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Friday, 16 of April of 2021

Community – “Competitive Wine Tasting”

I am not a fan. I am not a groupie. I am an academic.

I haven’t been writing much about Community lately, largely due to time constraints on my end. It’s been a little bit frustrating, but it is what it is. So I return, hopefully, for the rest of the season to keep writing about a show that I really really enjoy, even if it doesn’t always really work. Like tonight.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with “Competitive Wine Tasting” but the episode is kind of a mishmash of ideas and plots, each of which really needed room to breathe beyond their few scenes each. As a result, you can see potential for each plot kind of peek out, but since they’re just piled on top of each other, the potential is never realized, and we’re left with that, really, would’ve felt more at home in the early going of season 1 (before “Introduction to Statistics” or “Comparative Religion”).

Least developed, and perhaps with the most promise, was Abed taking a class devoted entirely to Who’s The Boss?. The plot gives the show an opportunity to interrogate its sitcom roots in the self-reflexive manner it so loves to do (see the premiere of this season) while also needling academics who study television shows. But the plot is given three scenes or four scenes, all very brief, wherein Abed proves his sitcom savantness by somehow proving that Angela is the boss (though Barney from How I Met Your Mother would disagree), completely ruining the professor’s book and outlook on the show.

Why not show us Abed working through, this making the chart, ¬†referencing it, and working through the A-plot as if it were an episode of Who’s The Boss? that reveals who the boss of the study group is (Annie). But instead not much is made of it, and the professor (a wasted¬†Stephen Tobolowsky) realizes his life’s work has been a sham, and begins to read a book on What’s Happening? (after allowing us to think he’d kill himself). That’s our resolution? Well, it was the C-plot of the episode.

The B-plot actually returns to one of my favorite pairings of season 1 with Troy and Britta taking an acting class (which means the return of Professor Sean Garrity, aka Professor Professorson!), even mentioning their dance class from season 1. So when Troy lies about a childhood trauma so he can have a well from which to pull experiences from from which to act with (intentionally convoluted sentence), Britta becomes attracted to him.

This is a B-plot that could’ve easily been an A-plot, and a really funny (if kind of dark) one. Instead it kind of limps to the finish line, with Troy and Britta coming to an understanding about why he lied, and it’s neatly resolved. The quick resolution here reminds me of the very dashed promises of Chang being in jail and Britta dating a murderous war criminal in “Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy.” There’s humor to be mined tin the darkness there, but the show quickly skirts away from it, leaving a lot of interesting ideas untapped.

The A-plot of the episode, with Pierce marrying Wu Mei, was probably the least interesting of the three in the episode, but like the other plots, had it been given a bit room, it would’ve been more engaging. It would’ve taken a bit to get there though, as the plot felt like a tweaked version of the season 1 episode “Basic Genealogy.” There’s little doubt that Wu Mei had an ulterior motive to marrying Pierce (and I did like that it was over hand wipes), but I would’ve liked to have seen Jeff’s search for the truth played up a bit more, maybe drawing in Annie or Shirley to help.

But like the other plots in the episode, it’s resolved quickly and neatly. Pierce’s assertion that Jeff just wanted to prove that no woman would want a racist old man felt false even before Jeff arranged for Pierce and Wu Mei to go on a real date. Perhaps a more ruthless reason on Jeff’s, especially after the fake father debacle, and less indignation on Pierce’s behalf, would’ve felt more earned, but so it goes.

The description for next week’s episode has me optimistic that the show can hit its heights again. I’ll drink to that.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Best joke of the episode: “I dropped the class after the class on set ups. The professor was so old.” ¬†[Anticipatory pause for the punchline]
  • “For homework, drink a glass of cognac in a bathtub.”
  • “Congratulations, Veronica Mars. You learned how to use Google.”
  • The episode tag was pretty funny with a glimpse at Professor’s Garrity’s staging of an all-black version of Fiddler on the Roof. “It’s hard to be Jewish in Russia.” “Drop me an Old Testament beat.”

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