Community knows its characters. Halfway through its second season, the show that started out focusing on Jeff Winger trying to get back to his life as a lawyer now operates on a comedic rotation, focusing on a particular character pairing during most episodes. Tonight, that focus is on Annie and Chevy Chase’s Pierce, one of the less-prominent friendships in the series. It has never been assumed that all members of the study group are friends in a one-on-one scenario, but the second season has gone a long way to filling in the gaps in characterizations.
The plot of tonight’s episode has been done a ton of times before. The study group mocks anti-drug performances for young children, led by Annie, who ropes the rest of the group into roles. Troy and Abed are bees, Britta and Jeff are “cool cats,” Shirley a green crayon, and Pierce plays “drugs,” and begins the episode with no lines, but weasels his way into the star of the show.
Annie gets a lot of back-story here, more than we’ve seen since the first season. She went to high school with Troy, and was infamous for having a nervous breakdown. That was already darkly comic enough, but when Pierce follows her picking up recyclables, he finds that when she went to rehab, her mother cut her off completely. This gives her a very clear motive behind her obsessive behavior. She needs to do it in order to go to Greendale. When he offers her money in a clear grab for more lines in the anti-drug play, we get to delve into Pierce as a spotlight hog and Annie as a hard working but desperate student.
The plot is tendered by side elements involving Jeff accidentally sexting Britta’s nephew in an attempt to spice up her life, and Chang again trying to shoehorn his way into the group via his potential lovechild with Shirley. The way in which Chang earns some respect is both completely within his established character, but also a small enough change to make it believable.
That small shift in character is what Community does so well. It maintains a very solid foundation of who these characters are at their core, but able to move incrementally, not wildly all over the map from episode to episode. “Celebrity Pharmacology” was a very centrally-focused episode with few locations, but it’s another great example of how this show has created compelling comedic characters that are so fun to watch it’s easy to forget whether or not the plot feels generic.
Final Grade: B+
The dean has a growing and increasingly creepy obsession with Jeff Winger. The show also has an obsession with giving him odd sexual quirks.
Jeff introduces himself as Britta’s “sort of boyfriend,” continuing the potential theory that he and Britta are dating in secret a la Barney and Robin in How I Met Your Mother. I like that this is background coloring and not a main focus.
The shift away from a Jeff Winger-centric show to an ensemble comedy is what gave Community the ability to realize its potential as one of the best comedies on television right now.
“How come he gets a front stinger?”
“Did someone say crazy person!” “No.” “Well, I heard it.”