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Community Recap: Mr. Pelton’s Opus.

I can’t start this reacap without addressing this week’s terrible news, which is that, in light of NBC’s announcing their winter lineup, Community was suspiciously absent. Our favorite ratings-deprived show has been bumped off the schedule (allegedly temporarily) to, in addition to other considerations, make room for 30 Rock, which is returning after Tina Fey’s maternity leave.

Our Community-obsessed buddies over at NYMag wrote what I consider to be the most comprehensive (and most comforting) explanation of the big picture. I guess the thing that bothers me the most is that, if they are going to cancel the show, they should at least let it play out its final season uninterrupted. I really don’t want this show to end with a whimper, or to leave any of us hanging and wondering if the show is really over.

Anyway, we still have new episodes, at least for a few more weeks, so let’s talk about last night’s episode. We don’t waste any time with the premise, which is that the Dean has been given $2,000 to re-shoot Greendale’s promotional video. The “current” video, while admittedly awesome, is almost two decades old. The Dean picks the study group to star in the new ad, due to their convenient level of diversity, and Jeff immediately begins to sabotage his unwanted role as the Dean. Jeff’s Dean impression is actually amazing, and as always I love seeing one character mimic another on a TV show because it reminds you how much time these people actually spend together, watching each other play their characters.

The only person not participating in the commercial is Abed, because he’s filming the filming as part of a film project. Everything else is going smoothly (besides Pierce’s “I’ll be in my trailer!” diva antics) until Luis Guzman calls up to tell the Dean he wants to be in the commercial. The only reason he even knows about it is that Jeff insisted on filming his Dean scenes in front of the Guzman statue on the quad in the hopes that Guzman would forbid his image from being used in the ad. But apparently Luis really enjoyed his time at Greendale, and is happy to help.

The stress and pressure of filming what is now a commercial with a major celebrity in it gets to the Dean, and his constant script changes, epiphanies, and escalating costs start to take their toll. Britta and Troy are forced to say the line, “”¦to meet different people!” and hug so many times that they’re reduced to screaming tears. (As if there are any two people in the group better suited to descending into hysterics than Britta and Troy.)

When I first heard that Jim Rash’s Dean Pelton was being bumped up to main cast member this season, I was a little curious to see where they actually had to go with his character. I was worried that, as turned out to be the case with Chang, he was better off as a bit character, and that his weirdness wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny (or more screen time). However, after a bit of a misstep last week with this stalking/blackmailing Jeff plotline, I was pleasantly surprised to see a Dean-centric episode that was actually interesting and funny.

We really got to see Jim Rash stretch his legs a bit, as the Dean for the first time broke out of his usual demeanor, complete with macho swagger, chest-bearing open shirt, and 5 o’clock shadow. What’s seemed for most of the series’ run as chronic over-enthusiasm about his school is revealed to be rampant insecurity ““ about Greendale and about himself.

After Luis Guzman scolds him for losing sight of what’s really great about Greendale, the Dean, who had stopped production of the commercial, has a little bit of a breakdown which is hilarious to behold. I mean, who among us hasn’t sought closure on an issue by burning our clothes and then smearing our naked bodies with the ashes?

The only thing that seemed a bit unnecessary this week was a return to Abed’s documentary format. Last year, this format was used effectively in the episode where Pierce ends up in the hospital, both in the way it gave us new insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings, and in allowing Abed to not-so-subtly mock the conventions of the “mockumentary” genre employed by shows such as The Office and Parks and Recreation. This time around, I don’t really see what the format added to the show. It did allow Abed to step up and help the Dean in the end, but would he not have been observing the Dean’s descent anyway? And when a show is actually “filmed” all the time anyway, it’s a little strange to suddenly make the fact that they’re “being filmed” part of the plot. I don’t know, maybe I’m over-thinking things.

2 replies on “Community Recap: Mr. Pelton’s Opus.”

Abed’s filming it was worth it for the “Some flies are too awesome for the wall.” line, which nearly made me snort tea out my nose.

I get why Community isn’t seen as a commercially viable show, but that’s precisely what makes it fantastic.  It’s witty, wry, and smartly hilarious, but it’s not got that… brainless?  focus-grouped? overly-wrought?  mangled by people trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator? aspect to it.  (I can’t quite put my finger on the word I’m looking for.)  I dearly hope it comes back after hiatus, though I’m not holding my breath.

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