Community – “Communication Studies”

“Communication Studies”

February 11th, 2010

There’s a scene early in “Communication Studies” where Jeff is asking Michelle about her Valentine’s Day expectations. What he wants to know is whether he has to change anything to make the day more special, whether there is something he can do (flowers, chocolates, etc.) to better fit her expectations. However, she says she wants things to remain the same, even though we later learn that she would like some small changes (like Jeff being willing to pick up ice cream before Law & Order nights).

In this metaphor, Jeff is the show’s writers, Michelle is the audience, and their relationship is Community. Like Michelle, as an audience member, I don’t want the show to change in any major way to improve upon itself, as I quite like the show it has become, and it certainly doesn’t have to go out of its way to be quite clever with its attention to Valentine’s Day (the Cupid Being was more than enough). However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, even if “Communication Studies” ended up pretty satisfying.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one: the Valentine’s stuff around the edges was clever, and Abed’s film references were heightened but in a way that twisted around on itself nicely (his hangover struggles, once just reverting to “Film reference,” were clever), plus the central plot worked well enough that I’m with Todd on this one in that I believe Jeff and Britta as a relationship at some point in the future. The gamesmanship central to their friendship is starting to appear in a different light, and rather than suggesting (as, to be honest, the dance recital episode did) that they were in some way “meant to be,” we’re starting to see that they just kind of like each other, which is so much more realistic and such a better fit for these characters.

It’s not, after all, that the show can’t do love: Annie, for example, can be in love with just about everyone, whether Troy or Vaughan or whoever else the show might introduce. However, Jeff and Britta aren’t those characters, and while I like Michelle and am happy that relationship isn’t over, the door is more open than ever before to something romantic going down within the main cast. It was achieved, though, without changing what makes the show work, as they convinced me that their dynamic could turn romantic rather than actually changing their dynamic, an important distinction that helped turn me into a believer.

As for the rest of the episode, it was a bit all over the map in a good way. The Pierce/Troy humiliation was a sight gag that did nothing until Donald Glover busted a move while looking traumatized, while Shirley and Annie’s attempts to humiliate Senor Chang were nothing without Ken Jeong’s reaction (and Troy’s theory on why the perpetrators used Princeton letterhead). Not every story has to be a winner, and while the episode didn’t “come together” quite as nicely as some others this season, everything felt “right” in a way that makes for an enjoyable half-hour of comedy.

Cultural Observations

  • As noted above, there is always room for improvement on the show, but there is nothing that NEEDS to be done to keep the show afloat. This is the kind of show where its occasional weaker storylines are lessons more than failures, a chance for the show to try something new and perhaps discover something great in the process.
  • Happy to see more of Abed’s moviemaking, here recreating the scene with Senor Chang immediately after it happened: that’s a device they can’t go to all too often in order to keep it from becoming repetitive, but there’s some potential there.
  • I should really watch the Breakfast Club all the way through one of these days, shouldn’t I?
  • For more thoughts, check out Alan Sepinwall and James Poniewozik’s reviews of the episode.
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