Review: ‘Community’ – ‘Paranormal Parentage’

Senior Television Writer
02.14.13 114 Comments

A review of tonight’s “Community” coming up just as soon as I’ve been offended by this coat rack before…

Of the three season 4 episodes I’ve seen, “Paranormal Parentage” felt the most “right,” in that the characters felt like themselves rather than a very well-studied imitation. And I thought the emotional moments at the end involving Pierce and his half-brother Gilbert, and Jeff and his dad, landed quite well.

My problem is that it’s not an incredibly funny episode, yet it’s structured as one. No one’s going to be confusing this with “Mixology Certification” – it’s a “Scooby-Doo” homage, for goodness’ sake – and yet other than a few moments where the script calls upon the actors’ go-to moves (Donald Glover saying ridiculous things while crying, Gillian Jacobs dancing), plus a few stray gags (Troy’s confusion about Pierce’s “special gym,” Britta enjoying her inadvertent therapizing of Jeff), the jokes didn’t really click for me.

The idea of doing a “Scooby-Doo” episode that builds to some big epiphanies for two of our main characters seems like a very “Community” thing to do. I can imagine a more polished version of “Paranormal Parentage”  being one of those episodes of the show that makes us marvel at how exactly the creative team made it work. What we got, though, felt like it needed more work.

But Pierce reaching out to Gilbert to solve their mutual loneliness – and in a way that allowed each to hang onto his dignity – was a lovely moment, as was Jeff looking at the stitching of the boxing glove, as we realize he wore that costume as a tribute to his dad (the previous owner of those gloves).

Very nice individual pieces. I just wish the episode around them had been stronger.

Some other thoughts:

* I interviewed Giancarlo Esposito about his surprise return to the show.

* “Paranormal Parentage” was shot back when October 19 was still the premiere date, which would have put this one airing a few days before Halloween. Instead, NBC has tried to embrace the scheduling dissonance by calling it “Valloween” in promos. I really don’t think it’s that big a deal. “Sopranos” would air Christmas episodes at odd times, for instance, and every “St. Elsewhere” Christmas episode aired in May. I don’t think TV shows need to be as slavish to the real calendar as so many of them are, but I’m curious if anyone was bothered by getting a Halloween episode on Valentine’s Day.

* No follow-up on the subject of Changnesia yet, and Dean Pelton only turns up briefly in the teaser to inspire Jeff to go to Pierce’s house rather than straight to Vicki’s party. That said, I think Oscar Winner Jim Rash needs to put out a workout tape, ASAP.

* Abed has gotten Annie into “Cougar Town” (another show that wasn’t on around Halloween), which makes watching Annie his new “third favorite show.” Also, it definitely feels like the show is going back to the Annie/Jeff well, as they try to do a couples costume, and as she tries to get Jeff to still go to Vicki’s party with her after the haunted house debacle.

* I appreciated the mention of Shirley paying money for a babysitter to watch the kids – and on a night when she was supposed to be out partying with Andre – given that it strains credibility at times (especially since she had the baby) that she spends this much time partying with the study group. At the very least, here she’s acknowledging that it’s a hassle.

What did everybody else think?

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