Community: “App Development and Condiments” Season 5 Episode 8 Review

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This week’s Community returned to their bizarre, irreverent roots, with a concept episode that hit all the right points.

Looking back, it’s kind of amazing that Community hasn’t taken on the social media world before. Sure, there have been references here and there, but until now the show has never dived head first into a world that’s rife with comedic material. I’m glad they finally did, especially since the show has such an adamant fanbase online. Regardless of the reasons behind this episode’s timing, one thing became abundantly clear by the end: this show can tickle your funny bone and tug at your heartstrings at the same time.

The plot revolved around a couple of app developers (comedians Steve Agee and Brian Posehn) who want to beta test a new social media app at Greendale before it goes live. The app is called “Meow Meow Beenz,” and it allows users to rate other people on a scale from 1 to 5 based on their daily activities. It’s kind of like those hot-or-not apps, except it’s based on everything you do. What could possibly go wrong?

As with any new entity that enters the Greendale universe, Meow Meow Beenz takes over the campus by storm in a matter of days. After about a week, the school has transformed into a sci-fi dystopia, where those who have been rated 5 are the ruling class, and the 1’s and 2’s are the underlings. I really liked how each of the Greendale Seven’s reactions to the app perfectly fit with their characters. Annie, always a people-pleaser, quickly gloms onto a group of 5’s and doesn’t let go. Britta, being the activist that she is, tries to fight back against the app’s tyranny. Abed, meanwhile, likes that he finally can use numbers to tell people how he feels about them.  His brief line about feeling “alive” had me in stitches.

The most interesting developments, however, occur between Jeff and Shirley. One of the great things about this episode was that it once again displayed Community‘s ability to use a high-concept as a way of bring out certain characters’ fears and insecurities. Jeff and Shirley have always struggled with their friendship, given Jeff’s self-centered nature and Shirley’s constant do-gooder hierarchy. Back in season 1, the two were able to bond over gossip in the episode “Social Psychology.” Then, in season 3’s “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism,” the two lost and found their footing again when realizing they had a shared childhood past. The push-and-pull of their unlikely friendship has always been interesting. It usually works, but it’s always fun to watch when it doesn’t.

In this episode, their fight stemmed around the idea of control. Shirley doesn’t like that Jeff always gets his way because he’s the “cool guy” leader of the group, and Jeff doesn’t like that Shirley can easily coerce the rest of the gang to side with her just by sporting a pouted lip and a pair of puppy dog eyes. The fact that this was escalated to a death match-style talent show and initiation dance involving blue orbs was icing on the cake. I enjoyed watching Shirley both as a menacing leader of the 5’s, and as her normal self, honestly admitting her feelings to Jeff.

The biggest subplot that takes place is Britta’s attempt to get the 1’s to rise up against the 5’s. She finally realizes that people only listen to her when there’s mustard on her face–is that a reference to something, by the way?–so she smears it all over and starts a revolution. Of course, because it’s Britta, thing’s don’t go exactly as planned. Actually, what I really liked about this storyline was the continued closeness between Britta and Jeff. I’m not sure if this is headed anywhere, but if any couple is going to get back together I hope it’s them.

Overall, this was an excellent reminder of all the great work that Community can do. I don’t think every episode needs to have a concept or be a parody of something, but this is certainly the way to go if you’re going to do it. With only 5 episodes left this season, I’m excited to see what other tricks Dan Harmon has left up his sleeve. Also, bonus points for having Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz guest star as a hard-partying student named Koogler. Grade: A-


By Mike Papirmeister

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