John Heaton (jheaton) wrote in community_tv,
John Heaton

Review Roundup for 4x11, "Basic Human Anatomy"

Hello, Communies! I think last night’s episode proved that if you have an Oscar-winning writer acting on your TV show, it probably wouldn’t hurt to let him or her write an episode. The reverse may or may not be true, though I think most would agree that John Irving gave a powerful yet understated performance as the Stationmaster in The Cider House Rules. Anyway, let's see what the reviewers had to say about "Basic Human Anatomy," shall we?

Ryan Schwartz of Voice of TV called the episode "a season highlight" and "pure awesomesauce," not to mention "easily my favorite episode of the season." He also thought it handled Tory and Britta's breakup "with just the right amount of heart, humor and absurdity." (And speaking of Ryan Schwartz, check out his interview with Jim Rash about the episode.)

Soon-to-be-published poet Jennifer Marie of A Still and Quiet Conscience wants to give "a massive amount of props to Jim Rash for the episode," and does, at length. She also gives "enormous credit" to Gillian Jacobs and Donald Glover for "making these characters feel believable for the brief time we were allowed to spend with them," not just in this episode but over the entire course of their relationship, which she generally found frustrating in the way it was depicted.

Brian Collins of Badass Digest had copious praise for Glover's performance. "Danny Pudi's 'Troy' is solid, but Glover is revelatory, perfectly nailing every mannerism and tic as Abed (and, in turn, playing Abed PRETENDING to be Troy during a brief period where they try to hide the situation from the others) … this is a truly impressive physical performance from both actors." He also praised Jacobs's portrayal of Britta: "it's not Gillian Jacobs' funniest performance by any means, but for the drama stuff, this should be her Emmy consideration episode as well. She goes from kind of annoyed to amused to confused and finally heartbroken all in the span of about 3 minutes of screentime."

Eric Goldman of IGN was surprised by the episode: "When it started out, I was cringing. The setup was just so wacky and contrived and it felt like another 'off' episode… until it got kind of awesome." He didn't like everything about it — he thought the beginning was "clunky" and that Annie and Shirley's competitiveness "never really took off" — but overall commended it for being both funny and poignant. He gave it a rating of 8.3 out of probably 10.

Matt Carter of Carter Online said "Basic Human Anatomy" was not just the best of the season, but that "it could hold its own against some of the average episodes of the Dan Harmon era, even if it falls short of the classics." He then proceeds to not explain in any way the manner in which it falls short nor name the episodes he considers to comprise "the classics."

Todd VanDerWerff of the A.V. Club thought the episode suffered by "lean[ing] heavily on one of the season’s weakest elements," namely Troy and Britta's relationship, the choices regarding which made by the writers this season "didn’t work at all." He also points out that the body-switch turned what was "supposed to be a story about Troy and Britta’s relationship [into] yet another story about Troy and Abed, which means that Britta becomes a passenger in her own storyline." Despite that, and that he thought the body-switch angle made no sense on a logical level, he liked the storyline because it "ends up making sense on a weird emotional level. When Britta goes in for that hug, it feels earned, even though it has no right to." He gave it a B-plus.

Alan Sepinwall of HitFix thinks the payoff of the very minor risk of having Rash make his episodic-TV writing debut with this episode was big, in that it resulted in "by far [his] favorite episode of this season." But he also has a few issues with it, mostly that Jeff was "an enormous jerk" for most of the episode without ever being called on it but also that Annie's reaction to the Dean's playacting means that her "resurrected crush on Jeff — or a bald-but-ripped facsimile of him — really can't be ignored now."

Cory Barker of found it "a little tough … to fully enjoy the A-story in 'Basic Human Anatomy'," because it was tied to the end of Britta and Troy's relationship, which is "a story [that] failed to work." He did think "the final scene when [Troy] admitted to Britta that he's simply too immature for a relationship, … and the suggestion that the reason the relationship failed was that Troy simply couldn't let go of his childhood and friendship with Abed, was both smart and believable," but because "there was something missing" in the arc of their relationship, he couldn't "fully buy the conclusion" of said relationship arc.

Britt Hayes of ScreenCrush agrees that the episode would have been better if the season had done a better job portraying Troy and Britta's relationship, but still found it "quite moving" and "meaningful end to a not-so-meaningful relationship." She also praised the ability of Glover, Pudi, and Rash to convincingly play other characters for much of the episode.

Jeremy Sollie of Geek Binge (not to be confused with Geek Dingle, which what I typed first) called the episode both the funniest episode and "the best acting showcase" of the season. "The climax of the episode, where Troy and Abed are forced to reveal some very personal truths, delves into purely dramatic acting, and both actors sell it with the same success as the comedy."

Mike Papirmeister of the Filtered Lens calls it "a surprising twist" that "the most dramatic episode of Community is also best of the season so far." Like Sepinwall, he thought Jeff "seemed angrier and more frustrated than usual," and goes on to say that his sudden turn into a sympathetic friend "rand very false." He gave it a letter grade of B-plus.

