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Community Review: Shawshanksgiving

by at . Comments

If I've ever been of two minds about an episode of Community, it was "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations."

Jeff Meets His Father

On one hand, you've got some excellent Community quotes, you've got a decent Shawshank gag (always welcome, of course), and you've got stand-out performances from the entire cast, especially from Joel McHale.

McHale does great work with whatever he's given, and for the first time this season, he was given a plum, spotlight opportunity to show exactly what he's capable of. McHale's Jeff was a fine-tuned instrument tonight, telegraphing emotional depths far beyond what was dictated by the script.

On the other hand, you've got...what was dictated by the script. Thanksgiving episodes are, by their very nature, usually puffy placeholders--light confections that entertain viewers just enough during a time of the year when they're so stuffed full of holiday spirit (or nauseous with holiday dread) that they can't focus on anything else. With a few noteworthy exceptions (How I Met Your Mother comes to mind), they're almost always the weakest episode of any given season.

Perhaps watching a Thanksgiving episode during a March snowstorm made the seams show a little bit more than they would have had this episode screened during our national celebration of carbs, carbs, and also more carbs.

But given that we've spent all of our time with this show--from Community Season 1 onward--hurtling towards Jeff's eventual meeting with his estranged dad, their moment of attempted reconciliation was ultimately just kind of unsatisfying.

While James Brolin gave William Winger as much d-bag flair and swagger as possible, again, it was an issue of what he was given to work with. William wasn't enough of a sharply drawn character--not enough of a contemptible villain or pathetic lost soul--to make his appearance have much of an impact. His meeting with Jeff had the feeling of simply tying up loose plot holes.

But at least we all learned in the end that friends are our real family...except when family is our real family, and we have to stick by them, and not our friend-family. But then there are other times when our friends are actually our real real family? Though Community has never been shy in spelling out its takeaways, it is usually done a bit more clearly than this.

And so, I remain confused, conflicted, and stuffed with mashed potatoes (the mashed potatoes were due to an earlier, unrelated incident, though they ended up dovetailing with the plot nicely). I thought the Greendale Seven did some of their strongest, most energetic acting work of the season. But for such a highly anticipated moment, Jeff's meeting with his dad just did not measure up.

Did Jeff's family reunion live up to your expectations? Do you think we'll ever see William or Willy Jr. again? Did you end up kind of eating an entire thing of mashed potatoes after watching this episode?

Review

Editor Rating: 3.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (63 Votes)
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Joyeful

I thought this episode was great on all counts. Joel McHale was phenomenal - just freakin phenomenal. And I thought what they did with his father was great. It was believable. Most people in life aren't pathetic lost souls or contemptible villains - they're just people who made misguided mistakes. I also really enjoyed the Shawshank Redemption - and I'm quite okay with having to use a little imagination to imagine how stiff Shirley's in-laws are after seeing that first interaction with the father in law. And knowing that they think Batman is gay - the NERVE! Abed's narration was fantastic, and Troy's inability to lie on demand is a great callback to season 1's Christmas episode where he fumbled the lie to Shirley about the fiiiiiiight (it's hard to find another word!). If this is supposedly Community at its worst - and while I admit it's different - I still think it's better than most comedies on TV. It's nowhere NEAR generic.

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i saw a few glimpses of the 'old' Community in this episode. i thought the play on Shawshank was great, but other factors made it apparent that this season is different. Community's best episodes are when the entire group is together and there is one bizarre storyline going on - this year they seem to split them up a lot and have multiple plot lines. And the sappy, it-all-comes-together-at-the-end ending was too over the top for Community. I kept hoping that Jeff would reveal that his sad speech about his childhood was just a hoax to make his dad feel guilty. So out of character. Bring back cocky Jeff who makes no apologies for himself!!

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i definitely agree with more jeff and annie---this episode was ok with the father issues but i did not get why britta went there with jeff

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I appreciate all of your compliments Eddie. Now get back to work!

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Continued I also understand all the drama surrounding Chevy but they really are just throwing Pierce in at this point. He has these sad unfunny one liners that are just pointless except to show that he exists. Pierce has always been the odd man out but at this point he's barely window dressing. Please more Jeff and Annie. They are the couple people really wanted to get together for such a long time. Watching Britta's relationship with Troy is just unnecessary and uncomfortable. I get that show's like this think they have to tease the audience or it will get boring but now its become beyond frustrating.

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I should start by saying that I love community but this season has been highly disappointing. This episode was so much unlike community it was hard not to notice. The sets that they used looked so obviously fake and budget. They were clearly not outside which is unusual for Community. Jeff's half brother was seriously miscast in an attempt to bring on a bad excuse for a guest star. I'm also annoyed that they keep paring Britta and Jeff together. It's fun to see the study group pair off in different ways and not focus on them over and over again. I though that Shirley's Thanksgiving was really weak. We never really meet her family and the whole basement montage just felt lacking. There are brief moments when you see the old Community sneak in but its all just been so dumbed down. THis is starting to resemble a generic tv comedy. You can really see that they are trying to make it accessible to the mass audience by going for cheap, easy, and frankly unfunny laughs. I also understand all the drama surrounding Chevy but they really are just throwing Pierce in at this point. He has these sad unfunny one liners that are just pointless except to show that he exists. Pierce has always been the odd man out but at this point he's barely window dressing. Please more Jeff and Annie. They are the couple people really wanted to get together for such a long time. Watching Britta's relationship with Troy is just unnecessary and uncomfortable. I get that show's like this think they have to tease the audience or it will get boring but now its become beyond frustrating.

Community Season 4 Episode 5 Quotes

Pierce: Let's carve that jive turkey.
Shirley: Got that out of your system?

Jeff: I thought I told you to stop reading my emails.
Dean Pelton: Well, I thought I told you to stop keeping secrets!