Another totally hilarious episode of Community, the only show on television that legitimately reminds me of Arrested Development. NBC has a killer line-up on Thursday nights, and let’s be honest, the network deserves all those mid-week millions for three of those shows alone–I’m thinking of Community, Parks and Recreation, and 30 Rock. Every time I watch Community, there are always a couple jokes that reaffirm my disbelief that this shows airs on network television.
The great thing about Community, especially in contrast to a show like Modern Family, is that there is an eclectic cast of primary characters, an enormous cast of supporting roles, and constant interaction within and between each group. Protagonists are clearly identified as members of the study group, but that doesn’t mean bit players are reduced to new stock characters every week. Leonard, Star Burns, Fat Neil, and others are constantly in the background, even if their stories aren’t a priority (Although sometimes these supporting characters do get their own episodes and to great comic effect–in last week’s Dungeons and Dragons-themed show, Neil and the study group roleplay a riveting game of D&D in Jeff’s attempt to prevent clinically-depressed Neil’s impending suicide).
Community also has a secret weapon that is often lacking in similar comedy shows: character development. The first season of Community established the identities of the study group members, but then, particularly in the second season, as the protagonists experienced misadventures as a group and as individuals, they began to grow as characters. Shirley’s relationship with her ex-husband was addressed recently, as was Annie’s studio apartment above local sex shop Dildopolis, an accommodation resulting from her non-existent relationship with her parents, and on this episode, concerns were again raised about Pierce’s prescription drug habits.
In fact, Community has tried so hard to present its main characters as fully-realized people, that the end of this episode was a mild surprise. Jeff sends a text message to the study buddies, and as we see how each character spent his or her Valentine’s Day, we hear Jeff’s message as a voice-over:
It might not shock you guys to hear the real reason we had a fight today. It wasn’t about the Barenaked Ladies, although I do have some unresolved issues there. Caring about a person can be scary, caring about six people can be a horrifying embarrassing nightmare, at least for me. But if I can’t say it today, when can I say it? I love you guys. Oh, and Pierce, take it from an expert: these knuckleheads are right outside your heart. Let them in before it’s too late. Happy Valentine’s Day.
When I first watched this episode, I couldn’t quite grasp this particular reversal. Cool tough guy Jeff has suddenly become capable of expressing emotion for others? But when you think about the revelations we’ve already encountered with other characters, Jeff’s momentary sincerity makes sense. Jeff is not immune to his experiences with the study group, but unlike Shirley and Annie, he needed a season-and-a-half to realize and articulate his feelings. Does this change his hepcat exterior? No, it just proves that even the comedy characters who seem most shallow and self-absorbed can have moments of introspection. Will the new Jeff Winger last? Stay tuned!