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Community: As and Bs

So, this week’s Community was a bit of a lesson in sitcom plotting. You all know (whether or not you know you know) that modern sitcoms typically have an “A” plot and a “B” plot. The A plot is what you would summarize to someone if they asked you what the episode had been about. The B plot is a shorter, simpler affair, usually involving hijinks of secondary characters, meant to keep the episode dynamic.

The problem with this week’s episode was that they gave equal air time to the A and B plots, to the point where I actually had to think for a while in order to figure out which was which. It’s possible that in an ensemble cast such as Community’s (the study group has seven members, and there are a few side characters that appear almost weekly), the writers are hesitant to neglect one or more of the characters on any given week. Still, in this case it made both plots feel a little rushed, and I think the episode suffered for it.

This week, the A plot (I think) involved a sort of Mean Girls variation, where the three women and Abed take a women’s studies class and encounter a pack of bitches led by guest star Hillary Duff. Duff was perfectly, infuriatingly cast as the head bitch, and her abuse of the group rallies them to fight back. The ladies find out that Abed’s asocial, detail-oriented brain is perfect for coming up with very specific insults, and they start using him as a weapon against all the school’s bitches.

Meanwhile, Jeff and Troy stumble upon a Garden of Eden of sorts on campus, complete with hedge maze and giant, epiphany-inducing trampoline. Peirce, angry at being left out of the boys’ activities, spies on them with his remote-control helicopter, and the place gets destroyed. There’s also a racist janitor. Honestly, this plot was worth a joke or two but there was really no reason to have it take up half the episode, except that Jeff, the show’s star, probably needed some screen time. I think the writers need to relax and give Joel McHale a break once in a while.

The highlights of this week included Abed’s awesome takedowns, Troy and Jeff in wifebeaters, and Chang’s 90s-movie “Oh snap!” reactions to the insults that were hurled around in the school cafeteria. Also, as always, staying on after the credits paid off with another episode of “Troy and Abed in the Morning” with Starburns as the guest.

After last week’s zombie apocalypse brilliance, any show was going to suffer by comparison. I’m hoping that, knowing this, the writers burned off a weaker episode. They are usually much better at handling the large cast, and hopefully this week was just a single misstep in what is otherwise a kick-ass show.

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