Why I miss ‘Community’: Because Shirley and Annie were tough cops

Senior Television Writer
02.02.12 18 Comments


Another week has passed without “Community” on NBC’s schedule or any hints about when and where it might return.(*) And until that good news comes, it’s time once again to look at a clip that sums up something I love about this series.

(*) In terms of reading the tea leaves, “30 Rock” continues to do poorly in the ratings opposite “American Idol,” which helps make the case that that timeslot was going to be bad news for NBC no matter what. (Though one could argue in a vacuum that “Community” might be doing even worse opposite “Idol.”) And both “Whitney” and “Are You There, Chelsea?” were up slightly this week versus last, though neither is lighting the world on fire on Wednesdays. At this point, I’m still assuming the choice will be between putting different comedies on Wednesday or replacing “The Firm” with two comedies, but I have no idea when NBC might make such a decision.

Today’s clip comes from season 1’s “The Science of Illusion,” and collects most of the scenes involving Annie and Shirley’s short-lived stint as campus security guards. This is a good example not just of “Community” nailing the details of a pop culture homage (in this case, to buddy cop movies), but to using the familiar tropes to illuminate character. It’s amusing enough that these two are suddenly battling it out over who gets to be Riggs and who has to be Murtaugh, but it goes deeper than just parody because both are acutely aware of how the rest of the study group sees them, and both are trying to use their time at Greendale to reinvent their images. (Their desire to do so is arguably the strongest in the group. Abed will always be Abed, Pierce and Britta don’t entirely comprehend how they’re viewed, Jeff is changing despite himself, and while Troy enjoys his transformation into Abed’s soulmate, he didn’t plan it.)

I’m also glad whenever the writers come up with a good Shirley story, as she’s the main character I think they’ve had the most difficulty servicing for two-plus seasons. Everyone loves Yvette Nicole Brown, but Shirley’s piety and her family situation seems to make it a struggle to slot her into as many kinds of stories as the others. Dan Harmon has said that they approach a lot of stories with a concept first and then figure out which character it would best fit later, and I can imagine it’s just easier to say, “Oh, put Troy or Annie in the middle of that” than it is to justify why Shirley would be involved in some particular brand of foolishness rather than back at home with Andre and their kids.

But she fits pretty seamlessly into this storyline, and Brown has a lot of fun trying to out-badass Alison Brie (and vice versa), though Brie ultimately is involved in my favorite joke (the pepper spray).

So enjoy, and, as usual, feel free to talk about any and everything “Community” while we wait, and wait, and wait some more for NBC to send up a flare in the Greendale colors.

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