Community: Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts

"Will someone please call all the ambulances?"

And we're back.

Well, that has certainly been a long and arduous hiatus. Were it not for the wonderful wonderfulness of Parks and Recreation I doubt I would've made it out with my sanity intact. Thank you, Leslie Knope. Yes, I know it wasn't as long as the ongoing wait for season 2 of Game of Thrones. Or the near eternity that we'll have to endure before season 3 of Sherlock starts. But those are both hit shows whose futures are more or less secure. Community has never had that luxury.

There's always been the worry that this hiatus was just the first sign that NBC were thinking of cancelling the show. Let's not kid ourselves, even by NBC's low standards, the ratings have been pretty bad this season. The upshot has been that all NBC shows have been struggling, not just Community. The glory days of Friends, Frasier, Seinfeld and, to a lesser extent, Will and Grace, are a distant memory. NBC now seems incapable of producing a hit show that isn't a reality series about weight loss or fancy swivel chairs.

None of the network's new comedies have done well this season. Free Agents was quickly axed, Whitney has been a complete failure, both in terms of ratings and critical reaction, and Up All Night has been steadily losing viewers. The network's veteran comedies aren't doing much better. 30 Rock is long since past its prime while The Office isn't doing so well without Steve Carell at the helm. But one show's troubles are another show's salvation.

Which is why I've been feeling more optimistic about Community lately (and Parks and Recreation). I call it the Chuck effect. If you are relatively cheap to produce, and the network has nothing else decent to replace you with, and Subway is willing to front part of the bill in exchange for extensive product placement, then you may just survive a lot longer than a show with such low ratings should.

It also helps if you regularly produce cracking television that leads to you having a loyal and dedicated fanbase who will actively campaign on your behalf, saving the network a few pennies when it comes to promotion. It also really helps if one of your cast just won an Academy Award for co-writing some film starring some guy who used to be on some show that NBC probably really regrets cancelling now and did this:


Thus generating a lot of free press which may have led to your first episode back from hiatus achieving the best ratings you've seen all season: 4.9 million. It even beat American Idol in the precious adults 18–49 demographic, the one advertisers care about. Nothing might be set in stone yet, but I'm pretty confident that we'll get that fourth season we've all been longing for. And who knows, maybe even six seasons and a movie.

Right, I realise that I've gone a little off track. Enough about ratings, networks, demos, and Angelina's leg. It's time to talk about the episode. So, after all this time away, did Community return from network limbo with the the bestest, funniest, most brilliant episode ever?

Not really.

There were a few moments that had me either laughing out loud or going “Awww...”, but on a whole 'Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts' was not an example of the series at its best. I actually really enjoyed it the first time I watched it. But at the same time, I couldn't escape the feeling that something was wrong. I wasn't sure what it was, but something about this episode just wasn't right. Then suddenly it hit me. I wasn't enjoying it because it was a good episode of Community. I was enjoying it because it was a new episode of Community. My initial reaction was motivated more by my excitement of finally having the show back. Once that had worn off, I watched this episode again and wasn't as enthusiastic about it.

The driving force of this episode was Shirley's second marriage to Theo Huxtable. I like Shirley, and was happy to see her getting more screen time, but I just couldn't get invested in this storyline at all. The Boyz II Men inspired proposal scene was adorable, but after that it started to feel like the show was just going through the motions. Britta was protesting for the sake of protesting. Jeff struggled to get in touch with his feelings. Annie was a little too eager to help. Pierce was Pierce, only this time dressed as Gordon Gecko/Patrick Bateman (delete according to generation). And Troy and Abed were being weird by trying not to be weird.

Trobed's flirtation with normality was probably the thing I enjoyed most about this episode. In many ways, Troy and Abed are Community. They are weird and whimsical and don't apologise for it. It is just who they are. When they tried to be 'normal' they felt fake, kinda creepy, rudely sarcastic and very sitcomy. Luckily Annie's Boobs (as in the monkey, not Annie's actual boobs) showed up in the nick of time to remind them of who they truly are. A pair of loveable weirdos with an almost unhealthy fixation on a cheesy British sci-fi series. I can relate.

Notes and Quotes

-- The things in Jeff's heart include cars, dogs, mansions, his phone (obviously), cards, someone who looks like Lauren Ambrose, Annie's boobs (as in Annie's actual boobs, not the monkey) and Annie.

-- No Chang this week. Which is a sentence I really enjoy typing.

-- Now that the Greendale cafeteria has a Subway, will they keep Community alive the same way they did Chuck?

-- Troy was wearing Cornelius Hawthorne's ivory wig when he and Abed stepped out of the Dreamatorium.

Britta: “Weddings are like little girls' tea parties, except the women are like stuffed animals, the men are making them talk, and they’re not drinking tea, they’re drinking antiquated gender roles!”
Jeff: “Someone tell Britta what an analogy is.”
Britta: “I know what it is. It's like a thought with another thought's hat on it.”

