Community‘s phoenix-from-the-ashes sixth season continues with yet another clash of ideologies between Jeff and Annie, sparked by City College’s latest attempt to discredit Greendale via a television ad. After three episodes, it’s clear that this isn’t quite the same show it was last season when creator Dan Harmon and writer-producer Chris McKenna returned after a one-year absence and shepherded it to some of its highest highs. But I refuse to join those who say Community has jumped the shark. This isn’t second-rate or warmed-over material we’re presented with.
Instead, I liken each episode to a tale told by an older, but still smart and frequently funny friend. That friend might be getting on in years, but that doesn’t mean his stories aren’t as good. He just tells them a little slower than he used to. And the added years have given him some perspective he may have lacked when you first met him. The fact that he’s now telling his stories via the internet means they’re not as confined or beholden to follow the limitations and standards of commercial TV. Sometimes this newfound freedom manifests itself in ways larger than others — take the schoolwide drinking spree of last week’s “Ladders” as opposed to Annie and the Dean swearing “Jesus” here in “Basic Crisis Room Decorum.” But there’s really only one rule in comedy — make ’em laugh. Community, despite the many changes it’s endured, still makes me laugh.
This week, City College has discovered that Greendale once enrolled a terrier named Ruffles (in a great many attendence-based courses), and is claiming via a smear campaign that the school granted the pooch a degree. A distraught Annie (working on her “Listy-Loo To-Do” list) awakens the group in the middle of the night and has them meet at school. But not before we learn the Dean, for some time now, has 1.) a framed photo of Jeff on his night table, and 2.) been receiving texts from two students in Japan who claim to be Jeff and–as we later learn–are making him perform random acts of devotion like bringing him five large cans of olives. (“Bro, I just secret that way with love.”) Greendale’s steadily increasing enrollment numbers (thank to Annie and Frankie’s mutual admiration society) have goaded its rival to take enemy action, and soon the study room is transformed into a situation room. Annie wants to uncover the truth about Ruffles and make it known, Jeff wants to make sure Greendale’s ass is covered and possibly sue City College for libel; even if it means launching a counterattack ad targeting Ruffles.
Annie’s idealism has been pitted against Jeff’s cynicism time and again, but here–with Frankie’s added pragmatism (she keeps a copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead on her nightstand)–Ms. Edison is pushed to the point of leaving for good. Wiser heads prevail of course, and Abed creates an ad in which the Dean cops to having once enrolled the canine, admitting that his school is slowly getting its shit together.
As for the Dean’s own hangups, his Tokyo pen pal is chastised by his businessman father for spending forty thousand yen in data charges, which prompts him to call off the faux affair. He then admits that it was their final exchange that led to him becoming leader of the Yakuza. This is the third time in a row the show’s been capped with an out-of-left-field epilogue so batshit crazy it almost makes everything that precedes it superfluous.
Admittedly, several scenes in “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” don’t really contribute much, including Britta’s musical number/dream sequence (which seems to have wandered off from a more fantastical episode), Chang’s one-man porn video misfire (Chang Does Greendale), and most of Keith David’s lines. The show appears uncertain of how to use the former VR peddler here, short of as a token African-American or elderly character. David’s an immensely talented performer, with a voice like satin soaked in scotch, but he’s not as naturally funny as Yvette Nicole-Brown nor as crotchety as Chevy Chase or Jonathan Banks. It’s only been one episode, however, since Elroy was introduced, and I believe Harmon and McKenna have a greater plan for him. Paget Brewster, for her part, continues to make a great straight (if OCD) woman for Jeff and the group’s insanity to play against. But she benefits from some great lines.
- “Jeff wants me to make an attack ad. So why is he a pedophile?”
- I love the way the Dean skips out of the study room when he believes Jeff has tasked him with procuring olives.
- The lyrics to Britta’s song are pretty hilarious–complete with images of blood, needles, and broken glass, it’s like something Stevie Nicks might have written after a REALLY bad cocaine orgy. Though the imagery of Abed’s ad to discredit Ruffles–dead squirrels, girl scout attacks, and lobster impersonations–is equally brilliant.
- “Hope is Faith’s richer, bitchier sister.”
- “Some things are silly and evil. Like candy cigarettes. And remember when Flavor Flav had that reality show?” Okay, so Keith David got at least one good line.
- “Tokyo is a machine, caked with blood, running on flesh.” I’m really hoping Dan Harmon creates a spinoff show called How I Became a Yakuza.
- Hope points!
Next week: The group demands wi-fi, the school board makes the Dean’s life more interesting yet again, and Chang takes an acting course.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).