A review of last night’s “Community” coming up just as soon as I sing a little song about race-mixing…
Season 3 of “Community” has dealt a lot with how the dynamics of the group have evolved over time, and how two-plus years of friendship have emboldened these people to be much more direct and honest with each other than they’ve been in the past. So the main story of “Studies in Modern Movement” was about Annie standing up for herself with her new roommates – and reminding them and us that not every one of Troy and Abed’s fantasies should be indulged – and one of the subplots had Britta and Shirley once again debating their wildly divergent philosophies.
But it also feels like this season, even more than last year, seems to be commenting on the relationship that both the characters and the show have with Greendale itself, and how much saner things seem the further we get from the campus.
We’ve seen ridiculous things happen in non-campus episodes, like the dark timeline from “Remedial Chaos Theory,” but for the most part, the show and the study group just seem much more human-scale whenever we head out to a restaurant (the Troy and Abed birthday episodes) or to someone’s apartment (Chang and Duncan hanging out at Jeff’s place), a hospital (the documentary episode), etc. It’s still “Community,” and these are still the people we know and love, but everything’s less zany.
Take Dean Pelton. He’s as broad as “Community” comes most of the time, and while he wasn’t exactly sympathetic in this one – it’s hard to overcome both blackmail and e-mail hacking, even if Jeff was again fulfilling his function as this season’s villain – he managed to be a less cartoonish version of himself, and was almost the straight man in this subplot while Jeff’s discomfort provided most of the laughs. (Jeff’s pain at having to sing “Kiss From a Rose” with Pelton was exquisite.)
Now, when “Community” goes into this more realistic mode, it tends to be to allow for more emotionally-resonant moments like Abed’s “Cougar Town” monologue or Jeff’s anger at how Pierce had lied to him about his father. It’s the show trading away the comic highs that can come from the lunacy of Greendale for the dramatic highs we can get when the characters are more finely-drawn. “Studies in Modern Movement” wasn’t exactly that, though. It had its funny moments (Annie realizing how Troy and Abed can be really annoying, Shirley and Britta taking turns being smug about the hitchhiker), and its sweet ones (Annie’s unabashed joy at seeing the Troy and Abed puppet show), but overall it felt more pleasant and interesting than extraordinary. I like seeing the relationships evolve in the way that they have, and I enjoyed the episode overall, but it ultimately felt a little lightweight.
Two other things to note:
First, it was interesting to see a Pierce subplot that seemed kind of quintessentially Chevy Chase-ian: Chevy alone (and therefore not having to pretend to be interested in what other performers are doing), doing slapstick and being weird. It wasn’t exactly like one of his old Gerald Ford “SNL” bits, but it wasn’t that far off, either.
Second, getting back to the idea of Jeff as the villain of the season, we once again get an episode climaxing with the rest of the study group singing and dancing in Troy and Abed’s apartment while Jeff is an unhappy onlooker. I look forward to where this is going.
What did everybody else think?