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Good evening, Communies! I thought last night's new Community episode was a heck of a lot of fun. It's always great to see the group together around the study table, but I also like that they're slowly transitioning away from the school, as if to demonstrate to NBC and Sony that the community college setting is not integral to the show and that it won't be necessary to invent reasons for them to stay at Greendale on their way to six seasons and a movie. But hey, no one care what I think. I don't have a Messiah performance breathing down my neck this week, so we'll return to my traditional roundup style of brief summaries and occasional light mockery, which is more fun for me to put together and possibly more fun to read.

  • An Nicholson of CliqueClaque was so wary of the pending darkness foretold by the first three post-hiatus episodes that she skipped last week's episode and this week turned on The Big Bang Theory for a few minutes before it drove her away and she "returned to Community‘s warm embrace to discover what I loved the most: communal support." She also appreciates how smoothly the show is transitioning to the real world by intermixing the group's lives outside the school with their activities at Greendale, which I think is a particularly trenchant observation. But she's not sure how she feels about this season’s Jeff. "I love watching the show break away from the Jeff-as-leader template. Yet, I feel uncomfortable seeing his vulnerability without the snarktastic confidence laid on top."
  • Laura Aguirre of ScreenCrave didn't think much of the Pierce/Chang storyline, calling it "painfully unfunny," and she seems to prefer high-concept episodes like last week's to more "normal" episode like this one. Nevertheless, it had "some proper laughs and more importantly, character-bonding," and she liked the romantic developments—the Troy/Britta romantic developments, at least; the Annie/Jeff moments go unmentioned, dang it—the Blade references, the Jeff/Shirley interactions, and Dean Pelton, whom she says "constantly bring[s] the laughs." Overall, she rated it 7.5 out of 10.
  • Similarly, Andrea Towers of The Voice of TV thought the Pierce/Chang storyline was weak, but otherwise liked the episode more than Aguirre did, giving it a letter grade of A-minus. She called Gillian Jacobs "an amazing actress" who gave a "perfect performance." She "loved that we got a focus on [Britta's] storyline through the eyes of how other characters were affected by her actions," and thought it nice that Troy and Abed have reconciled. And she's interested in seeing how the Troy/Britta relationship will play out as the season progresses.
  • Todd VanDerWerff of the A.V. Club gave the episode a slightly lower letter grade, B-plus. (He explains what his letter grades mean in the comments.) He was pretty sure the episode was going to work when it opened with a study room scene: "One of the show’s greatest strengths is its comedic ensemble, which is airtight and works almost as well as a large group as it does in smaller pairings." (In support of this contention, he points out that the consensus choice for the best episode of the season, the Hugo-nominated "Remedial Chaos Theory," was nothing but the group hanging out together.) He liked that the episode gave "(almost) everybody something amusing to do, which has been a hallmark of the show since it returned from hiatus." The (almost) refers to the Chang/Pierce storyline, which "didn’t really offer much in the way of storytelling or laughs."
  • Luke Gelineau of TV Equals "absolutely loved the increased role for Dean Pelton in this episode." But he finds himself growing frustrated with Jeff, feeling that recent episodes keep rehashing his vanity and self-obsession, which "gets very old very fast," and that his "incessant whining" detracted from Kirk Fox's performance as Blade. He also thinks, contra his denial to Shirley, that Jeff was interrogating Blade to "deduce what he can do to woo Britta."
  • Andrea Speed of cxPulp! thought the episode was "kind of scattershot." She liked Britta's bits and the "wacky hijinx" that ensued from Annie's attempts to help her best, and said having the Dean hang around the apartment was pretty funny, particularly his inability to explain why he was there. But she thought Jeff's jealous fascination with Blade was a "one gag bit" that went on too long, and that the Pierce/Chang story didn;t work even though it should have. She rated it 3.5 exclamation points out of 5.
  • HitFix's Alan Sepinwall, "the show’s new best friend, apparently," according to Todd VanDerWerff, notes that the apartment was "an ideal setting for the core story of a more down-to-earth episode" because "it seems to provide more gravity than anyplace on the Greendale campus itself," and he was impressed by how well that part of the episode worked, on both the comic and dramatic level. But the stories set at the carnival were "iffier." He felt the explanation for Blade's attitude was too similar to what it was said Jeff was experiencing while on anti-anxiety meds and that Jeff's speech to Britta sounded like a self-conscious parody of a Winger speech; and that Pierce's storyline was not particularly funny and seemed like merely a way "to keep him busy while the show focuses on the characters it's more interested in."
