Community: “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” Season 6 Episode 3 Review: Our Take on Episode 100

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As the show reaches its 100th episode, it becomes very clear that some new dynamics are needed.

The very first episode of Community wasn’t anything spectacular, but it had a lot of potential. The majority of the plot takes place in the now iconic Study Room, as each of the characters has a chance to introduce themselves to each other, and to us. Not all of the jokes land, but what’s so exciting to watch is the electric current that forms each time a conversation starts. Lines are bounced from Annie to Jeff to Abed to Pierce and so on in rapid-fire succession, and one thing immediately becomes clear: this cast has chemistry.

99 episodes later, we get “Basic Crisis Room Decorum,” which seems primed to capture this same fervor. It’s certainly no “Cooperative Calligraphy,” or even its pseudo-sequel “Cooperative Polygraphy,” but the highlight of this week’s entry is watching the cast nimbly shoot their dialogue back and forth as they try to solve a problem. Paget Brewster continues to prove herself an excellent addition to the team, jumping quite nicely into the fray and never missing a beat.

Here’s the problem at hand for Greendale: City College has plans to run an attack ad against them, insinuating that they once gave a degree to a dog named Ruffles.

Here’s the real problem with this episode: despite all of the actors’ keen comedic rapport, their characters’ places in the story seem wholly unclear. Harmon and Co. are still figuring out the dynamics of this new group, and their tinkering leaves things incredibly disjointed.

Britta is featured in a subplot with Elroy that made me wonder what the two of them were doing in the episode at all. After walking in drunk from her shift at the bar, she retreats to Elroy’s trailer where she imagines herself in a fantastical 90s alt-girl music video…only to be cut off by Elroy and for the plot point to never be brought up again.

Keith David is a talented actor—and he truly got one of the biggest laughs of the episode just by raising an eyebrow at Frankie admitting she doesn’t own a TV—but his character lacks purpose other than to be a replacement for Pierce/Professor Hickey. Both of those characters had rooted backgrounds in the school, so their plotlines had a sense of urgency. Elroy mainly walks around and utters one-liners about giving Britta his pants. I’ve yet to see his importance.

Then there’s Chang, who once again pops briefly in and out of the episode to say weird and obnoxious things. At this point, his uselessness has become so apparent that even the other characters on the show mostly ignore him. The idea that he’s simply just the one that the group never pays attention to is wearing thin, and I think it’s high time that he either moved on to something else, or got his degree (after all, if Ruffles can do it…).

Even Frankie, who seems the most well-adjusted of the new additions, has some issues boiling beneath the surface. During a scene with Annie in which she discusses the needlessness of hope—it’s the richer, bitchier sister of Faith, after all—Annie says that she reminds her of Jeff. Then Frankie replies that Jeff thinks she’s more like Abed.

It feels like the show is trying to find out which of the characters she can mimic. Is she the new Annie? The new Jeff? The new Abed? The new Shirley? Really, she should just be Frankie, and that should be interesting by itself. I hope they figure out how to originally develop her character further, because I see a lot of potential there, and Brewster is too good to waste on rehashed jokes.

Community started out as a quasi-family comedy. It centered around a group of misfits making a new home for each other in a third-rate community college. Recently, though, it’s been functioning more as a workplace comedy, with the Save Greendale efforts turning everyone into colleagues instead of students and teachers.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but the show feels too rooted in the past to truly move forward. I think even Abed would agree that, after 100 episodes, this just isn’t the same series anymore. It’s time to figure out what and who Community is really about, because in order for a show to successfully continue, it’s got to adapt to change. Lighting doesn’t usually strike in the same place more than once. Grade: B

 

Some Other Notes:

– The cold open was a bit of genius that highlighted both Annie’s neurosis and The Dean’s hilarious obsession with Jeff. Excellent use of text bubbles.

– I very much appreciated Vicki’s brief appearance and her line, “well trust me, we’ll be lucky to get in three words before—” before being cut off by Frankie.

– The one bright spot from Britta’s bizarre plotline was this exchange between her and Elroy: “Of course I know them, but how do you, you’re…” “Black?” “No, OLD!”

– “Jeff wanted me to make an attack ad. So why is he a pedophile?”

– The tag at the end was way too long, but I laughed out loud at the Yakuza joke.

 

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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