I’ll just start off with a disclaimer that I was/am way too excited that Community’s back on the air to really look at it with a critical eye. It’s just so great seeing the whole gang on my TV once again, and even though this week’s episode didn’t blow it out of the water like some of the all-time greats, it was a warm welcome back to Greendale.
We start off pretty quickly with what will be the main thrust of the episode, and I was really happy to see that we were in for some serious Shirley action. While her character’s development hasn’t exactly been neglected, season two has really opened up a lot of what makes Shirley tick, so I was more than ready for an episode to revolve around her.
Her ex-husband Andre proposes in the cafeteria, suggesting they make it official a second time. This happens moments after Shirley and Pierce discuss the possibility of going into business together to open a sandwich shop on campus. Since this is a sitcom, the wedding is happening immediately, and it’s happening at in the study room. This wasn’t winked at hard enough for me to really see it as a meta-joke, but it didn’t bother me either. We don’t actually care about an amazing wedding; we just want to see the gang lose their collective minds leading up to it. And that’s exactly what we get.
Britta, who’s upset that Shirley’s suddenly dropping her sandwich-shop plan to focus on wedding planning, accidentally backs into offering to take the lead with the planning. Since she and Jeff are the resident marriage skeptics, we get to watch both them scowl their way through the proceedings. Britta Perry gave America what I believe is our first angry, resentful floral arrangement. As for Jeff, since this is a sitcom, Shirley asks him to make a toast. I guess this makes some sense, since “Jeff’s Big Speeches” have become such a reliable part of the show, but Jeff can’t fake enthusiasm in something he doesn’t really believe in.
With the wedding pressure off, Shirley’s free to explore her sandwich-shop idea, and it turns out that after some initial friction, Pierce and Shirley make great partners. Not that the Dean is hard to impress, but their presentation to him is a huge hit (“Where did I get all that money I’m holding?”) Such a huge hit, in fact, that Shirley almost forgets about the wedding rehearsal. She rushes to the immaculately appointed study room a little too late.
And it turns out Britta’s an amazing wedding planner. It’s probably because she comes from a long line of wives and mothers. (Although I have to ask, as a been-there bride, why are all the fresh flowers already out the night before? Those fellas are gonna get all brown and wilty!) Britta hates herself for being so good at weddings, and joins Jeff in the corner to get drunk on champagne while Shirley and Andre talk it out in the hallway.
Jeff decides to prematurely make his toast. After completely demolishing Leonard’s attempt to heckle him (“Shut up Leonard, those teenage girls who play ping-pong with you are doing it ironically!”), he gets into an amazing escalating argument with Britta over how terrible marriage is. I was still wheezing from that whole routine when Shirley and Andre were reconciling, but I got the gist: Andre is going to be more supportive of Shirley’s business plans.
I got a few small laughs from Troy and Abed pretending to be normal, but as the C-plot it got very little screentime and there was never any question it was going to be resolved, so it was a bit of a non-starter for me. I think the show shouldn’t be afraid to let some characters really be in the background on a given week, even if they’re the fan favorites.
I have read enough, and deduced enough from some of the episodes last fall, to know that the people behind the show are not confident that there will be a fourth season. Don’t forget that they began filming these post-holiday episodes not knowing if or when the “indefinite hiatus” would end. I think it will be interesting to see how the remaining episodes in this season reflect that mentality, and how they prepare the overall story to conclude properly by the finale in May.