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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Community, "Economics of Marine Biology "

Season 4, Episode 7
Grade: B
Verdict: This episode has a funny primary plot, but I wasn't a fan of the two side plots and thought they wasted a lot of time. I did enjoy the return of some smaller Community jokes, like Magnitude and the Dean's hatred of Britta. The season in general has suffered from characters failing to hold onto any kind of personal development or change, and this episode is no different.

OK. At least this episode proves last week wasn't a fluke - Community can still be decent and has the ability to make me laugh. But what I'm learning about this season is that the best we can hope for is a decent primary plot. I have yet to see an episode in season 4 where the B or C plots weren't a total waste of time and filler-esque, and this week was no exception.

"Economics of Marine Biology" revolves around the Dean's effort to attract a rich, inept prospective student named Archie to Greendale. He promises members of the study group upgrades to their various clubs and classes if they'll help him show Archie a good time. But Archie is used to getting his way, and Greendale has to decide if they're willing to sacrifice their quirks and personality in order to win him over.

In the B plot, Jeff tries to distract Pierce from the attention given to Archie by spending time with him at the barber shop. What starts as a ruse to keep him from ruining the Dean's plan turns into genuine bonding session between the two. In the C plot, Shirley and Troy accidentally sign up for a physical education education class - i.e. how to be a gym teacher. Shirley's ability to discipline makes her an excellent teacher, but Troy can't control the class.

It's probably no coincidence that my favorite parts of this episode involved the Dean. He's by far the strongest and most consistent character on this show. In particular, I REALLY loved that the Dean got catty with Britta again. Their one-sided rivalry (presumably sparked by the Dean's interest in Jeff early on, while he was after Britta) is a joke I'll never get tired of.

On the flip side, Jeff and Pierce's interaction was absolutely my least favorite plot in this episode. I'm not really sure where it came from or why they suddenly bonded - they seem to be trying to piggyback this off of Jeff's recent developments with his father, but I don't think it works. They bond over making jokes about gay marriage? Anything... else... that suddenly changes the opinion Jeff's had for years?

My chief complaint here is that I feel like this show can't stop repeating little character growth arcs and re-using them every season, and in some cases in every episode. And it's not really growth if it doesn't stick around. How many times have we seen Jeff act skeptical and judgmental, only to see him change his mind and enjoy the company of fellow misfits by the end of an episode? That happens pretty much... every episode. So what we've learned about Jeff is that his character grows every week and then recedes between episodes, like the tide. He needs a new gimmick. (Actually, the writers are guilty of doing this with more than Jeff's character; see Annie during the Inspector Spacetime convention, for example).

Not every character regression is a negative - the show HAS done a good job of retreating from some of the overly-dark places they went last year. Abed was flat-out insane and genuinely murderous by the end of season 3, but has returned to his normal eccentric, robotic self from previous seasons.

So not bad, but this show could just be so, so much better. I don't need every episode to have a cute theme. Just a little more character development and snappier writing would work very nicely. And of course: MORE DEAN!

Favorite quote: I thought that was a typo in the course cartalog.
Favorite moment: When the Dean "releases the whores"
Least favorite moment: Jeff & Pierce bonding at the barber shop

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