Saturday, February 6, 2010

Community 1.15: "Romantic Expressionism"

“You know what I don’t get? He never wears a shirt. He never wears shoes. Why hasn’t he died from lack of service?”


“Romantic Expressionism” was, overall, a cute and entertaining episode. Cute isn’t usually an adjective I would use to describe “Community,” but I think it’s apt for this particular episode. It was cute to see Jeff and Britta embrace their roles as the “parents” of the study group in an attempt to save Annie’s reputation. It was cute to see Annie so smitten with Vaughn at the end of the episode, and it was cute to see the rest of the group finally approve of that. I wouldn’t exactly describe the rest of the episode as cute, but it was fairly entertaining and made me laugh more than some other episodes of “Community.” Overall, I think it was one of the show’s better efforts.

Jeff and Britta are walking to class or study group or some such when they come across Annie hanging out with Britta’s hippie-wannabe ex boyfriend Vaughn. Vaughn is flirting shamelessly with Annie, composing songs for her and everything, and Annie, despite her lingering high school crush on Troy, is definitely responding to it. Neither Jeff nor Annie are especially thrilled to see this. They both claim it’s because they think Vaughn is bad for Annie. As Jeff explains it, Vaughn is Annie’s gateway to even douchier guys…like Starburns. At first Britta is a little reluctant, but she eventually agrees that the two of them need to hatch a scheme to keep Annie and Vaughn apart. Actually, it’s Starburns who ultimately convinces Britta that resorting to scheming would be a good idea. He makes some lewd comments about Annie and unknowingly proves Jeff’s point.

Jeff and Britta decide that the best way to take Annie’s focus away from Vaughn is to exploit her long-time feelings for Troy. Although Jeff and Britta’s plan certainly isn’t the kindest way they could go about achieving their goal, it was nice to see how protective they are of Annie. It’s nice to see how close the study group has grown. It turns out that Troy had been hung up on the mess Annie was in high school and has been unable to see her as the young woman she has become. Jeff and Britta try to make Troy see Annie differently, and thanks to Jeff whispering a description of Annie as she is now into Troy’s ear (only mildly creepy), Troy takes the bait.

The plan ends up failing miserably. Troy tries to flirt with Annie while Annie is hanging out with Vaughn, and Troy tells Vaughn that Annie has had a thing for him since high school. This upsets the hilariously fragile Vaughn, and he storms off. Annie is not happy with Troy, either. She thinks Troy’s efforts are too little, too late. She was trying to move on, and she really likes Vaughn. She is furious that Troy is ruining her attempt at moving on and being happy. Troy lashes out and says that Jeff and Britta were the ones who convinced him to do what he did.

The result of all this is a scene involving the entire study group that is funny at first, but becomes a bit too awkward and creepy. Britta reveals that the real reason she was upset was because she didn’t like seeing her friend with her ex boyfriend. There’s speculation that Jeff was really upset because of some weird feelings for Annie. The idea is then brought up that what really makes the study group different from a family is that there isn’t some sort of prohibition on anybody having feelings for anybody else. This results in a lot of awkward glances among the group. It was funny at first, but it just went on too long. One awkward glance from each character would have been enough to earn the laugh.

The B story of the episode wasn’t really at all connected to the A story, by either a common theme or a common event, but it was amusing enough. Troy and Abed regularly get together to snark on bad movies Mystery Science Theater 3000 style. They decide to invite Shirley to their next gathering, and Pierce ends up inviting himself once he finds out about it. The movie this time is called “Kickpuncher,” and Pierce is terrible at snarking on it. He’s so bad that everybody else tries to discourage him from attending the next gathering, a screening of “Kickpuncher 2.”

Never one to be discouraged, Pierce decides that the way to win over the rest of the group is to have his snark pre-written for him by Greendale’s sketch comedy troupe. That particular scene relies on humor that is a bit insider-y, particularly sending up the TV writers’ room. I wonder if the humor requires some knowledge of how TV is made to appreciate. When he arrives at Abed’s dorm room, Pierce finds out that the group has decided to snark on a different bad movie that night, a movie starring Tom Selleck. Pierce concocts an elaborate lie about his brother being killed on the set of the Tom Sellek movie to get the group to switch their plans back to “Kickpuncher 2.”

The group instantly realizes that Pierce had pre-written snark when he delivers one zinger after another in rapid succession…after just the first line of the movie. The rest of the group (which includes Señor Chang in a rare non-obnoxious appearance) proceeds to tell Pierce that he just plain isn’t funny. Pierce proves them wrong- sort of. An unfortunate but well timed fall shows that Pierce might, if nothing else, have some physical comedy chops.

At the end of the episode, Vaughn has a change of heart about Annie. He wants her back, and he has composed a new song to prove it. Jeff and Britta see Vaughn’s sincerity and finally sort-of approve of Annie dating him. The whole group looks on and smiles as Annie runs to Vaughn and gives him a hug. The ending was a bit saccharine for my taste, but it was kind of unexpected. Mostly because I didn’t think “Community” usually went for saccharine. As long as it’s not a trend, I’m good with it.

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