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Community Review: The Man from Cougar Town

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Well, that just wasn't funny at all.

Sometimes, Community aims for concept over humor. From the perpetually-cited paintball episode to "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" and many others in between, this is a show that packs more gags and references into a single half hour than I ever imagined was possible. Not all hit the mark, but the effort is astounding.

Still, the number-one goal should always be to make viewers laugh. And "Critical Film Studies" failed miserably in that regard.

Pulp Fiction Homage

Overall, I've come to embrace the zaniness of Dan Harmon and company. I have no clue what to expect every week from Community and even when I'm not laughing out loud, I'm marveling at the rich characters of this series, their development and the attempts by writers to be truly original on a weekly basis.

Typically, though, there seems to be an awareness on their part that this is still a sitcom. Jokes are are of the utmost importance. Somewhere between Abed's lengthy speech about his Cougar Town set visit (Jeff's reference to that stupid title was by far the funniest line of the episode, and it was incredible they donated such a chunk of the episode to another network) and Troy destroying the supposedly authentic suitcase, I realized:

There's scarcely an attempt being made here to make me chuckle.

Lack of humor aside, there was nothing subtle about the episode, either. Community has mastered its grip on its characters so impressively that it can take a game such as Dungeons & Dragons, have these individuals role play and still nail traits, within such an imaginary world, as Britta's self-righteousness. That was very cool to watch.

But there was a lot of showing and very little telling in Jeff and Abed's exchanges. They just made obvious statements about their lots in life: Jeff is scared people only like him for his looks, Abed knows he's just like any number of fictitious robots... Should I feel like I know these two people better now? Should I be moved by Jeff's openness or Abed's gesture to rekindle their friendship?

I really wasn't. For the first time that I can ever remember with Community, I was just hoping the episode would end.

Review

Editor Rating: 1.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (98 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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    12 Comments New Comment Subscribe

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    Wikipedia points here as the one negative review of this episode, though the user reviews and comments indicate otherwise. Self-aware bio blurbing about "how incredibly wrong he is about everything" does not excuse it.

    You say that "There's scarcely an attempt being made here to make me chuckle." You are right. Go chuckle at Two and a Half Men as they fish for maximum chuckles enforced by canned laughter. The attempt here is to have a lengthy, heartfelt, well-acted speech end with a gag about pants-pooping and a huge laugh. This is why there is a lack of good television - the demand for chuckle-a-minute mediocrity now extends to published critics and warps the studiothink.

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    I think this episode was pure genius.

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    @Gadgetron_3000, I found myself engaged in the Abed-Troy conversation as well, but only because I was waiting for the "big payoff" joke to happen, which never did. This was a case of the show trying to reach too intellectually high. At the very least, it can be said that when this show swings for the fences, it will occasionaly strike out.

    To paraphrase Shirley, I'm reacting the way the world does to movies about making movies about making movies. I mean, come on Charlie Kaufman, some of us have work in the morning. Damn.

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    I disagree with Matt's review of the episode. Although it wasn't one of the best of the season so far, it certainly doesn't deserve a 1.5 rating.

    I found the dinner converstation scenes between Abed and Jeff to be quite engaging, especially the one where Abed talks about his trip to the Cougar Town set. Jeff's quiet reaction and the lengthiness of the dialog had me glued in.

    I'll admit there weren't any big laughs, and what laughs there were pretty much went to Troy. But that's okay. In the end, this episode didn't have to reveal to me anything new about any of the characters. It didn't have to dig yet another layer deeper inside of them.

    The final scene of the episode was particularly touching to me. It was like a continuation of the 'Early 21st Century Romanticism' epsisode where Jeff uses a text message to tell everyone else how much he cares about them. At the end of this one, we are reminded about how close these characters are, and that they can always find a way to have fun together no matter what.

    Addict666

    Not the greatest but a solid 3/5

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    I agree that it wasn't very funny. This was a case of the show outsmarting itself. I've never seen My Dinner with Andre, but have heard it referenced plenty of times. I could tell that this is what was happening. But, really, big deal. I actually believe that there was no intention to make the Jeff/Abed portion funny.
    I think, thematically, it shared something with the "Troy comes of age" episode. It wasn't funny, and was supposed to show a character having some personal growth....I like that the characters are growing together, but I don't care if Jeff gets in touch with his inner child, and I definitely don't want to see another unfunny 'personal growth' episode. This is the danger of having a show that is willing to go to innovative lengths to entertain. There's going to be misfires. I think this was an example of that.
    Chang and Troy brought the only real comedic moments to the table this ep. Chang's "why do you leave him alone with me!?" plea was very funny. Chang, as evidenced last week, knows he's a complete lunatic, which is an interesting choice for a lunatic character. Imagine if Kramer realized he was a complete bozo.
    Donald Glover continues to turn every line and expression he gets into comedic gold. His timing variations and unusual line readings add so much...And the tag ending was funnier than the entire rest of the ep put together.

    I didn't like the ep...and I watched it twice to try and find something to hang my hat on...but I have to allow that it made a valiant effort at something. I agree with the reviewer, though. At the end of the day, the job is to bring the funny, and no matter what else you do in each episode, you should focus on that. A noble failure.

    Eagleone

    Great episode for me this week. It was all about deception by the way...
    You have to love Troy's last quote!

    Matt-richenthal

    @Evan: Fair enough, but "Meta" doesn't mean you go out of your way to trick the audience. "Meta" is a term that basically applies any time a TV show acknowledges that it's a TV show within its storylines or dialogue.

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    I don't generally look at a lot of promo photos and I don't have a TV (I watch the show on Hulu) so I don't see any commercials, but everyone always talks about how Meta the show is. Well, I'd say it's a pretty big Meta joke to trick the audience into thinking they're going to be watching a Pulp Fiction parody and then make them watch a My Dinner with Andre parody. Essentially, the audience went through everything Jeff went through. Having seen My Dinner with Andre (a movie I don't recommend to ANYONE) the show actually got a pretty big laugh from me on that reveal.

    Honestly though, without all that, I'm ok with the creators taking a week off from making people laugh the whole time to have a more serious episode. I enjoyed this week's episode a lot and while it's not among my favorites, it's certainly not among my least favorites.

    Matt-richenthal

    @Josh: But shouldn't Community be confident enough in it writing to just... write a funny episode? Essentially, your analysis is saying the show purposely sent around photos of the cast in Pulp Fiction garb just to trick us into thinking it would be a parody. That's a pretty cheap gimmick.




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