Community: “Advanced Safety Features” Season 6 Episode 7 Review

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 Community will (hopefully) be right back after a word from its sponsors.

I don’t know why I never realized this before, but Community and New Girl have a lot in common. Both comedies gave relatively mediocre first impressions, then became stronger each week as the core cast of characters started to gel together. New Girl was originally Zooey Deschanel’s sitcom, but now it’s a charming series about a lovable group of weirdos trying to make it work. Community originally centered around Jeff Winger (hey! It’s that guy from The Soup!) but is now firmly a firmly ensconced ensemble comedy about, you guessed it, a lovable group of weirdos trying to make it work.

These are, of course, very broad descriptions of each show. There’s nothing wrong with two series having the same concept; it’s the execution that really matters. After this week, however, Community has more in common with New Girl than ever before. Both have succumbed to dubious product placement.

In a season 2 episode of New Girl titled “Models,” Deschanel’s Jess fills in for her model friend Cece at an auto show after she realizes her friend is too hungover to go onstage. What follows is Deschanel awkwardly tripping and falling around the car while an announcer extols the virtues of the BRAND NEW FORD FUSION for everyone to hear. It’s as distracting as you’d expect.

Community has now done the same thing. Britta’s old flame Subway returns, now a guerrilla marketing exec named Rick who works for Honda. Originally a one-off joke on the show, Rick’s subversive advertising techniques soon took center stage, with mere moments passing by before Honda’s amazing vehicles were once again worked into the dialogue.

I have nothing against product placement. It actually can do a lot of good for a show on a smaller budget. Still, unless you’re 30 Rock, your best bet is a subtle approach. Community tried to take on advertising with its typically self-aware style, but it ended up just creating an extended ad. Britta’s relationship with Rick had some interesting plot points, but they were all marred when the two started talking about that damn car again. Sure, the joke was amusing at first, but there’s a reason commercials only last so long. After a while, they’re just a nuisance.

“Advanced Safety Features” wasn’t all bad, though. The bright side of Britta attempting a relationship with a guerrilla marketer is that she attempted a relationship, which means Martin Mull and Leslie Ann Warren returned as her wonderfully goofy parents.

Additionally, Frankie and Dean Pelton get some great moments when she discovers he’s “level 7 susceptible” to Rick’s stealth tactics. Paget Brewster is especially enjoyable as she tries—and continually fails—to backtrack after calling him an idiot.

The real treat, though, is this week’s B-plot. Finally, Elroy gets a chance to shine. Part of the reason he hasn’t found a solid role in the group yet is because he’s barely around to hang out with them. The gang quickly tries to rectify this situation, and all is going well until Jeff ruins it. The results involve an impromptu Natalie is Freezing concert and some surprising confessions.

What I liked most about this plotline is how it tied everything, and everyone, together. Elroy has been vastly underused so far this season, but this week we finally got to see him interact with just about everyone in the group. Britta is pulled away from her own relationship drama when she finds out he used to date Natalie is Freezing’s lead singer Julie—played to perfection by Lisa Loeb. Elroy could use a bit more fleshing out, but for the first time I finally feel like I’m getting to know him, and that’s very exciting.

Community is a show that prides itself on its parodies, but I think taking on the world of marketing may have been a step too far. Still, it’s nice to see that the show’s heart is in the right place, focusing on the lovable group of weirdos that make it so unique. I think Elroy has a lot of potential to be a standout amongst the save Greendale Committee, and I can’t wait to see what he does the rest of the season. Now if only I could stop thinking about the incredible durability of the Honda CR-V. Grade: B

 

Some Other Notes:

– Finally! An ending tag that I like! Warren and Mull never cease to crack me up.

– “Why would anyone in the band be named Natalie? We’re artists!”

– Oh hey Billy Zane, don’t think I didn’t notice you and your awesome beard.

– I would totally play The Ears Have It if it were a real game.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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