there were little character notes sprinkled in with all the double and triple-crosses and betrayals(**) in the climax, including Annie’s frustration about how Jeff treated her after the kiss and Pelton’s own fear of being irrelevant and unloved. (In many ways, I’d rather see the Dean be the one who’s desperate to become part of the gang, with Chang used as an antagonist and/or deranged Greek chorus.)
(**) As half my Twitter followers pointed out, the climax was very, very reminiscent of the J. Walter Weatherman story from the “Arrested Development” episode “Making a Stand,” and that’s all I’ll say about that until you go watch it on Hulu. The two series have the Russo brothers in common, but I’ve always said “Community” has a warmer, more humanist spirit than “Arrested,” which was an incredibly funny but also incredibly cynical show. So it was interesting to see “Community” do an episode so similar not only in content, but tone, to “Arrested.” Not a bad thing; just different.
And if “Conspiracy Theories” wasn’t particularly deep, it was really funny. The name “Professor Professorson” keeps putting a smile on my face (as did all the fake night school course names), the tiny exploding car gag was hilarious, and having the chase scene run through Fluffytown was an inspired way to lampoon that kind of sequence from a traditional thriller. (I particularly liked Troy’s suggestion to take a shortcut through the civil rights museum.)
Plus, Kevin Corrigan is one of those actors I always enjoy. He’s rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but he has this appealing strangeness that can work in shows and movies with very varied tones, from something as low-key as “Slums of Beverly Hills” to something as silly as this (or something in between like “Grounded for Life”).
What did everybody else think?