  • Leigh Raines of TV Fanatic was happy to see the show return to its usual formula: Britta's bad judgment, Annie's naivety, Jeff's egoism and speechifying, the Dean's wacky costumes, Pierce and Chang's relegation to a secondary or tertiary plotline, and most of all Troy and Abe's bromance. "Troy and Abed's relationship [is] one of the strongest aspects of this show and without it we'd be bereft. When they were fighting it just threw Community off of its axis!" She liked the realism of Britta's story: "How many friends have you seen sending a million messages to a suitor who was fairly ambivalent?" She gave it 4½ stars out of five.
  • Xander Markham doesn't think the post-hiatus episodes have been particularly consistent, they have been "especially Britta-licious, Brittastic, Brittacular, and many other portmanteaus I could devise as an excuse for using the word 'portmanteau'. Whatever those episodes' other shortcomings, Gillian Jacobs has delivered greatness time and time again." He also praised Alison Brie's performance: "Brie is at her best when asked to go to a lot of extremes in a short space of time - think chloroforming the janitor - and, once again, she hit it out of the park last night." But he thought Shirley was underused in her story with Jeff, and that Pierce and Chang's story was "so insubstantial as to barely be worth mentioning."
  • Matt Landsman of Faster Times calls Community "perfect television … unique, stylish and incredibly endearing." About last night's episode specifically, he says, "The episode is extremely well paced and the timing of the jokes is flawless and quick-witted." He names Jim Rash as Dean Pelton as the show stealer of the episode: "every single line this character delivers is pure comedic genius."
  • Lady T of The Funny Feminist is very happy Community is back from hiatus, because she's finding that whole the show is "as delightful and silly as it’s ever been… the characters are changing and growing while still remaining funny – a feat that can be very hard for sitcoms to pull off." Most of her blog post is about the show in general, though she does spend several paragraphs looking at what happened with Britta and her relationship with Troy in last night's episode. She was happy to see the show take a step in the direction of curing Britta of "her need to seek approval and affection from men who aren’t interested in her," which she calls "one of her more annoying and cliched character traits." And while she's not sure what she thinks about a potential Britta/Troy romance, and can't imagine what a relationship between them would look like, she does say she likes their dynamic and feels confident that the show could make it work.
  • Melissa Westphal and Chris Soprych go it alone in this week's Rockford Register Star Community podcast. (Will Pfeifer is in Chicago, "shilling his comic books" at C2E2.) Chris a little let down; he had heard the title and concluded that it would be another Epidemiology-style episode (Melissa had no such preconceptions, not having heard the title), and he didn't think Jeff's speech at the end was very effective.
  • Ron Martin of 411mania.com thought the episode was "pretty forgettable … If I bought the Season Three DVD set, I would watch it once and never come back to it again because there’s nothing that needs to be seen twice." (If?) He didn't think it had anything new or interesting to say about the characters, and he has little patients for the shippy looks between Jeff and Annie and Britta and Troy at the end. He would rather see the study group members dating outside the study group: "I don’t need this to be every other 'everybody hooks up with everybody else in the group sitcom.'"
  • Matthew Guerruckey ?of Drunk Monkeys says much the same: he thinks it could be fun to see a relationship between Troy and Britta play out, but avers, "I just wouldn’t want to see this series devolve into a revolving door of fuck buddies like Friends." He is less accepting toward the Jeff/Annie relationship: "Like a mole on the back of the show, this thing just keeps spreading and pretty soon we’re going to have to get it checked out, then either cut the damn thing off or leave it alone forever." He does see some unrealized potential, but right now he doesn't care and even goes so far as to "laugh at [our] GIFs." Hey, that stings!
  • Brian Collins of Badass Digest says "Origins of Vampire Mythology" strikes a good balance between heartfelt drama and humor. "It might not be the funniest episode of the season, but I’ve spent enough time with these folks to not really care how it stacks up against others in that regard, as long as I walk away feeling like I watched a half hour of quality television featuring characters I’ve grown to love." He calls it a very sweet episode, and one that demonstrates "the care and respect the writing staff has for these characters and their histories with one another, further elevating it above just about every other sitcom on the air right now."
