TV Recap: Community, ‘VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing’


Plot: While cleaning the stock room, Jeff (Joel McHale), Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), and Hickey (Jonathan Banks) discover a hidden pile of unused text books, and decide to sell them on the black market, eventually pitting them against each other. Meanwhile, Abed (Danny Pudi) and Annie (Alison Brie) fight over who will take Troy’s vacant spot in the apartment – Annie’s brother (Spencer Crittenden), or Abed’s girlfriend, Rachel (Brie Larson).

Photo Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC
Photo Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC

While uneven at times, “VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing’s” high points had me in absolute stitches. Despite a so-so textbook crime plot, it was Abed and Annie who shined in this week’s episode of Community. But before we get to them, I need to talk about Dean Pelton (Jim Rash). We all know his biggest gimmick on the show is entering the study room in elaborate costumes. In this episode, the Dean may have even topped himself, as he enters in a granola bar, and raps about how the Greendale staff isn’t getting paid this week. Wow. Not only was Jim Rash gut bustlingly hysterical, but Shirley’s reaction to some of his lyrics were priceless. I know Dean Pelton probably only works in spurts, but I hope at some point he gets an episode all to himself. He’s quickly becoming my favorite character. Okay, on to the main stuff.

As usual, we start with the “Save Greendale” Committee, as Annie spouts off a bunch of things that need fixing. I’ve got to be honest, this whole “Save Greendale” arc is really wearing thin. We get it, they needed an excuse to get them back in the study room. It’s just not working for me. Although, the one highlight in this scene was Buzz Hickey’s reaction to Abed’s new girlfriend. I’ve said it before, but Jonathan Banks is such a welcome addition to this show. What I really appreciated this week though was a return to form for Abed, a character who’s had a couple lackluster episodes since Troy’s departure.

Photo Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC
Photo Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC

It looks like Brie Larson will be showing up regularly, now officially Abed’s girlfriend, Rachel. For the most part, their dynamic works, but I can see it losing steam in a couple of weeks. Hopefully they can add more dimensions to this character. We are also introduced to a new character, Anthony, Annie’s brother! I honestly don’t know if I liked this guy or not. He was pretty funny I guess, but someone I don’t need to see regularly.

The absolute highlight of the episode though was Abed and Annie deciding who would be their new roommate, as they play a 1993 VCR board game entitled “Pile of Bullets,” which is hosted by a cowboy character played by the creator of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan. And yes, it is just as funny as it sounds. Watching Annie and Abed get intense about this game had me on the floor laughing my ass off. When these characters are put in a good situation, they can deliver in spades. Bravo, Alison Brie and Danny Pudi. Hilarious.

The other plotline going on was pretty ‘meh.’ Jeff, Shirley, and Hickey stumble upon mint condition textbooks, and want to sell them for a hefty profit. Eventually Britta (Gillian Jacobs) comes into play, they all turn against each other, yadda, yadda, yadda. It was fine. It only got solid when Chang (Ken Jeong) comes into the room. I really like how the show is handling Chang this year. He’s still crazy Chang, but toned down, and sort of like a real person.

Photo Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC
Photo Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC

While there was a lot of mediocrity to be had in this one, the stuff that worked were some of the funniest moments of the entire season. Note to Dan Harmon – please do more Abed/Annie apartment storylines. Oh, and just as a side note – it took me ten minutes after watching the show, but it finally dawned on me that the Vince Gilligan tag at the end actually draws from a critical Breaking Bad plotline. That’s pretty funny. Vince Gilligan. Jonathan Banks. Giancarlo Esposito in earlier seasons. Clearly Dan Harmon was a Breaking Bad fan, geez.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)

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Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.


  1. I also thought the textbook on the black market thing was a Breaking Bad reference. IE: Walter White’s journey to becoming a powerful meth dealer. Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know, but it makes sense?

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