I can’t relate to the nostalgia some people feel for the toy commercial-disguised-as-kids cartoon G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, which is to say, I have none. It was a little before my time (the show began airing in 1983, when I was negative-four), and even though I’ve caught up with some of the cartoons over the years, they didn’t do much for me; it’s one of those “you had to be there” things. Now, if Community had parodied Doug, I would have been all about THAT. Well, that’s not exactly true: I was all about “G.I. Jeff,” too.
It took some time, though. At first, the episode seemed like it’d be a straightforward parody of the animated series, making references for reference’s sake. Community is better than that. Granted, those references were broad enough that even a non-watcher like myself found them funny (the poor lip-syncing, the cheap animation, etc.). But after the Rankin/Bass-indebted “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” we’ve come to expect a certain meaning with our homages, and “G.I. Jeff” not so subtly dropped clues about where it was going before the bombshell actually dropped: Jeff’s 40 years old. OLD MAN WINGER.
Also, he drank too much and swallowed random Korean age-reducing pills (the only thing more depressing than working at a crummy community college? Dying in a crummy community college). Jeff was seeing everything as G.I. Joe because he wanted to be young again, to be a kid who funnels lumps of sugar, a.k.a. cereal, down his throat while watching Captain Grid-Iron not-kill Cobra again. It was surprisingly touching, if maybe a little corny (the animated material > the live action scenes). But lucky for Jeff, and for us, touching boobs and drinking scotch got him out of his funk. Not THAT I can relate to.