Community: Alternative History of the German Invasion

“Oh my god, all this time we thought the Germans were the Germans, but turns out we're the Germans.”

When I started watching this episode I thought it was rather odd that the study group were starting history class four episodes into the season. That's because this was the second episode produced and really should've aired after 'History 101'. But some chronological inconsistencies are the least of this episode's problems.

This was essentially a filler episode, and not a very good one. The obnoxious German stereotypes from 'Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism' were brought back so they could annex the study room. The study group are very territorial about the place they first came together. It is their couch at Central Perk. Their booth at MacLarens. Their bar stool at Cheers. It is precious to them and they weren't going to let it go without a fight. Thus the stage was set for what looked like a promising parody of World War II films. Alas, that was not to be.

The potential was certainly there, but either because of lack of imagination or lack of funds (the budget has been seriously slashed this season) nothing funny or interesting really came of the conflict. This has been a recurring problem with this season so far. While the dialogue and character interactions are as sharp as ever, the episode plots come across as half baked. Few of the ideas the writers are introducing are taking off.

The whole point of the battle was to make the study group see things from another perspective. They saw themselves as the heroes, vanquishing the obnoxious German stereotypes from their special place by cleverly tricking them into celebrating their own culture at Greendale (big mistake). But to everyone else, they were bad guys, the evil empire that goes stomping around the campus doing whatever they want, getting whatever they want, and crushing anyone who stands in their way. And that was kind of it. After they realised they were the Nazis it was just one quick decorating montage and everything was back to normal. There was no real sense that the gang had learned any kind of lesson. We were told they had been forgiven but there were no scenes showing this. It was a badly constructed ending to a badly constructed episode.

Like Anthropology and Biology, the class the group were all taking this year was taught by a special guest star, the Great Malcolm McDowell (who will always be referred to as the Great Malcolm McDowell). He's Professor Noel Cornwallis, an Oxford professor exiled to Greendale after an unfortunate slip up with a co-ed (no doubt they discovered he starred in Tank Girl). He wasn't really used well in this episode. Like Omar before him, the Great Malcolm McDowell was here to play simply straight man to the group. Hopefully they make better use of him in later episodes.

Finally, IT returned this week. And that is all I have to say about that.

Quotes Without Notes

Dr. Ken: “It is not uncommon for victims of memory loss to experience syntactical confusion. Thus the inappropriate insertion of his name into a unrelated phrase.”
Dean: “No, he's always Dean that.”

The Great Malcolm McDowell: “And that failed ventriloquist name was Slobodan Milosevic.”

Reinhold: “Don't worry, if there's one thing we Germans don't do it's hold a grudge.”
Abed: “Unless we're talking about Die Hard 3.”
Jeff: “Or the 20th century.”

Abed: “That man saved my life. In a video game.”

Troy: “Someone must have changed the channel to USA 'cause I just saw a Burn Notice.”

Jeff: “When I was growing up, it was just me and my mom. I didn’t have much of a family, that is until I met you guys. So excuse me if I’m not willing to give up the place where we became a family.”

Troy: “I don't get history. If I wanted to know what happened in Europe a long time ago I'd watch Game of thrones.”

Two out of four episodes of Hogan's Villains.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


Juliette said...

This episode seemed weirdly racist to me, but maybe I'm just over-reacting. I guess the constant WW2 references made more sense to me in Fawlty Towers, a show in which every character actually remembered the war, than here, a show in which Annie must have pretty dim memories of 9/11. And it probably wasn't helped by reminding me of Fawlty Towers early on. Or using my subject. Ancient History is a bit different fromt he regular kind (strange but true) but still, this didn't seem very history-y and when it's my own subject, I notice. Also, as Mark also know, we don't say 'co-ed' in this country. I'm not even sure what it means, other than 'young girl.'

Billie Doux said...

Is it me, or does it feel like they're trying too hard?

Josie Kafka said...

It's not just you, B.

sunbunny said...

Juliette, I went to the racist place too. I feel like the writers thought it would be okay because of the 'our gang are really the bad guys' thing at the end, but it wasn't. I did laugh out loud several times, but you're right Mark, this was not a well-constructed episode.

I do like that they're (for the first time) confronting an actual professor, with actual expectations of them. It must be quite a culture shock. I also appreciated the flashback montage. I don't think the series could sustain another episode full of flash backs to things we've never seen, but this was a nice taste.

I liked the group screaming at Chang. That was my reaction as well.

sunbunny said...

Oh and Mark, you left out my favorite quote. This is America, not Arizona.

celticmarc said...

Well, I confess that I LOL'ed a lot during the A plot. And I was unhappy with the IT sub plot.

Good moments, but the incisive factor is gone.

Kathy said...

I loved this episode. Maybe because my degrees are in history, with an emphasis in WWII, but I had a lot of fun with this.

Yeah, I was unhappy with the IT sub-plot. A little of IT goes a long ways.

I loved the flashbacks to other episodes when students tried to get into the library. (I want to know why Jeff was dressed as a figure skater for bet.)

I know people will probably disagree, but this episode actually felt the most like Community in four episodes. That's not saying that they're not trying too hard, because I think they are. But, this is the first episode of the four that I thoroughly enjoyed myself during the entire half-hour.


celticmarc said...

After reconsideration, I have to agree with Kathy.

As far as the LOL factor was concerned, this was the "best" so far this season.

Paulo Brabo said...

I laughed a lot, but no.

Without Dan Harmon doing his Community magic, the whole never seems to get greater than the sum of its parts. In fact, even the sum of all the parts seems to result lesser than the sum of all the parts, if that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

I haven't enjoyed community at all since it returned, and it's not just the plots. I don't think the dialogue is as smart as it used to be, i don't laugh or even really smile anymore. The outdated "real world" joke is a good example, they made a "real world" joke before but there was context which made it funny, I don't think Troy would even know what the real world is.
I also found the flashbacks to be irritating, it was like the writers thought fans wouldn't notice that the show's quality has declined as long as they assure us that they had watched past episodes.

ChrisB said...

Juliette -- the term 'co-ed' harkens back to the days of yore when the universities in this country that had historically only admitted men began to admit women and, therefore, became co-educational. The women, not entirely flatteringly, were referred to as 'co-eds.' It's a term I hadn't heard in years.

I agree with Billie -- they're trying too hard and, at least for me, not succeeding. I didn't laugh out loud at all, although I did smile once or twice. This episode felt forced.

Great review, Mark. You summed up the issues as I saw them perfectly.