For Its 100th Episode, COMMUNITY Attempts the Impossible: Status Quo – Season 6 Episode 3 “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” Review
Softcore spoilers to come.
I am equally torn between three ways to start this review, so I am going to make a proper go at all three.
Intro #1: We all want our lives to mean something. Whether that meaning be providing for a fine family or having our likenesses carved into the side of a mountain depends on the life in question, but no one likes to go through life thinking they are an infinitesimal speck in an overlapping cosmos being left behind and forgotten by an uncaring void. When you believe that, you stop trying. People who find no meaning in their lives turn to drugs and lethargy to ease the pain of knowing that they are nothing, and that their life will barely be a blip on the world’s consciousness before it is snuffed out as quick as it came.
(Pros: Ties in to Annie’s arc in this episode; Cons: This is a goddamn comedy. This episode was just as concerned with Britta pooping her pants as it is with finding meaning in what we do. Maybe dial back the “importance of art” bit for just a second).
Intro #2: A 100th episode is a cause for celebration in television. Much like human beings, few TV shows ever live long enough to see their loved ones gather round and celebrate any kind of centennial of their existence. Many of the best shows never get there. Many of the best never try. But there is something beautiful about that round number. It’s a marked occasion. Lost’s 100th Episode received a spread in Entertainment Weekly. The AV Club runs a series of columns that take a look at shows that crossed that 100 episode threshold. It’s really the number itself that we celebrate. Shows are rarely at their finest when they reach this point, Community included. A different show would use a 100th episode as a celebration of what has come before and what is yet to come. How I Met Your Mother used its 100th episode to put Ted Mosby in the apartment of the woman he would one day marry/watch die off camera. But Community is Community, so this 100th episode was a journey into the story of Ruffles the Dog earning a Greendale degree.
(Pros: This is Community’s 100th episode, something Abed strangely does not remark upon; Cons: Boring. Dull. Punch it up and talk about How I Met Your Mother less).
Intro #3: So this is Community now. I mean that in no sarcastic or disparaging terms, merely as a statement of fact. In what is essentially a bottle episode, the familiar Study Room is populated by those that make up the show now. Out are Troy, Pierce, Shirley, Hickey, and Duncan. Over are the introductions to our two new members of the Save Greendale Committee. This is Community as it stands now. This is Community just doing “an episode,” a standard, run-of-the-mill episode without genre parody that will largely fill in the gaps between the soaring, high concept bits for which the show has become known. This is our show.
(Pros: In-keeping with last week’s topics of discussion, creating an ongoing conversation and lens through which to look at the show; Cons: Meh).
The Body: I don’t know if this is an episode that really justifies having three intros to its review. Sliding into what I will now affectionately refer to as “The Ass Crack Bandit Slot,” “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” is a funny episode of television. That is its main strength. Though it’s still too early for our newbies (particularly Elroy) to feel really enmeshed in the ensemble, bits like Britta’s strange sojourn into the hipster music wonderland, Frankie and Annie’s discussion of hope, and Abed’s reaction to Chang’s video really sang and made me laugh, even at this dreadful 2 A.M. Central Time launch. The episode only flounders truly in our knowing it’s an episode of Community. The bar that we set for Community is higher than the one we set for other sitcoms, because Community’s highs are so very high and we know that when Community applies itself it is capable of some transcendental schoolwork. If The Mindy Project had aired this episode this week, we would applaud Mindy Lahiri and her fellow docs for really impressing us with this strange episode about a doggy doctor that so properly utilizes the entire ensemble. But because we’ve seen “Cooperative Calligraphy” and “Cooperative Polygraphy,” “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” just isn’t quite on par.
And that’s fine. Community has been around for one hundred episodes. We have had four seasons of greatness and one terrible gas leak that went on for a few months. At this point in a show’s run, you need to expect more “Crisis Rooms” than “Polygraphies.” As shows age, that’s just what happens. There are so few shows like Cheers that maintain quality over such an extended period of time. Archer (once capable of greatness) has settled into a nice rhythm in its sixth season, transforming into Potato Chip TV—the name I give to television that feels good going down and can be incredibly comforting, but won’t fill you up and certainly shouldn’t comprise most of your diet.
There will be more gaps between great episodes going forward, but they will still exist. Expect one in the next week or two, mark my blog-ged words. Cast turnover helps keep aging shows fresh. Although Elroy still feels a bit like a placeholder, Frankie is still killing it for me. My favorite scene this week is the scene at the file cabinets as she finds a filed taco and remarks on the Committee’s feelings about her. To me, Frankie’s ease into the full-time cast has been smooth and hilarious. She motivates plot and is gunning at the long-forgotten Professor Slater for Best Gorgeous Brunette Delivery of a Dan Harmon line every single week. Elroy’s scene with Britta was nice (Keith David played the “maybe he’ll be nice to Britta” fake-out with aplomb). He just needs to get himself behind a desk tank to cement himself in the group the same way Hickey did so quickly. And, again, this is his second episode. And Frankie’s third. Give these characters time, and they’ll bring us the joy I know these actors are capable of.
So did we know that Annie wasn’t going to leave Greendale, as she has threatened to do at least twice before? Yes. Does the show still not know what to do with Chang? Yes, but I’m still laughing every week. Do the new cast still need some time to grow? Absolutely. But if Community is this funny and engaging every single week, I would be in it for another hundred episodes.*
*I guess I haven’t tied in the depressing intro yet. Um, Annie just seemed really bummed about having her degree degraded by a dog being seated as one of her fellow alumni. Understandable. It wasn’t totally effective, but these characters do need to occasionally react to things like real people would or we lose that crucial tether to reality to which Community so desperately clings.
Episode Grade: B
Best Line: “Funny. Jeff says I sound like Abed. I wonder if Abed thinks I sound like Chang. Chang probably thinks I sound like explosions and crying babies. We know he’s unstable, right?”
Moment of Brilliance: Gillian Jacobs’ physicality is on point this week. Everything from her drunk stumbling, to her pants-pooping reaction face, to the way she moves to the music in Elroy’s trailer was something to watch.
–We may be experiencing diminishing returns on the Whole Other World end tags. The Shirley spinoff was phenomenal, the Portuguese Gremlins as well, but perhaps three in a row is pushing it. They are best used sparingly.
–Love the side characters this week. Vicki and Jeff’s afro’d student were top notch in their brief and meta appearance.
–For the record: The Dean’s texting subplot was uneven but when it paid off, it paid off. Olives? Wonderful.
You can find the reservoir of Kevin’s Community reviews here.