Community Teaches Us History 101

Community

I won’t lie to you, the fourth season of the much plagued Community did not start with a bang. The first several minutes dealt with a bad eyeglass joke that wouldn’t die. Don’t sitcom writers know they’re bringing death to their shows and paychecks when no one laughs at their gags?

Anyway, the fourth season marks the fourth year of college for our happy troupe, and this is where the story began. Or, as Britta said, “So, are you ready for our last first day of school?”

I will admit, however, I loved the bit when Jeff saved some seats in a crowded room by using a handful of peroxide blonds to fill them until he informed them, en masse, that he’d inadvertently sent them to the wrong room. Up they all stood and wallah! six seats magically appeared. I loved the gag in general, and especially loved the nod to overripe blonde jokes.

For fans of Community, it’s been a long and anxious wait for the new season. Like the current hockey season, the show was supposed to start in October. However, for reasons that infuriate fans, it—like the hockey season—started 90-days late. Millionaire and billionaire executives, who measure success in nickels and dimes, made us feel like we were supposed to be grateful for the interruption. We weren’t.

Anyway, it’s senior year at Greendale Community College. Jeff is his cool, calm, manipulative self. Britta is as bubbly as champagne, Abed still escapes to his film world, Shirley can’t get enough of playing the role of mother, and Pierce couldn’t be more apathetic if he were an emo teenager.

Speaking of Jeff the Manipulator, he’s had to admit to the gang that he’s only one history credit away from graduating, you guessed it, early. This went over like chili on a date, with some of the gang saying some not-nice things.

Still, how hard can it be to sell college seniors on the idea of taking the History of Ice Cream as a yummy, credited class? I guess they could schedule the History of Pot class just before it, but not too many college students are going to turn down a class that samples its product as part of the course curriculum.

Abed takes us into a fantasy world where we learn from Dean Pelton that Leonardo DiCaprio is America’s sexiest aviator. What else, right? The always reliable Jim Rash as Dean Pelton is the bright spot in any scene he invades.

This reminds me of something I was thinking about the other day. There’s not enough zaniness on television these days. There used to be Woody Boyd from Cheers; Mork from Ork on Mork and Mindy; Lenny and Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley; Dick Van Dyke from everything; and Reverend Jim Ignatowski from Taxi.

Today, in terms of zany antics on television, we have Krieger from the hit series Archer, and Dean Pelton from our beloved Community. Like I said, there isn’t enough zaniness on television these days.

Some of the episode is a nod to The Hunger Games. Computer hackers overbooked the History of Ice Cream class, so a competitive skills competition is put together in order to trim the roster to equal the number of chairs in the classroom. Jeff, of course, is determined to win enough red balls—the prize for winning a challenge—to secure enough seats for everyone.

Personally, I think they’re playing him. Like I mentioned above, how hard is it to lead a college student to a class where experiencing all 31 flavors is required for a passing grade? Hello!

The episode has a lot of different stories unfolding at the same time; each of them fun and interesting in their own ways. Troy and Britta manage to argue over the rules of pitching a penny into a pond and making a wish. Hilarious, actually, and from my perspective a decent bit of social commentary.

Annie and Shirley offer up a nice salute to the ever-awesome Real Genius with Val Kilmer by filling the interior of Jeff’s car with popcorn. The magnifying glasses connected to the sun visors was a nice touch. Classic humor that honestly never gets old.

The final challenge of the “games” is the tango. Dean Pelton will be the judge and sole decider of the winner. Naturally, Jeff picks him as his dance partner. The Dean looked stunning in his strapless green dress. The two were well-rehearsed for the scene, carrying on conversations while dancing. It’s no easy task chewing bubble gum and walking at the same time. Bravo, sirs!

In the end, for reasons that have to do with going separate ways but still being friends, Jeff manages to let someone steal the red balls he’d accumulated and no one in the group got to eat ice cream for college credit.

Some funny notes to be sure, but there were some gags that didn’t work. However, the overall message was well received and on a scale of one to ten, it’s closer to the top than the bottom.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Stephanie Caldwell is a writer for Cable TV.

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