I really have to stop watching such excellent television. Community sets the standard by which I evaluate other ensemble comedies, and then when I write about them, I realize that they’re comparatively mediocre. I heard some statistic that NBC consistently comes in fourth place among the most watched networks (maybe I heard it on 30 Rock?), but I just don’t understand how that’s possible. How are people missing the great Thursday night line-up on NBC? I was one of those annoying people who kept telling you how good Community is since it first came out, but it’s been two years now. Why aren’t people watching? And if they are, do the viewing stats fail to register because the coveted 18-34 demographic prefers to watch its shows online?
Well, I’m certainly watching, and last night’s episode of Community was a take-down of student politics at Greendale Community College. Annie runs for student body president on a black mold removal platform, and Jeff runs against her to prove that politics are a joke. At the end of the episode, both declare their resignation from the campaign, but each has a learned an invaluable lesson from the other:
Annie withdraws, however, because she realizes that her motivation to become president isn’t entirely scrupulous either. Annie admits that she just wanted to be in a position of power and exert some influence at Greendale.
I enjoy watching Annie and Jeff interact because they bring out such different qualities in each other. In this episode, they both admit that they care about their respective opinions of each other. This is an interesting remark to hear from Jeff, who has tried to establish an attitude of nonchalance and indifference when he interacts with the other group members. Annie reveals Jeff’s inner humanity, but he tends to do that for her as well. Jeff’s interactions with Annie draw our attention to his good qualities, but they also emphasize her bad qualities. We learn that Annie isn’t solely a perfect embodiment of style, sass, and a one-time prescription drug problem, but that she also has an intense desire to succeed that borders on egomaniacal. Jeff provokes Annie’s flaws so that we’ll see her as more than a truism-spouting automaton.
Speaking of robots, this was also a particularly nice episode for Abed. We see a brief romance between him and a secret agent (could there ever be a more perfect woman for Abed?), and we get to watch him and Troy host the presidential debates on campus television. The Abed-Troy dynamic is a great example of real pretend chemistry. It doesn’t matter if Donald Glover and Danny Pudi are friends in real life; what matters is that we fully believe in the relationship they’ve invented for television. When I think about their conversations in relation to the characters on Modern Family, there is such a striking difference. Characters on Community actually have deep and invested relationships with each other, whereas the blood family members of Modern Family are only superficially involved in each others’ lives. I know I shouldn’t compare, but the distinction is huge. Maybe Claire has a rich social life with lots of kooky friends that we never meet and maybe it’s harder to be ridiculous and funny around family members instead of friends, but I don’t understand why more ensemble television shows aren’t like Community.
Will Jeff and Annie develop a not-so-secret handshake like Abed and Troy? Will we finally get another Britta plot, and will it herald the return of ex-boyfriend Tiny Nipples? Stay tuned!