Theo Huxtable: "I've loved you since there was a Soviet Union and only one Damon Wayans."

Jeff: “Shut up, Leonard. Those teenage girls you play ping-pong with are doing it ironically.”

Britta: “My ninth grade English teacher told me, ‘there will always be a reason not to follow your heart.’ At the time, he meant I was under the age of consent, but his words still apply.”

Annie: “Webster's Dictionary defines? That's the Jim Belushi of speech openings: it accomplishes nothing, but everyone keeps on using it, and nobody understands why."
-- Man, this show really has it in for Jim Belushi.

Britta: “This may shock you, Annie, but I come from a long line of wives and mothers.”
Annie: “Many do.”

I'm not sure how to rate this one. I'm ecstatic that the show is back, but at the same time I was disappointed with this episode. But even when it is at its weakest, Community is still better than every other sitcom out there that isn't called Parks and Recreation (in case you haven't guessed yet, I am going to plug that show repeatedly during this review). What do you guys think?
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Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

10 comments:

Greg Quinnell said...

MAAAAAAARK!!! :D Welcome back. :) I loved this episode, myself. But I generally just love Community every time, cause it just makes me laugh. :D Can't wait till this week's episode, though.....

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m15gbd73vy1qhejvjo1_500.jpg

And, no.... it wasn't Community at it's best. But... I think that's the point. Their trying to get more viewers, and, from the rating, I think it worked. Though that might have been due to word of mouth during the hiatus.

I dunno. I'm just happy to have the damn show BACK. :D

celticmarc said...

Awesome review Mark !

I felt EXACTLY like you. Let's not forget that the 1st half of this season gave us great moments : mine being the 3.01 kinda Glee opening scene, the 2001 bit (brilliant !!) and.......ah, the karaoke scene between Jeff and the Dean. Thank you so much youtube.... I watched that scene at least 30 times and I'm still enjoying it immensely.


How to rate ???? 2 or 2.5. For the return after that (_____) hiatus ? 25....

Juliette said...

As ever, the Billie Doux reviewers (all of you, Mark in this case obviously) seem to be totally on my wavelength in a way other site, no matter how good, just aren't. I think you're right - this wasn't Community's best episode, but it felt great to be watching it because it was new.

On the other hand, I didn't think it was the worse either. Just look at the list of good quotes! I laughed out loud, which is rare for me. And Annie's delivery of the line 'many do' was absolutely classic.

This reminded me of the best things about season 1 Community - maybe the individual episodes don't always stand out, or are a bit too soppy, but you can just sit and watch the whole season and let it wash over you in a stream of Community-y goodness.

(I love season 2 as well, but it's more highs and lows for me - some all-time favs mixed in with uncomfortable episodes I often skip).

(Wow, that practically became an essay).

Josie Kafka said...

I agree completely, Mark. (Except about Sherlock season three. Because some of us haven't seen season two yet. And we're a little resentful that you just rub salt in that wound whenever you can. [Sticks out tongue in general easterly direction.])

My theory about this episode is that it wasn't supposed to be good, because it was a send up of other sitcoms' Wedding Episodes, and those are always less exciting than the hype that precedes them. That is, this wasn't hilarious, but in an ironic way, not an actually unhilarious way.

Gus Brunetti said...

"Luckily Annie's Boobs (as in the monkey, not Annie's actual boobs) showed up in the nick of time..."

I don't feel lucky it was the monkey.

Josie, you're saying the episode was good because it was not good on purpose?

I agree, it was not Community at its best, but I'm sure they'll be at full speed in no time.

I liked that you didn't stick to reviewing the episode. Great review!

Josie Kafka said...

Gus, not that it was good because it was not good on purpose, but that the joke was that it was not good, and I acknowledge the joke while still not laughing at it. Does that make sense?

(For instance, think of some of Dean's little one-liners on SPN. They're cheessy, silly things--but we laugh because we acknowledge that part of the larger joke is that Dean has a silly, juvenile sense of humor. So the joke itself isn't funny (like this episode wasn't that funny), but that it isn't funny, is funny.)

Gus Brunetti said...

It makes perfect sense, though I have such a cheesy and juvenile sense of humor that I tend to like Dean's one-liners. And I love cheesy puns!

Josie Kafka said...

I agree with Eric on True Blood that puns are high art. And puns about penises are best. And, of course, I also like Dean's one-liners.

(I also have the sense of humor of an 11 year-old boy.)

Billie Doux said...

Absolutely agree that Trobed de-weirding was the best part of the episode. And I'm also a fan of Dean's one-liners.

TV by the Numbers has posted at least three "Community might just make it after all" articles, so I'm thinking we might just get another season.

Great review, Mark. I totally get why you wrote what you did.

ChrisB said...

Britta: “I know what it is. It's like a thought with another thought's hat on it.” I don't know why, but I found this hilarious.

Once again, it was Troy and Abed who made the show. Not being weird was weirdly funny.