“Community” – It’s Back!

As noted back around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays (yeah, that long ago), I get a kick out of “Community” whether it means anything or not, but primarily because I care about the characters (even sometimes Pierce).

So, I was happy that it was back after the hiatus. I agree with Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker: the return episode wasn’t exactly “Community” at its best, but it was a nice episode because it got back to basic “Community” – people at community college and trying to figure out what they want to do with themselves, amid the weirdness.

Basically, Shirley decides to re-marry her ex-husband, Andre (played by the actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and he has just a nice comfort level with his character, as Tucker observes:  a not-that-swift/ex-adulturer who wants to be the man, but has to accept change), but she doesn’t want to give up her dream of one day opening her own business – a bake or sandwich shop. To be cheap, they do a wedding rehearsal at the study group room.

Jeff gets his angst out, being the one stuck with a speech; Britta has a talent that she doesn’t want (making amazing flower and bridal arrangements); Pierce is dealing with wanting to be his own man, even if it turns out that his entrepenurial skills aren’t that great; and Annie has to restrain her own pent-up bridal obsession. Troy and Abed try not to be weird, but even their “normal” is ridiculous, because it’s a juvenile view of “normal.”

There was a moment, where Abed’s attempt at being normal actually worked for him – he was even dancing with a girl.  But, Troy starts wanting to be weird – seeing the monkey that they had left in the library and wanting to follow it – and then getting Abed to join him. For one moment, while I felt that we viewers were supposed to feel happy that Troy and Abed were “being themselves” in returning to their weird stuff and having fun, it felt like they didn’t want to grow up to be healthy adults – and not in a good way for me.

TV critic Alan Sepinwall put it this way, in his recap of the episode:

But back to Troy and Abed being normal. It was funny, and it was a commentary on the episode itself (and the series), but it was another reminder that living an Abed life has its downsides. When Abed de-whismifies himself, he’s suddenly capable of having normal social interactions, flirting and dancing with an attractive woman, etc., and the second Troy-as-Constable-Reggie reminds him of who he really is, they’re not really fit for human company but each other and the rest of the study group. I wouldn’t want Abed to not be Abed, or Troy to not be his faithful companion, but it’s hard not to notice that the deeper their friendship has become, the more both of them have become isolated from the outside world in general and the opposite sex in particular [emphasis added]. If not for Troy’s occasional flirtations with Britta, he’d practically be asexual, and once upon a time (in season 1’s “Physical Education”) there was a sense that Abed had interest in, and was at times attractive to, women. Just something to keep an eye on.

And, that’s what bothered me ever since Troy and Abed moved in together; Troy, other than his crazy moments, seemed like he wasn’t going down the pathetic path of Jeff, Britta, Pierce, and even Shirley.  I was hoping he’d find a way to balance the crazy with a little maturity. But, he seemed to be increasingly sucked into the land of imagination, in an unhealthy way – and not really helping Abed either.

What I liked about this past week’s episode was that it didn’t neglect that strand of thought: this week, Abed’s stunts get him into trouble, because he owes money to the Celebrity Impersonator company, for having opened an account for lots of impersonators but not paying them.  Troy thinks it’s funny, but then realizes the seriousness – that the French Stewart impersonator (played by French Stewart himself) won’t let Abed off the hook that easily, threatening to break Abed’s legs, if the gang won’t do a good job at the bar mitzvah where they’re being impersonators.  Entertainment Weekly’s Christian Blauvelt has an excellent detailed recap herein.

Jeff’s psychological issues blow up badly.  He doesn’t need meds, it turns out; he needs his friends. (no kidding; for once, Britta was right).  Troy thinks he’s being a friend to Abed by abetting his weirdness and not intervening (as the gang meant to try, but for Troy’s urging them to do the dress up shtick instead).Troy’s monologue in the lunchroom about how Abed was a magical elf disturbed me, because it felt like Troy completely lost sight that Abed’s a human being, not a magical being, and that reality may not be fun or can be made fun, but it isn’t avoidable.

As EW’s Blauvelt put it:

Troy told Abed that he didn’t want to be one of those people who’d tell him what to do. But this time he had to be. Abed had to stop with the celebrity impersonators and listen to the people who have his best interests at heart. Abed understood, but Troy’s refusal to go to this level of weirdness did seem to create a bit of a rift. How did we know this? Because Abed wanted to play in the Dreamatorium by himself. Which made me sad.

It made me sad too – because I came out of the episode feeling unsure whether to laugh at Abed or worry about his mental state.

As Sepinwall notes:

And just as Annie recognized there are limits to being Abed and Troy’s roommate earlier this season, and as Jeff recognized the limits to being Abed’s friend in the “My Dinner with Andre” episode last spring, here Troy has to accept that being Abed’s best friend will not be 100% awesome, 100% of the time, just as Abed has to deal with Troy at times telling him what to do. Not a hilarious development, but an understandably human one, and that offered us some very good, simple work from Donald Glover and Danny Pudi tonight.

I’m not sure how much Abed understands his situation – but I like it when “Community” reminds us that their world isn’t just crazy stuff, there are actual character/plot story lines for our enjoyment – a good sitcom, to me, tries to balance it all out, even if it doesn’t work (I’m not one for just gags along, I guess).

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