Study Group: Community, ‘Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations’

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Plot: With the help of Britta (Gillian Jacobs), Jeff (Joel McHale) finally meets his estranged father, William (James Brolin). Meanwhile, the rest of the gang head to Shirley’s (Yvette Nicole Brown) for an uncomfortable Thanksgiving meal.

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While some of Community’s best episodes embrace the weird and hysterical, it’s always managed to infuse a lot of heart along the way. While this week’s episode wasn’t laugh out loud funny, it successfully showed the more serious side of Community, as Jeff finally faces his long-lost dad, a storyline that’s been teased since Season 1. But don’t worry … there was still plenty of goofball fun along the way.

Britta is very Britta in this episode, but unlike the Halloween special a few weeks back, she was funny again. She especially has a funny pun about dinner rolls. But even with Britta’s endless parade of screw-ups, she always manages to shine in the end. And this episode does it seamlessly, which is where all great Britta moments are born.

But this episode really is about Jeff. Joel McHale gets to actually do some legit non-comedic acting here. We’ve seen Jeff give so many impassioned speeches to the Study Group, but at the end of this episode, he delivers a truly heartbreaking monologue about himself, but it never gets too deep … hey, it’s still Community. We’ve been so invested, and laughed with so many of these characters over the last three years, that when one of them has to face reality, it’s special. McHale really nails it in his performance. The Jeff/William stuff works on all levels.

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But as I mentioned before, the Community charm is still present. Without spoiling too much, there’s a fourth character at the Winger Thanksgiving reunion, Willie (Adam DeVine, Workaholics). I found him very funny, albeit a tad creepy. He’s got a great line about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in Twins. This is a character I could definitely see more of.

My biggest gripe with this episode was the other plot line, Thanksgiving at Shirley’s. It’s not that it’s bad (the jokes are kind of hit or miss), but it’s a microcosm of what the major problem with this season has been. Abed (Danny Pudi), Annie (Alison Brie), Troy (Donald Glover), and Pierce (Chevy Chase) are miserable at Shirley’s Thanksgiving due to her husband’s obnoxious family. They desperately want to escape, so suddenly we hear an Abed voice over playing it off like a Shawshank Redemption tribute. These types of plots have always been Community’s bread & butter, but it just feels forced here. In the previous three seasons, the Abed stuff always happened naturally. This is what has me worried for future episodes.

The other long running joke that hasn’t been working for me is the Dean (Jim Rash) living next door to Jeff. The Dean’s obsession with Jeff has always been funny, but it’s overkill not only in this episode, but the whole season so far. Plus, last season reached the pinnacle of the Jeff/Dean relationship when they sang ‘Kiss from a Rose’ at a mall kiosk. You can’t get much better then that.

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While it could have been funnier, and more effort should have been put into the B-story, I enjoyed the big character moment for Jeff. But they better not linger on the daddy issues anymore. We pretty much got everything we needed to out of this one … but definitely bring back Willie.

Rating: 7 out of 10 (Good)

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