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Community

Community Review: Brittastrophe!

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I had a friend who, several years ago, decried Community as "too 'T.G.I.F.'"

Sadie Hawkins Protest

For those of you too young to remember (or those of you whose parents only let you watch PBS while growing up), "T.G.I.F." was a Friday night programming block on ABC that featured such thought-provoking, high-brow comedy as Perfect Strangers, Full House and whatever show Urkel* was on.

I knew my friend meant it as a put-down about the way Community liked to have episodes end in a pat moral lesson, but I thought Community was a bit like "T.G.I.F." in the good way. In the same way that the "T.G.I.F." line-up had its mysterious foreign cousins, appearances by Stefan Urquelle, and other improbable nonsense that left my pre-teen self feeling like the world was ultimately a good place, so did Community leave me feeling like the adult world was ultimately a good place... even if it did have the occasional vicious paintball warlord in it.

"Herstory of Dance," however, was like "T.G.I.F." in the bad way: sloppy content, unearned morals and featuring a guest appearance that ends in a celebrity performing their most famous song, while everyone dances around.

Community's strength is in its richly detailed characters, and its attention to the details of those characters - its multi-season callbacks, its running visual gags, its totally correct placement of a Charlie St. Cloud poster in Annie's room.

But "Herstory of Dance" dispensed with that; most of all, by having Britta confuse Sophie B. Hawkins and Susan B. Anthony. This slip-up that wasn't treated like a brain-fart (like when you ask someone to pass the butter, but accidentally end up asking them to pass the Brian Williams), but rather a genuine screw-up that Britta's ego would be invested in covering up.

Look, Britta is many things, many terrible things (I should know. I am many of those same terrible things). But someone who legitimately mixes up Sophie B. Hawkins and Susan B. Anthony is not one of those things. Britta is not only a committed feminist, but someone who clearly attended Lilith Fair 67 times. What's next, she thinks president Ani DiFranco presided over the U.S. during the Civil War?

Making that the episode's jumping-off point set the tone for the rest of the lazily-written episode. Why do Annie and Shirley want to set Abed up on a date? I don't know! Because plot momentum? Why would Jeff respect Britta more for delivering on the promise of getting a singer that no one cared about, and who had no real reason to be there, except to prove the point that Britta is capable of sometimes not screwing up every single thing? The stakes were beyond low, they were sub-atomic and it was no fun to see any of the risks pan out because of that.

Abed's actual interactions with his dates (as well as guest star Brie Larson) were among the episode's high points, and the writers still know how to set up a gag - there were no shortage of excellent Community quotes, and I thought Pierce's extended email bit in the library was hilarious.

But this episode didn't have soul. It felt like a show simply going through the motions and running out the clock. I've enjoyed parts of Community Season 4 more than a lot of viewers, but if this episode signals where the rest of this season is heading, I'll have to declare a dean-strosity...wait...a monster-dean-o-sity...ah, I'll just have to declare it a total mess.

*I know that Urkel was on Family Matters. I'm not a monster!

What did you think of Abed's love interest? Do you think Jeff's new-found respect for Britta will last? What's your favorite Sophie B. Hawkins song?

Review

Editor Rating: 3.4 / 5.0
  • 3.4 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 (70 Votes)
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    9 Comments New Comment Subscribe

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    This was actually one of the best episodes of the gas leak year.

    The reviewer is dead wrong.

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    Funny to read these comments after the fact. I only recently started watching Community and have powering through all four seasons in about a month. I have also been reading this review as I went along just to see what people were thinking at the time it aired. I have to say, the reviewer's growing disillusion with Season 4 is bang on.

    In my opinion, Community has started to become the thing it was always making fun of. It would always subvert the trope, but now it is starting to become the trope. It's still funny in a sitcom sort of way. But the time I really noticed the switch where I stopped the show multiple times to collect my thought was the Thanksgiving episode. The next ones following only confirmed my suspicion. They are playing it straight when they used to subvert the lesson or the typical tv moment!

    Sure, there is a nod to so-called 'meta' with Abed intentionally entering into a double date. But this episode ditches that to follow the 'true love' angle combined with the happy ending of the star coming it at the last minute. Yes, there was some lampshading as they did in the past, but this is exactly when older Community would set us up for the moral of the story and go... ha! thought we were going to give you a moral didn't you?

    It's still amusing in a sitcom sort of way as I said before, but it is not nearly so committed to undercutting the premise as they did in the past.

    Sterlingmalorywinger

    Was ok. Actually better than ok. Loved Troy's picture text of his mustache/Let's chips hijinks. Also the Dean's saying a large percentage of Greendale students sort of "gave up" in the 90's had me rolling. Goes right along with the "Welcome to Greendale. You're Already Accepted" slogan. The past three episodes have been pretty decent. Expecting big things from the puppet episode btw.

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    This review is nit-picky, this season has many of the same writers as previous seasons and the writing has been better than the first season and most of the third. People need to lay off the criticism because at least there is stilll a Community, what happens when these critical asses get there way and we have only parks and rec left for the thursday lineup? Well I'd assume this reviewer really loves Whitney because that is the type of cheap replacement that we will get, keep bitching, but I'm a fan for life, Six Seasons and a Movie. Also Dan Harmon was a bully and the type of guy that won;ld disrespect the other writers with drunken rewrites of their ideas. FRED WILLARD for the win.

    Joyeful

    I wholeheartedly disagree with this review. Britta did NOT confuse Sophie B Hawkins with Susan B Anthony; she committed a simple phonemic paraphasia. She obviously knew the difference between the two. She COMMITTED to the error because Winger was making fun of her, and really, who hasn't stuck to a lie in the face of embarrassment?

    As for Shirley and Annie trying to hook Abed up - it's not unprecedented (remember Abed's Don Draper?). I think that actually fell quite naturally in the plot of a school dance episode. There was definite soul in Abed's storyline, AND in Pierce/Britta's interactions.

    I think I'm going to stop with the Community reviews. I usually love reading people's insight whether I agree or not - but I feel like reviewers are ESPECIALLY nit-picky and unfair this season.

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    Kind of see where you're coming from, but I actually thought that this continued the trend of being funny and very community feeling like the last couple episodes.

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    This was my favorite episode this season. I think it was written really well actually. The jokes weren't flat this time.

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    This was a great episode,best this season I believe. Totally disagree with your review.

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    I regret reading this stupid review. This episode was a true community episode. Quit your job, make yourself useful and go flip burgers.




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