Thursday, December 1, 2011
Community: Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism
Even in the midst of arguably its most traditional, accessible episode of the season (one plot featured a few sports movie references, while the other was basically just a meta-commentary on a standard sitcom misunderstanding) Community can’t help but commit to its cult-status. Not to get too elitist, because I do object to the idea that only a small group of self-identified smart people should determine what’s on TV, but how many people who watch Two and a Half Men do you think got the joke about schadenfreude? (Nick Kroll, with a German accent: “I wish there was a word to describe the pleasure I feel at viewing misfortune.”)
This was a very unusual episode of Community in that it left Britta, Pierce, and Chang on the sidelines. (The first two appeared only in the open and the close, while Chang was completely absent. He wasn’t exactly missed.) Instead we got a Jeff and Shirley story that used something completely ridiculous (foosball) to provide a new wrinkle in their backstory. The show has gotten some laughs out of the fact that Shirley is treated as so much older than Jeff despite their closeness in age, and it was nice that the show treated them as peers.
Over in the new roommates portion of the show, we were treated to, on the surface level, a very standard sitcom trope. Annie accidentally breaks something of Abed’s (his ultra-limited edition Dark Knight DVD) and can’t bring herself to tell him. The wrinkle here (because Community can never do anything straight-forward) is that Troy witnesses the accident and warns Annie that Abed’s extensive knowledge about sitcoms means he would see through any attempt to do that sitcom thing where people secretly replace things. No matter how good Annie’s Christian Bale voice is, she realizes Troy is right. And so naturally, she takes it one step further and fakes a robbery.
All this is pretty much just an excuse to bring back an old favorite (and no, I don’t mean the cop who shot Professor Professorson in “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design”). Abed’s Batman first showed up in the series first truly accomplished effort, the season one Halloween episode, and it was nice to see him breakout the gravelly voice and belabored metaphors once more.
After Community goes off the air for good, whenever that may be, I doubt that “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” will be an episode that people immediately recall when they look back on the show. But it’s a really solid, funny effort, with a killer guest appearance by Nick Kroll. (I loved the human foosball bit.) For a lot of shows, this kind of episode would be a highlight, the fact that it registers as a pleasant middle for Community says a lot about the show.
P.S. Clarence Thaddeus Foos.