Saturday, February 27, 2010

Community 1.16: "Communication Studies"

“No. I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m Abed. I never watch TV.”


“Communication Studies,” which was advertised by NBC as a Valentine’s Day episode, was a pretty cute episode of “Community.” I don’t think it will be among the show’s most memorable episodes, but it had its sweet moments. There were good moments for Jeff/Britta shippers, and some interesting character growth for both characters. In this episode, however, I really think Abed stole the show. He was completely hilarious, both as “drunk” Abed and “broken” Abed when hung over the next day. Usually I find Abed vaguely creepy, but everything about him in “Communication Studies” was comedic gold.

The episode opens with the Dean informing the Greendale student body that the Greendale Human Being will be walking around campus dressed vaguely like a Cupid and delivering Valentine’s messages. This was somewhat funny, although I think the writers should lay off the “Dean is super politically correct” jokes for a little while. Those jokes are usually funny, but they’ve been going to that well a bit often recently. The only thing that’s kind of original about this iteration of the running gag is that the Human Being doesn’t really like his newest job. He’s actually pretty surly about it.

At study group, Jeff gleefully plays a voicemail Britta left for him the night before. It was a serious drunk dial, and most of the study group agrees that it comes with “implied booty call.” Britta enters the study room as this conversation is wrapping up, clearly hung over. She’s horribly embarrassed when she finds out about the drunk dial, and when Jeff plays the voicemail for her, she runs out of the room. Abed, comparing Jeff’s situation to sitcom episodes where one character sees another naked, tells Jeff that the only way to restore balance is to drunk dial Britta in return. I like that Abed’s knowledge of pop culture has a purpose here instead of just serving to give Abed a unique voice.

Similarly, the Greendale Human Being actually sort of propels the B story of this episode forward instead of just being comic relief. Troy and Pierce are feeling a bit left out because the Human Being has been delivering Valentines to a lot of people, but not them. In Spanish class, their luck finally seems to change. It’s quickly painfully obvious, however, that Troy and Pierce sent the Valentines to themselves. Señor Chang, being the obnoxious person he is, of course has to milk this situation for all its worth. He goes on a rant that embarrasses Troy and Pierce in front of the entire class. Shirley and Annie are mortified for Troy and Pierce, and they vow to get revenge on Chang.

After being a bit skeptical, Jeff enlists Abed’s help in drunk dialing Britta to restore the balance of the study group. I liked this plot because Jeff and Abed are a rather unconventional pairing for “Community,” and Joel McHale and Danny Pudi play very well off each other. Abed tries to approach the whole thing like a director coaching a performance out of an actor, and at first, it doesn’t go especially well. Jeff is pretty drunk, but his rehearsal drunk dial doesn’t seem genuine to Abed. Jeff complains that Abed may be a good director, but he’s not a good drinking buddy. Abed, who normally doesn’t drink, decides to take one for the team and join Jeff in a debaucherous evening.

In an homage to The Breakfast Club, Jeff and Abed both get wasted, and even the pizza delivery guy gets in on the antics. This was a much, much funnier montage than Jeff and Pierce’s “performance” in “Spanish 101.” There was dancing and all sorts of silliness. The next morning, Jeff finds out that he made two phone calls. One to Britta as planned, and one to Professor Slater. Depending upon what he said in each message, this could get ugly. More amusing, however, is Abed with a hangover. He’s “broken” and unable to make his usual 80’s pop culture references. Instead he babbles about “Molly Ringworm” or just says “movie reference.” I think this is Danny Pudi’s funniest performance of the series thus far.

Jeff and Abed miss Spanish class due to being hung over, but plenty happens there without them. Shirley and Annie’s prank has been put into play. The Greendale Human Being has a delivery for Señor Chang. It’s a poorly forged letter from Princeton inviting Chang to join the faculty there. He sees through the prank right away and naturally suspects that Troy and Pierce are the culprits. They have reason to want to embarrass him, after all. Señor Chang employs his usual reaction to such situations- ridiculous threats. Pierce and Troy, even though they haven’t admitted to being the pranksters, must accompany Chang to that night’s Valentine’s Dance dressed in ladies’ pants suits. If they don’t, they will fail Spanish. Shirley and Annie look on in shock but don’t own up to what they did.

When they see how ridiculous Troy and Pierce look, Shirley and Annie get an attack of guilt and offer to confess to Chang. Troy and Pierce are okay with their fate, though. Pierce explains that they had been feeling low because they didn’t have ladies who cared about them on Valentine’s Day, but now it’s clear that they do, even if it’s not in a romantic way. Troy and Pierce want to man up and protect Shirley and Annie, and they take their punishment. Troy and Pierce dancing with Señor Chang was kind of ridiculous, although I did like that the punishment was to dress in pants suits instead of dresses. I think dresses wouldn’t have been as original.

At the Valentine’s Dance, Jeff also must face consequences. Professor Slater had asked him to be her date, since she had to chaperone. He still doesn’t know what he said to either Britta or Professor Slater, so he’s preparing to have to talk himself out of a lot of trouble. Britta shows up and pulls her own prank. She makes Jeff think that he invited her to be his date to the dance during his drunk dial. Jeff figures out she’s messing with him pretty quickly, but the trouble doesn’t end there. Professor Slater is pissed because when Jeff called her, he was upset that he wasn’t talking to Britta. Britta, however, comes up with a quick save. She plays the beginning of her own drunk dial from Jeff. In the message, Jeff is saying how Professor Slater is the perfect girlfriend, and he hopes that Britta can be as happy as he is. Professor Slater is satisfied that nothing’s going on between Jeff and Britta, and all is forgiven. Britta confides in Jeff that what she played was only the first 20 seconds of a 40 minute message. We’re left to wonder what else Jeff had to say.

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