John Heaton (jheaton) wrote in community_tv,
John Heaton
jheaton
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Review roundup

Greetings, Communies! myr_soleil is busy defending a bus filled with nuns and orphans from an assault by zombie Nazi frogmen, so once again it has fallen to me to round up the reviews of this week's episode of Community. Which was particularly enjoyable this week, because pretty much everyone seemed to adore it.
  • Todd Van Der Werff of the Onion AV Club gave "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons an A, and writes that it is "so effortlessly, endlessly inventive and captures so well what it’s like to get together with a group of your best friends to have a game night that [any possible] flaws can either be explained away or smoothed out." He also called it "riotously funny," and pointed out that Community "is capable of investing the same sense of zest and spirit it brings to something like “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” to nearly any episode it does."
     
  • Alan Sepinwall of HitFix called it "one of the season's funniest episodes," but suggested that the emotional content was "a bit iffier." His main concerns were that Pierce was so completely and unrepentantly evil that it makes it hard to understand why the other study groups members keep him around, and that Neil's emotional arc didn't play as well as it could have, but he allowed that if Pierce's erratic behavior this season is addressed, and Neil continues to be seen around campus, his opinion on the emotional stuff could well change.
     
  • Drew Stewart of Television Blend also makes note of Pierce's sociopathy, speculating that might have become "the most malevolent TV villain since LOST’s Benjamin Linus." He also says that he loves the "gimmicky" episodes of Community, because "by now, these characters (while somewhat one-note) are already so established that it’s fun to see how they adapt to different roles, how much of their identity they can bring to these roles, and how much of the overall parody is changed because of it."
     
  • Jace Lacob of Televisionary called Dan Harmon a "visionary creator" who understands the rules of writing sitcoms "but relishes the opportunity to throw them out the window, stomp on them, and have Leonard repeatedly run them over in the parking lot." He specifically cites the voice-over narration, the use of a visually uninteresting storytelling mechanism, and its focus on a secondary character as "perilous" details that the show managed to overcome in creating "an episode that's at times hysterical, at times emotional, and always magical."
     
  • Jeffrey Kirkpatrick of TV Fanatic liked the surprise reveal that Jeff was "the catalyst source of Neil's pain," making him the real villain of the episode. Nevertheless, Pierce's behavior "mortified" him, leading him to find himself "aligning with the minds that inquire why Pierce is allowed to stay part of the group." Aside from the mortification, he liked the episode a lot, giving it 4.9 stars out of a possible five, and singled out Danny Pudi as the star of the episode and saying it should earn him an Emmy nomination.
     
  • Maggie Furlong of TV Squad suggested that her favorite part of the episode was that the group went out of its way to exclude Pierce, whom she won't apologize for hating. Later, though, she admits that her real favorite parts were the details of the game itself: Abed as dungeon master, Chang as a drow, and Britta's outrage over the rigid class system of the D&D universe. She also pointed out that this is the second time that Alison Brie has appeared on TV next to someone in blackface.
     
  • Michelle St. James of Daemon's TV says she "can’t think of a better theme for Community than Dungeons and Dragons because it does involve so much imagination, which these writers have to spare, and it plays out incredibly well here with the narration, excellent use of subtle effects and awesome music." She also says that Annie's role-playing seduction of Abed's left her confused as to whether she should be shipping Abed /Troy or Abed/Annie. "I could seriously go either way at this point."
     
  • Andy Greenwald of Vulture insists that despite his occasional unenthusiastic reviews, he's "not evilly inclined against Community." It's just that he has a strong preference episodes that are "conceptually ballsy." Apparently, he found this episode's balls sufficiently well endowed: "For the sheer commitment of this episode — technical, comedic, geekish — Dan Harmon and Co. deserve all the treasures of Draconis, not to mention our admiration. 'Advanced Dungeons & Dragons' went for it with a capital 'WENT FOR IT'."
     
  • Daniel Carlson of the Houston Press Art Attack blog called it "a predictably great episode of one of the best comedies in the game today." Like many others, he noted that Pierce was unusually evil this week, but suggested that all the characters were "play[ing] slightly heightened versions of themselves in line with the satirical take on high fantasy forwarded by the episode and the notion of men and women rolling dice to slay dragons." Interesting thought, though less true of Shirley and Troy than of the other characters.
     
  • Alison Dingeldein of the LA Times Show Tracker blog does more of a recap than a review, though she usually manages to work in a word of two about what she thought of the episode. All she had to say this week, thought, was that she doesn't like Chevy Chase, so "two Chase-centric episodes in a row really tried [her] patience." She's hoping the focus shifts to other cast members in future weeks..
     
  • Jack Moore of ...ology was "slightly disappointed by Community's first two episodes back from break," but called last night's episode "a fantastic episode from what may just be the best show currently on TV." It worked so well because the game mechanics allowed the characters to "throw themselves into nonsense with wild abandon," while their motivation behind playing the game allowed the show "to do the kind of heart and humanity that set[s] it apart from everything else."
     
  • Kelsea Stahler of Hollywood.com called the episode "one of the great ones." She praised the music and the sound effects, saying they took the episode outside the reality of Greendale even as the characters largely stayed within the four walls of the study room. "It's this element that simultaneously allows the episode to be epic while still grounding it in reality – a technique Community practically invented in the realm of sitcoms."
     
  • Kevin Haas, Chris Soprych and Will Pfeifer of the Rockford Register Star's Community podcast called the episode the best of the season." Veteran D&D player Pfeifer--one of the few reviewers to claim deep familiarity with the game--admired that the episode "captured the feeling of and what's fun about playing D&D," but pointed out that "the only sword in Dungeons & Dragons that can decapitate with a single stroke is a Vorpal sword." Nerd!

The ratings were down slightly from last week but still above the season average, pulling 4.371 million viewers for a 2.0 rating and a 5 share among adults 18-49. Whoo!

ETA: Here are a few more reviews of "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" that got left when this was first posted.

  • Noel Kirkpatrick of Monsters of Television thinks the episode "stands alongside 'Modern Warfare' as the show’s best parody/homage" because the characters remained true to themselves "albeit reduced to their baseline traits."
     
  • The anonymous reviewer at the TV Obsessed liked the episode a lot, giving it a rating of 9.3 out of 10. However, he found Pierce's actions more morally bankrupt than funny, making it hard to see any value in the character other than as a pure villain.
     
  • Kona Gallagher of CliqueClack doesn't really like fantasy very much (you and me both, sister) but nevertheless found the episode both "oddly compelling" and moving. The quest to retrieve the sword had her on the edge of her seat, and Pierce's cruelty and Neil's facial expressions literally had her in tears.
     
  • Corey Sherman of TV Guide liked a lot of things about the episode, including the revised theme song ("which always makes for an amazing episode"), Annie and Abed's sexual pantomime, and Chang's makeup and the way he shrieked when he died, and concludes, "another episode like this would be a blessing. Huzzah!"
     
  • James Poniewozik's preview of the episode called it "yet again an example that Community has something that's essential to excellent TV—a sense of adventure and play" and wonders if Community's competition on CBS has ever done an episode "so wholly, committedly geeky." His review the next day says "it was such a good episode because Community has become a strong enough and well-enough defined show that the best and funniest things its characters can do is simply talk to one another." He had a bit of a problem with Pierce's behavior though.
Tags: -ep2.14-advanced-dungeons-&-dragons, review roundup
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