Friday, October 9, 2009

Community 1.04: "Social Psychology"

“Tomorrow? They’re showing all four Indiana Joneses at the Vista. I’m really looking forward to the first three. I bought a whip.”


So I was having a tough time picking a quote of the episode for this one. I was torn between the above quote and Professor Duncan (John Oliver) being extra-British and ranting about needing a fiver because his purse was in his duffel in the boot of his lorry. I’m a big John Oliver fan and a bit of an Anglophile, so I found the attempt at fitting as much British slang as possible into once sentence pretty hilarious. I chose Abed’s quote, however, because it reminded me of how Marshall and Lily gave Ted an Indy fedora and whip in the HIMYM season premiere and Marshall had “whip fever.” Speaking of mildly dated pop culture references, this is the second episode this season of both HIMYM and Community that shared a common reference. Both had references to “Dead Poets Society” within a week of each other (the Robin Williams wanna-be on last week’s Community and Barney’s “O Captain” speech to Ted in this week’s HIMYM), and now both have done an Indiana Jones reference. I’m wondering if one of the writers on Community got his career started on HIMYM. I must consult the IMDB and report back.

Anyway, I actually really enjoyed this episode of Community. I don’t think I’ve laughed that much at any episode of the show until this week. Maybe it’s just that the humor was more in my wheelhouse than usual (British jokes, lots of physical comedy, nerd humor). The main plot of this week’s episode was that Britta has a boyfriend. A Hippie wanna-be named Vaughn. He plays hackey sack and takes off his shirt at the slightest provocation. He also prefers green tea to coffee. Needless to say, Jeff doesn’t like him very much. In an effort to show Britta that he can be a nice guy, however, Jeff tolerates Vaughn and even tries to act friendly towards him. Meanwhile, Jeff is actually building a true friendship with Shirley, which was a bit unexpected. I found it unexpected that Jeff and Shirley would hit it off so well once they actually talked to each other and that I would actually like Shirley. Jeff and Shirley bonded over their mutual love of gossip. Primary targets were Senor Chang and Vaughn. Jeff, in trying to be a better friend to Britta, attempted to cut down on the Vaughn gossip, but he found it extremely difficult.

The Jeff/Shirley bonding was really the best part about this plot. It was amusing how Jeff had been desperately trying to avoid talking to Shirley for any prolonged amount of time, but once they did talk, he had a lot of fun with it. Joel McHale and Yvette Nicole Brown have great comedic chemistry, effortlessly firing off quick witted barbs about their mutual acquaintances. Unfortunately, the gossipy pairing doesn’t last for long. Jeff sends Shirley a picture of a poem Vaughn wrote for Britta, and the poem gets shared with the rest of the study group. Vaughn is humiliated and runs out of the group study room, and Britta storms out behind him. Vaughn ends up breaking up with Britta, and Britta and Jeff do eventually reach a sort of truce. By the end of the episode, though, it’s Britta and Shirley who are walking to class together gossiping…about Jeff.

Overall, I actually liked the B story of this episode better. After being berated by the increasingly more creepy instead of funny Señor Chang, Annie decides she wants to take an upper level psych lab to prove her academic worth. This lab is taught by none other than Professor Duncan. He begrudgingly lets Annie into his lab, as long as she brings two test subjects along with her. Annie enlists the help of Troy and Abed. The lab is all about proving “The Duncan Principle.” If you keep people waiting long enough, they’re going to get pissed off. Señor Chang, somewhat predictably, throws a full on tantrum the very first time Annie goes into the room to tell the subjects it will be just another five minutes before the test is about to begin. Eventually, everybody else but Abed has left. Abed holds out for over a day before the experiment ends due to Professor Duncan throwing his own tantrum.

Annie and Abed reach an understanding by the end of the episode. Abed explains that even though he was upset at all the delay, he stayed in the room because Annie asked him as a friend to participate in the experiment. Annie thanks Abed by buying him the first three Indiana Jones movies on DVD. This plot was a great example of a TV show mixing up the usual characters that interact, and the result was extremely entertaining. Abed even points this out, when Annie first asks Abed to participate in the experiment because they’re friends. He says that he always thought they were more the Phoebe and Chandler of the group. Abed, of course stays in character by explaining everything via somewhat dated pop culture references. There were really successful unconventional pairings all around in this episode, since Jeff and Shirley could be considered another example of the same phenomenon.

Although I found last week’s episode to be stronger from a technical standpoint, for instance, how the structure of the story worked to bring the two main plots together, I think I found “Social Psychology” to be the most entertaining episode of Community to date. I rarely laugh during an episode of Community (which, I guess, is a bit of a problem considering it’s a sitcom), but this one had me giggling the whole way through and full on laughing occasionally as well.

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