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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review: Community, "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations"

Season 4, Episode 5
Grade: C
Verdict: This week's episode, in which we have Thanksgiving-themed story lines, is another "miss" for me. The episode has a few touching moments here and there but completely lacks comedy and wastes a lot of time on a boring Shawshank Redemption spoof.

Well, sigh. Another Thursday, another mediocre episode of Community. I don't think I did more than chuckle once or twice during this week's episode, which is pretty disappointing.

In "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations," Community contrasts the value of the family we're given vs. the family we choose to become a part of later in life. Jeff plans to spend Thanksgiving with his biological father (played by James Brolin), who left him when he was young. Britta decides to meddle by showing up and playing therapist to both Jeff and Jeff's half-brother, who appears to be emotional unstable and insecure.

In the B-plot of this episode, the rest of the study group decides to spend Thanksgiving at Shirley's house, but quickly finds her family to be abrasive and volatile. They escape to Shirley's garage, where Abed quickly picks up on the prisoner-like aspect of their situation and begins a Prison Break/Shawshank Redemption-themed narration and story.

Jeff's part in this episode was the only thing I found mildly interesting; in particular, his monologue about the way his father's abandonment shaped his life. In a way that makes him very much like Jeff, Jeff's father absolves himself from blame by arguing that he did Jeff a favor by leaving him when he was young. He reasons that he raised Jeff's half-brother himself, and he turned out soft and emotional, while Jeff is independent and self-reliant. In order to take his father to task for the abandonment, Jeff has to admit some of his own flaws, which was an interesting and believable way to get him to do it.

I also found myself wondering if this isn't a case where this episode is so thematic and holiday-focused that it's been damaged by being released in early March. I don't necessarily think this would've warranted a better grade in November, but there's a certain preparing-for-holidays-with-the-relatives mindset that I think could have helped when watching this episode. Between the Halloween one, this, and what I'm sure will be a Christmas-themed one soon (please let it be Die Hard related!), NBC really threw off the season by delaying it for spring.

I also have to say my absolute least favorite part of this episode was Jeff's half-brother. Some of it was writing-related, but I'm willing to chalk a good portion of the blame up to really bad acting decisions. The acting was exaggerated, silly and awful - I kind of got what he was going for, but it just came off as really cartoonish.

Overall, meh... let's hope for better next week?

Best scene: Jeff's speech about how he's not well-adjusted & the things he's done for attention in the past

Worst scene: Jeff's half-brother running away

Favorite quote: "To be honest I wasn't listening. I was thinking about Christmas. I hope we do Die Hard." - Abed
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