  • Steve Heisler of Vulture, on the other hand, says, "I still don’t care much about the characters." He likes the "heavily stylized" episodes and appreciates the obvious effort that go into them, and believes the "formulaic" episodes are often "just as … predictable as the shows it skewers," and that those episodes do very little to earn the emotions the heartfelt endings stir up in the viewer. But he did like the little moment at the end where Britta realizes Troy sent the sweet text that convinced her Blade was a loser: "There was more in that moment than in most of Jeff's obligatory speeches."
  • Ryan Schwartz of the Ryan Schwartz TV and Film Blog wrote that "last night's Community was by no means a particularly strong half-hour," but that the emotional impact of the last few minutes elevates it above the level of a typical filler episode. He's interested in seeing how the Britta/Troy relationship will play out, though he doubts they will end up "being this show's Barney and Robin or Monica and Chandler." Like many others, he wasn't feeling the Pierce/Chang story, but he thought the tag was "particularly genius." His interpretation of the tag is quite clever, so make sure you check that out.
  • Henry Hanks of CNN's Marquee blog thought this week's episode was "the weakest so far since the show's return last month." He thought that the Pierce/Chang storyline was "probably the funniest part of the whole episode," making him unique among the reviewers I read this week. And he thinks Jeff's behavior demonstrates that he "still has a thing for Britta," which is an interesting interpretation of what Jeff said when Shirley asked if he was in love with Britta. Granted, Jeff isn't necessarily the most reliable narrator, but still.
  • Jennifer Marie of A Still and Quiet Conscience, on the other stand, believes Jeff still has a thing for Annie, and that he's worried that he might be the person whom Annie is unable to shake from her system. Beyond that, she declared Gillian Jacobs the winner of the episode, both for looking "absolutely gorgeous" and because showed a "a different, very vulnerable side of Britta." She also spoke admiringly of Annie's "boss" Zak Efron poster.
  • Shaunna Murphy of hollywood.com used exactly the same words to describe the Pierce/Chang story as Laura Aguirre of ScreenCrave: "painfully unfunny." She did find it interesting that it seemed to parallel the Chevy Chase/Dan Harmon situation so closely, though. Aside from that, she though it was "an otherwise chock-full-of-smart-humor episode," containing a very positive message and forward development in several characters' relationships. Elsewhere on hollywood.com, Kelsea Stahler offers a paean to Joel McHale's not-infrequent shirtlessness, and names "Origins of Vampire Mythology" as containing the fifth funniest excuse for McHale taking his shirt off.
  • Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress seemed to like the episode very much, much more so than she did the two more widely praised episodes that preceded it. Yes, she called it "a decidedly minor episode," but followed that up by saying that it served as a reminder that in addition to being "a wildly inventive experiment," it can also be "an entirely solid conventional sitcom." Like several others, she drew a comparison between Pierce's story and the Chase/Harmon kerfuffle, but took it a step farther by drawing a parallel between Pierce's place in the study group and Chevy's in the cast: "Pierce is with the group because they’ll the people who have him, and to a certain extent, maybe that’s where Chase is with Community: like it or not, it’s the show that would have him, and while it can be tough on him, it’s given him more meaningful material than many comparable shows would."
  • Kelley Locke of Character Grades grades the characters thusly: Britta and Annie, B; Jeff, C; Troy, A; Abed, B. She makes an observation about Abed I found interesting that I didn't see mentioned anywhere else: "Abed’s emotional immaturity continues to separate him from the group. The end of the episode was kind of tragic, no? Britta and Troy and Jeff and Annie are all developing feelings and connections … and all Abed can manage is excitement about the movie. It felt like a small, sad glance into his future."
  • Lastly, Derek B. Gayle of KSiteTV, who just followed me on Twitter earlier tonight—thanks, Derek!—praised the episode's "pitch-perfect dialogue and performances." He thought the pre-credits sequence was particularly well-written, and mentioned the performances of Donald Glover, Gillian Jacobs, and Alison Brie as particularly strong. "But again, everyone had some awesome moments." He even had nice things to say about Pierce and Chang's story, though he did concede it might have been "a little too short."

