I was going to write a longer review of this episode, but honestly, I just don’t care. It was a thoroughly disappointing half-hour of television, and it’s been a further disappointment watching TV critic after TV critic rushing to commend the show.
Look, I can buy the idea that the best comedies aren’t always the ones that get the most laughs per minute. Sometimes the best humor comes from knowing the characters and that takes time and buildup, and often that means introducing elements of realism into the show, things like sadness, depression, etc. That’s why I actually greatly enjoyed Mixology Certification, the episode where Troy turned 21 but had his party upstaged by his friends’ drunken realizations of their unfulfilled desires.
But Mixology still managed to find laughs to carry the emotional stuff, and that emotional stuff reached higher levels of poignancy than it does in Critical Film Studies. (See: The conversation/hug between Troy and Annie outside her door.)
Critical Film Studies wasn’t just unfunny. It was intentionally alienating and divisive. You can tell the intention in that the show set up the audience to expect a Pulp Fiction riff (note: I was not especially looking forward to another spoof, anyway) only to bait-and-switch with a small, cult-favorite artsy-fartsy indie movie about two people talking. I know the show has been renewed for next season, but this is the kind of thing that will keep it from ever having a larger audience. Trust me, if I’m alienated by an episode of Community, than the show is playing to a small percentage of the viewing public. (I don’t mean that to sound like a brag, just stating that I am a huge fan of the show most of the time.)
Luckily for Community, a large contingent of that fractional audience consists of people who review television for a living. (Reminder: I’m doing this for free.) These people probably see an uncomfortably large number of similarities between themselves and Abed, who is so obsessed with pop culture that it has rendered him practically incapable of forming authentic human connections.
But is he really incapable? At the end, the show tries to have it both ways, with Jeff and Abed having their “real” conversation, just at the Pulp Fiction diner instead. It’s supposed to be a grace note, but it didn’t register to me.