Was that the most avant garde half hour I have ever seen on network television? Or was it just a thirty minute primetime ad for G.I. Joe?
Honestly, why can't it be both?
Community Season 5 Episode 11 was a breath-taking creative coup for a show that knows a thing or two about breath-taking creative coups, as well as a meditation on the soothing but ultimately negative nature of nostalgia AND an infomercial about how cool classic 1980's G.I. Joes were.
Made with Hasbro's blessing, this episode jumped into different territory than previous Community pastiche episodes, as this wasn't an homage to a piece of fun retro nostalgia - this was the actual piece of retro nostalgia.
(I would say the Hasbro licensing was an amazing win for Community, but I also felt an extremely strong pull to buy a high-end, collectible Scarlett doll within seconds after finishing this episode, so I guess both parties got something out of the equation).
A licensed, sponsored piece of art is always playing with fire, of course, but Community seemed to evade being scorched; I have a hard time imagining that a toy company exercised too much corporate censorship over a script that has a main character overdosing on booze and janky "youth pills."
But even if Hasbro did have script oversight, this episode seemed to stay true to Community's essential Community-ness, anyway - the Community quotes were there, the ruminations on being, the ragging on Britta. Is Community so strong a flavor that even merging completely with another brand couldn't blot it out?
I'd say yes. The episode expertly blended multiple mediums (animation, live action commercials) into something that worked on a deeper level than just straight-ahead narrative; something that hit me right in the childhood. The commercials alone were a thing of demented beauty, reminiscent of Charlie Kaufman's work.
Of course, the half hour raises many of the same questions as the recent outstanding Lego Movie: as the lines between advertising and entertainment continue to blur, should we struggle to separate them? Or should we sit back and enjoy the show?
Uh, sorry to get so heavy on you there. No, wait, come back. I liked the joke about Cobra Commander wanting to see boobs. Can we be friends again?
But maybe you see things differently than I do. Maybe you were more of a He-Man type. Maybe you wish they'd devoted this energy to creating an episode where we finally find out what's inside a Stretch Armstrong doll. So tell me:
Was that amazing or ridiculous?