Randy Dankievitch of Processed Media thought the episode was "the best we’ve had in the fourth season of Community," thanks both to "Abed and Troy’s body-switching adventure com[ing] out of a very real emotional place for Troy," and "Gillian Jacob’s [sic]measured performance as she digests information she’d been trying to ignore herself." He gave it a letter grade of B-plus — a lot of that going around this week!

Gabrielle Moss of TV Fanatic said the episode "was a more-delicious-than-expected treat with some genuine surprises packed into it." She doesn't go into specifics as to what exactly surprised her, though I think what she means is that it doesn't have some of the failings she's perceived in earlier episodes this season, such as using "gimmicks to pull focus from a lot of not-particularly-cohesive plots" and relying on "throw-away gags from the ever-talented Ken Jeong, or random plot threads that rise out of nowhere and then are promptly forgotten about for the next two or three episodes." She gave it 4.5 stars out of 5.

Luke Gelineau of TV Equals has mixed feelings about the episode's focus on Britta and Troy's relationship: "I’m completely confident that their relationship would have been fleshed out a little more if we had a full season, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case, so it feels like they’re asking us to care about a relationship that we’ve barely seen." Despite that, "Basic Human Anatomy ended up being his "favorite of the season and might even crack the top ten of favorite Community episodes ever."

Ben Umstead of Twitch declared the episode "an odd duck," due to its ability to work despite "a number of reasons" why it should have failed. That said, the only reason he specifically mentioned was its focus on Troy and Britta's relationship, and his only major gripe that the episode played havoc on the season's timeline: "As last week was only Christmas does this mean we've jumped ahead in their timeline to coincide with our/their April? I can buy that, but that would then totally drop the idea that Jeff was trying to graduate mid-year, right?"

Joe Matar of Den of Geek wasn't sure if Jim Rash's Oscar meant that he was capable of writing for Community: "it’s been a long time since the Oscars had any real credibility (remember when Juno got Best Original Screenplay?)" I will point to and laugh at the idea that five years is "a long time" elsewhere; for now, let me not keep you dangling regarding Matar's lack of surety regarding Rash's capacity to write for Community: "This was easily the best episode of the season and I know I’ve said that again and again through Season 4, but it’s always been in a smarmy 'but that’s only because the bar is so low' kind of way. This time I mean it more sincerely."

evin Kevin Lanigan of Chekhov's Gunman called the end of Troy and Britta's relationship "a nice and touching outro for something that was never that great." He also calls the relationship itself "Tritta," which … no. Just no. But he redeems himself for that sad lapse of judgment (and another that shall remain unmentioned) with a couple of clever, out-of-left-field analogies involving the NBC series Revolution and Richard Nixon.

Matthew Guerruckey of Screen Spy called the body-swap story "a hell of a showcase" for Glover and Pudi. Guerruckey also praised Rash, both for his "excellent imitation of Joel McHale" and for the script, which he called "not just smart writing, but brilliant writing." And he liked everything else about it too, including by not limited to "snappy dialogue" and "tight direction from Beth McCarthy-Miller." He gave it a letter grade of A-plus.

Speaking of letter grades, Dan Stalcup of Character Grades gave the episode a B-plus, saying, "The Troy-Britta relationship was never that compelling, so I was not inherently interested in how it ended. But the execution was so solid that I actually found myself somewhat moved when the fallout actually occurred." As for the characters and their grades, Troy got a B; Abed, an A-minus; Britta, a B; Jeff, a C; Annie, a C-plus; Shirley, a C-minus; Pierce, a B-plus; and the Dean, a B.

Sean Gandert of Paste thought the episode "fortunately one of those cases where Community took a well-worn premise and took it in an interesting direction," rather than just being a re-enactment. He also thinks that ending an episode with a speech by Jeff is something that the "new showrunners decided was integral to the show rather than something that occasionally cropped up when it was necessary and felt earned," which strikes me as an odd thing to say about a trope that was used so frequently that the show was making jokes about it by the middle of the second season.

Laura Aguirre of ScreenCrave didn't understand "why Community didn’t just go for a full-blown Freaky Friday tribute." She thought the entire cast should have switched bodies, you see, and "the fact that it was only a few of them, made the episode feel insufficient." But she did like the impressions Rash, Pudi, and Glover did of their fellow cast members, and she was glad that the writers decided to finally deal with Britta and Troy's relationship head-on, even if only to end it. She gave it a numeric rating of 8 out of 10.

Ratingswise, "Basic Human Anatomy" was a return to form after the relatively high ratings earned by the last two episodes, pulling down a series low-tying 1.0 rating/3 share in the 18-49 demo, though it should be noted that it was a bad night for broadcast TV in general, with Idol, Two and a Half Men, Person of Interest, and Elementary also earned or tied series lows, and TBBT, Wife Swap, and Parks and Recs saw season lows. Things looked brighter on Twitter; the fan hashtag #KeepCalmAndWatchCommunity trended before the episode aired, and the official NBC hashtag #FreakyThursday trended during. (Actually, it began to trend even before the episode aired, as this screenshot, posted at 6:40 p.m. Central, demonstrates.

As always, thanks for reading!
Tags: -ep4.11-basic-human-anatomy, review roundup

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