And some quick takes:

  • Ethan Alter, Television Without Pity: "With a script credited to the show's creator himself, Dan Harmon, 'Vampire Mythology' put the spotlight fully back on the characters with none of the parodic frills that a significant portion of the viewership didn't care for on the previous episode."
  • Mark D. Curran, TV Geek Army: "After a dark two-part turn towards an even darker – in fact, the darkest – timeline, it was nice to return to the normalcy of the study group’s weirdness."
  • Robert Canning, IGN TV: "Ultimately it was the emotional elements of Britta and Jeff's stories (and where things might lead) that gave this funny episode the depth it needed to truly make it memorable."
  • Matthew, Polentical: "Have I mentioned before how much I enjoy Jim Rash’s portrayal of Dean Pelton? And is there any other show on TV which could introduce the central conceit of the episode with such speed and elan?"
  • Jill Mader, Couchtime With Jill: "Overall I thought it was a pretty great episode – I like how everyone in the cast (except maybe Pierce) has been getting moments to shine lately."
  • The Head Geek, Geek Furious: "Funny and full of quick stabs of memorable dialogue. Nowhere near the genius of some others but it works." Also, check out the first comment to this review. It's the best spam comment I've ever seen.

Ratingswise, the show was up slightly from last week, scoring a 1.4 in the key demo. Not good enough for a ratings donut, alas, but exec producer Neil Goldman said the improvement over last week was enough to justify some ratings donut holes. (I couldn't find any donut holes, so I had a ratings Ho-Ho.) It was NBC's second-highest-rated show for the night, trailing only a new episode of The Office. (In his review, VanDerWerff suggests that "with the impending meltdown of The Office this could inexplicably and unexpectedly become the strongest comedy on the network’s lineup, not because it’s particularly huge but because everything else is just doing that poorly.") Over on Twitter, the trending topics were reportedly dominated by Kim Jong Un and Jessica Sanchez, but jennynoname noticed that Blade trended.


Apr. 14th, 2012 03:46 am (UTC)
How bad is it that now when I see the word "changing" I read "Chang-ing?"

And the guy who thought Jeff's goal with Blade was to try to woo Britta is just a deeply confused individual. Did he even *watch* the episode?
Apr. 14th, 2012 04:41 am (UTC)
I'm inclined to think that the guy who thought Jeff's goal was to woo Britta didn't watch very closely or made some pretty snap judgements. I can see how, on the surface, it would appear that Jeff was quizzing Blade about how he got Britta to go crazy. But, taking it in the larger context of the show, Jeff's behavior is part of a larger pattern-he obsesses over people who attract others better than Jeff himself does. Take Rick the doctor, and Jeff standing at his apartment door begging to know his secrets. It wasn't just that Jeff was jealous that Rick had Annie's attention, it was Jeff's desire to be more like Rick that drove him to plead with Rick at Rick's apartment door. Likewise, it's not that Jeff wanted to know Blade's secrets so he could also get with Britta, it was just that Jeff wanted to know how it was that Blade drove someone that crazy with lust.

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