Community 1.05: Advanced Criminal Law

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Broadcast Date: 15 October 2009
Director: Joe Russo
Writer: Andrew Guest
Cast: Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, Chevy Chase, Donald Glover, Gillian Jacobs, Joel McHale, and Danny Pudi


© Copyright Sony Pictures

© Copyright Sony Pictures

Jeff: “Remember when we used to study Spanish?”

Before we start, I’d like to get something of my chest. Last week, I tested my own version of the Duncan Principle by continuously postponing my discussion of, fittingly enough, the Duncan Principle. Aside from Josie, who kindly gave us a sexy cow milking tantrum, you all took it with grace and humour, exposing me to hilarious videos of Degrassi High: The Next Generation (otherwise known here as the Revival That Shall Not Be Discussed in Polite Conversation) and making me wait and wait and wait for an emotional outburst, and you can’t do that!!! What, do I have all day to check comments boards?! BABA-BOOEY! BABA-BOOEY!

Okay, then. From the pathologically judgemental Shirley to Jeff and his MTV-level narcissism to Annie with her competitive double-edge, every character in Community is his or her own worst enemy. “Advanced Criminal Law” presents threes subplots illustrating this point, none of which entirely work, though, if you dig deep enough, you might find some extraordinary pathos in them. Of course, that raises the question, is more pathos what we want from a comedy series?

Yes. Yes, it is. Consider the thread in which Troy messes with Abed (that’s so mean!), and the latter goes “over budget” trying to get him back. I’m usually not above laughing at situations stemming from Abed’s disorder, but this particular plot requires us to do it for an extended amount of time, which strikes me as more uncomfortable than funny. The redeeming factor lies in the notion that Abed will go to any length to connect with others, even when he doesn’t understand the social rites in which he’s partaking. This tenacity makes him a tragic hero of sorts.

Then again, sometimes it’s best to stop trying. For example, if he’d quit attempting to impress his peers, Pierce wouldn’t find himself in such predicaments as having to write a jingle for Greendale Community College. Annie thinks he just needs a confidence boost. She’s half right. With a bit more assurance, the old man might come to understand he doesn’t have to prove himself. Pierce is always at his best when he’s not trying to be the best. Having mentioned that, he still wouldn’t know how to compose a song.

All right, so Abed won’t stop trying, and Pierce should stop trying. That leaves Britta, who ought to stop trying to stop trying. After cheating in Spanish class, she finds herself in academic court, or possibly Aquaman’s court, with Jeff as her defence lawyer. As is often the case in season one, their storyline turns out the strongest. I love the animosity between Professor Duncan and Señor Chang, though it seems to me fighting for status at Greendale is like playing King of the Molehill.

Jeff’s defence argument wasn’t his best speech, but it does allow him to turn the tables on Britta a.k.a. She Who Cheats to Get Caught. Previous episodes have demonstrated that Miss Perry can see right through the charming con artist, explaining why he might fall in love with her. Most sitcoms would leave it at that, but the writers of Community have chosen to level the playing field, exposing Britta as an equally vulnerable human being. After all, Jeff ought to be looking for a partner, not a saviour, and Britta deserves an equal, not just someone to take care of.

By the same token, I was entitled to a few more tantrums, dang it! BABA-BOOEY! BABA-BOOEY!

© Copyright Sony Pictures

© Copyright Sony Pictures

Crib Sheet

  • The best bit this week has to be the credits gag with Troy and Abed putting pencils in their mouths.
  • What is it with Señor Chang and Toby? And why does Toby keep picking seats in the front row? If I were him, I’d be sitting as far back as humanly possible.
  • You know it, and I know it, but I’m going to state it anyway just for the record: Pierce’s Greendale jingle is a rip-off of “That’s Just the Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby.
  • Greendale has a pool?! My alma mater didn’t have a pool, or a campus come to think of it. I’ve said too much.

Quotes

Troy: “The only difference between Señor Chang and Stalin is that I don’t know who Stalin is.”

Chang: “We are mature, too mature to sit in a class with a cheating, lying poop face!”

Jeff: “The world isn’t the only thing that changed on September 11…”

Duncan: “Hey, British dentistry is not on trial!”

Troy: “Well, I may be stupid, but I’m not trying to look like I’m not.”
I love Donald Glover’s delivery.

Pierce: “That’s just the way it goes
Sock pants and pantyhose”

Britta: “Just don’t talk to me for a while.”
Jeff: “No problem. Just glad you’re here.”
And with that exchange, I suddenly find myself a Jeff-Britta shipper.

Not the strongest episode, but it’s still Community.

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Category: Miscellaneous Shows, Verdict: 3.5 | Tags:

          
Editor in Chief / Movie Critic: When he started this site, Dimitri never thought he'd be writing blurbs about himself in the third person. In his other life, he works as a writer, translator, and editor for various publications in print and online. His motto is, "Have pen, will travel."