Community: VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing

"Nobody picks up on my pattern. What am I going to say next? Graham cracker. You didn't know!"

As is its pattern, Community has followed its latest high concept episode with something more conventional.

I’m not overly fond of episodes like this, that splinter the group into several side stories. In my experience the more divided the group is the weaker an episode tends to be. ‘VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing’ was one of the stronger examples of episodes of this type, dividing the action into only two story threads. Of the two, I thought the Annie/Abed story was the strongest, mostly because of the great chemistry between Alison Brie and Pudi and Brie Larson’s various confused faces.

With Troy gone, Annie and Abed need a new roommate to help pay the bills. Annie wants her brother, laconic, caveman look-a-like Anthony. He has money, fixes things, doesn’t say much and does whatever Annie tells him to do. He’s perfect. But his beard freaks out Abed, who would prefer his girlfriend, Rachel, move in with them. Annie is against that. There is room for only one cute character played by an actress named Brie in this apartment. Whether or not baby brother or Rachel even want to move in with them is never brought up. Abed and Annie know what they want and they’ll be damned if they’ll let the other stop them from getting it.

This being Community, they agree to settle this disagreement not with a coin toss (it creates alternative timelines) but with a lame, antiquated VCR western board game. Oh, VCR board games, that takes me back. You really have to be of a certain generation to appreciate and enjoy a good 80% of this show. I had this Star Wars one where Darth Vader directed you around the Death Star or something. It only got played once before being banished to the attic, never to see the light of day again. It was terrible, like all games of this kind, and this episode really does a great job capturing how dull and confusing they were.

As always happens with characters on this show, Annie and Abed take the game way too seriously and things quickly get out of hand. The situation really brings out the worst in both of them. Annie can become a monster when her competitiveness gets the better of her, while Abed can be pretty mean when he doesn’t get his own way. Their mutual desperation to fill the Troy shaped hole in their heart ultimately drives away the very people they were trying to attract.

Not too sorry to see Annie’s brother go. He was amusing for a bit, but quickly outstayed his welcome. Thankfully Abed was able to patch things up with Rachel. Loved Abed’s third act apology, complete with customary artificial rain and rainbow. How like Abed to use the clich├ęs of romantic comedies to apologise to his girlfriend. I’m happy that Rachel will be sticking around for the foreseeable future. After losing Troy, Abed needs someone in his life who comes close to getting him. Plus, they need to keep Brie Larson around as long as possible.

This episode’s other plotline was just pure filler. The ‘people strike gold and turn on each other’ storyline is ancient and the writers failed to do anything fresh or funny with it. I liked the idea that there is an underground textbook trade at Greendale (which seems to be controlled by Paul Williams), but the episode failed to really develop it. Rather than delving into the complex world of textbook trafficking, we just got five people in a room bickering with each other, something we’ve seen a dozen times before. In the end, the textbooks were revealed to be useless. Let this be an important lesson to us all - if you spend more times reading books instead of smelling them then you are less likely to end up tied to a chair. Also, never go against Shirley where money is concerned.

Notes and Quotes

--Vince Gilligan’s cameo was cute, but I think they overdid it with the tag sketch with Gina Gershon. It's at moments like this that I really miss Troy.

--Since we've seen Jeff teach a total of one class I'd forgotten that he was even supposed to be a teacher. Come to think of it, when was the last time we even saw anyone attend a class?

--I may be alone here, but I didn’t find the Dean’s rap funny at all. And his peanut costumes was subpar as well. Come, Greg, you can do better than that.

--Speaking of the Dean, is it me or has Jim Rash been seriously underused this season?

Hickey: "Why the hell do you have all those muscles if you're going to bitch about moving boxes?"

Annie: “Is this working?”
Abed: “It’s a handshake in progress.”

Britta: "I know we're in E9 in the East Wing. I know that because it smells like weed. Not my weed."

Two and a half out of four matching tokens.


Freeman said...

I believe the Dean was dressed as a PayDay bar, which would make sense since it was supposed to be payday for the teachers. I thought it was pretty funny. I also thought his rap was great because it started off all corny "person who doesn't understand rap" style then he got all anointed and got into the meat of it. Then to see him trying to reclaim that feeling but couldn't grasp it was hilarious.

The VCR game was great. And I thought the little extra scene was rather fitting with this season in showing a man throw away a great future for something that would die. Comedy and tragedy and all that. Plus Gina Gershon is fantabulous.

I liked the story with the books because it gave a good window into the characters' character. And just the whole scenario of them treating a buncha books like the drug trade was hilarious to me.

sunbunny said...

Freeman - I agree on the PayDay bar.

I played a grand total of one VCR game. It was Clue. I don't remember anything about it except it was a VCR Clue game. Was not a fan of this one. Pure filler, but at least it's Community filler and not 'gas leak season' filler. Annie's brother seemed really weird to me. He was so unlike her and really just a bizarre person. Plus (if I'm doing the math right) he's supposed to be 18 or 19. Did he look that old to anyone?

So happy IT has reverted to his season one persona, which is by far his least annoying incarnation.

Juliette said...

I agree, Jim Rash barely seems to have been in this season. The tag didn't work for me either, it felt so strange and not like part of the show. I feel like they're struggled with the tags since Troy left apart from the one with the Dean and Duncan, their characters suit that form of humour. I agree Annie's brother seemed strange as well, and not really connected to her, nut I guess they hadn't talked in a few years...

ChrisB said...

This one didn't really work for me. While the Abed/Annie story was the better of the two, neither of them struck me as particularly funny or novel.

I did like Abed's apology and the line about the stuntman. The only time I laughed.