The last two episodes of Community, shown out-of-order thanks to the brilliant minds at NBC, were a little shaky. They both had their moments (such as Jeff and Troy’s conversation on the football field last week), and were by no means bad, but there was something clearly off, probably due to the jumbled order. At first, this upset me, but then I remembered that this show isn’t even halfway through its first season, and a couple of not quite there episodes wasn’t exactly a big deal. Like I said, even in two episodes that didn’t knock the ball out of the park, Community got on base and showed that they’d be a show to keep viewers laughing for seasons to come.
That leads us to last night’s episode, “Introduction to Statistics,” which kicked off NBC’s night of Halloween themed programming, featured a couple of plot lines, all executed well to begin with, but with the added bonus of the characters in costume. Annie was planning a Dios de los Muertos party to both get extra credit in her Spanish class and finally throw a successful party. Of course, she wants Jeff, the cool guy, to be in attendance to help draw more people. But Jeff has other plans, (“I have a conflict. It conflicts with the enjoyment of my life.”) to woo his statistics professor. This sends Shirley into bitter divorced woman rage and makes Britta seemingly a little jealous, but also upset that he’d blow off Annie’s party. Meanwhile, Pierce is worried he’s old, which of course, he is, so he trades pills with Starburns and goes on a bad trip, complete with a hilarious hallucination of a dancing Annie skeleton talking to him. In somewhat unsurprising fashion, Jeff worms his way into a faculty Halloween party and gets his stats professor (with the most straightforward pickup line ever, thanks to Senor Cheng), but decides not go through with it when that tiny conscious of his nags at him, and he goes to help Pierce and save Annie’s party. Abed and Troy were just sort of hilarious in the background, with Abed finally bringing a parody of the Batman voice to a sitcom and Troy dressed as 80′s Eddie Murphy, mustache and all.
While the plot was fairly straightforward and not too surprising, it was executed extremely well and with a some new character developments. I didn’t love Shirley’s bitter divorced woman bit at first, but I realized that we didn’t know too much about her yet, other than that she was divorced and liked gossip. She was really the only character whose reasons for being at Greendale were not made completely clear. It was nice to get a little more of her character and I thought she was a very good Urkel/Harry Potter.
I was also pleased with the way the Britta-Jeff plot was handled last night. I’ve been pretty impressed by the way they’ve handled the relationship thus far, keeping it just outside of sitcom cliche, and last night, it was done especially well. Britta has no startling realization of her true feelings for Jeff, but it clearly bothered her he was going after someone else. It also helped that she seemed genuinely upset that Jeff was blowing off Annie and not just her. On the other side of the equation, I was glad that Jeff completely placed all of his energy into getting the professor and not spending time looking over his shoulder at Britta. He didn’t help Pierce because it would help his chances with her, but because he realized it was the right thing to do by the Study Group. It also was consistent with his character’s desire to want what he wants when he wants it, not dwelling on one girl or even one thing for two long.
Community is a very smartly written show, but it has a tremendous cast to back up that writing. Joel McHale proved his chops long ago on The Soup, and Chevy Chase is a comic legend, but the rest of the ensemble is full of terrific actors ready to break the bubble. Gillian Jaccobs has yet to play Britta the way I thought she would, the snarky, self-righteous girl, but instead has made Britta vulnerable, likable, and not just a foil for Jeff’s arrogance. Donald Glover and Danny Pudi (Troy and Abed) need a little more to do, but punctuate every scene they’re in with laughs. Yvette Nicole Brown’s Shirley is developing into a solid character who I hope will develop more as the show goes one. Mad Men’s Allison Brie is particularly phenomenal as Annie, a character that has the ability to make you laugh while feeling sorry for her. He speech to Jeff about why she wanted him at the party was the perfect example of this. As far as I’m concerned, more Annie is good for the show.
Overall, it was good to see “Introduction to Statistics” take Community out of it’s early first season slump. Let’s not forget that the Office and 30 Rock had similar slumps before becoming what they are today. I like this show and I’m really rooting for it, and if they pump out more episodes like this one, I’ll be rooting for it for a long time.
Mike’s Grade: 97
Overall Grade: A