COMMUNITY Season 6 Episode 7 Review, “Advanced Safety Features”
Product placement is tricky business. Even at its best (like in Tropic Thunder when Matthew McConaughey journeyed to Laos to save a helicopter full of actors by throwing a TiVO in the path of a rocket), audience members are still keenly aware that they are looking at a product that has wormed its way onto the screen as the memo on a big ol’ check. It’s as agonizing to watch Will Smith’s criminal investigation into robomurder in I, Robot get stopped repeatedly for people to talk about how cool his Converse shoes are as it is to watch the bad movie known as I, Robot. When Gone Girl dared feature both Mountain Dew and Netflix thinkpieces arose about whether or not David Fincher sold out his pulpy masterpiece.
Is there a fundamental difference in quality between the characters on Community enjoying Let’s Potato Chips and an Xbox 360 and a Mountain Dew machine being turned into evil robots by the cube from Transformers that then and only then turned inanimate objects into evil robots? They are both equally unbelievable and distracting. In an increasingly-merchandized world, it is just as false for characters to eat fake brands as it is for them to stop everything and have a delicious Burger King dinner with Carl Weathers.
I bring this up only to tell you that I laughed at every damn Honda joke in this episode.
My official position on watching things is that it doesn’t matter what the behind-the-scenes information might be. What matters is the result. I know that Francis Ford Coppola was really bent over a barrel on the third Godfather film, but that doesn’t change the quality of the third Godfather film. I don’t care it a joke made on Community was mandated by Honda, meant to acknowledge criticisms of the show, or is the culmination of a seasons-long Beetlejuice joke: if it’s funny, it’s funny. And Britta’s adventures with Rick in selling Honda products is just damn, damn funny.
“Advanced Safety Features” is another plot where we discover that one of the few things that Britta does well is something that completely goes against her system of belief. The finest of these was Season 3’s “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts,” where Britta discovered she was a master wedding planner. But “Advanced Safety Features” offers a strong contender for that crown, as Britta teams up with former flame Subway to sell high-performance vehicles to unsuspecting saps like Todd and the Dean (who proves to be a “Level 7 Susceptible” out of, one must assume, seven possible levels). It’s another great episode for Britta—and, by extension, Gillian Jacobs—and I will always welcome Scrub’s Keith Dudemeister onto a show in whatever context is necessary. It’s not always a great idea for a late-run show trying to restructure and become its own thing to remind viewers of the time where the show was at its peak, but Community is doing well to live up to previous expectations. Season 6 has been full of creative life and ingenuity. Cast members have come and gone, but the writing and storytelling have remained strong in all of Community’s many shakeups. Sure, I’ll always miss Troy Barnes, but Frankie and Elroy are doing just fine trying to fill that void. They are doing more than fine.
I like that Britta has sort of become the center of the show at this point. In Season 6 she’s had more plots to herself than anyone else, and the plots she has had have been the most fresh and derived from what drives her. As Abed and Annie get increasingly less to do and Jeff Winger moves further away from being the center of the show, Britta has really come into her own as the stable rocks in Community’s frequently tumultuous seas. It’s a good fit.
This is also probably the overall best and most functional episode of Season 6. I really sang the praises of last week’s “Basic Email Security,” but this is by far the most solid and consistent episode from beginning to end. A few more of these, and Community will be back to its old self just in time to leave us again.
Episode Grade: A-
Best Line: “What was so special about this Troy person? Did he own a rainbow? Was he the group’s pharmacist?”
Moment of Brilliance: I hate to double up on Frankie love here, but too much praise can never be levied at her monologue in the Dean’s office when she discovers just how stupid he really is.
–The B-plot with Elroy and Natalie is Freezing doesn’t really go anywhere, but eh. Made me laugh enough for it to not be too bothersome.
–The joint reappearances of Todd, Subway, and Natalie is Freezing prove that there is nothing on Community that can’t be unrevisited upon.
–I almost gave the Moment of Brilliance to Chang’s PowerPoint presentation, but my weakness for Frankie is strong.
–Is there ever going to be more of City College? I really miss those wackadoos. There is more paintball coming up…
–Seriously. Paget Brewster’s monologue tonight is a masterclass in comedic performance.