Spoilers for recent “Community” episodes abound.
Last Thursday evening I sat down to watch NBC’s Thursday night comedy line-up as usual. Liz Lemon killed on “30 Rock” and Andy Bernard serenaded my night into a fit of laughs in “The Office.” But it was Pierce’s not so persuasive argument — for a religion in which his mom’s spirit lives on in a lava lamp — on “Community” that won the night for me.
Each of these shows have gained a steady momentum and a large fan base that has NBC boasting themselves as the “kings of comedy” on Thursday evenings once again. However, “Community” is firing on all cylinders every week, making it my current favorite of the bunch.
I like to think that I am a fairly observant television viewer. I take a secret pride in pointing out ridiculous details of plots to people who missed them. Naturally, after watching the Greendale Community College study group on Thursday’s episode, “The Psychology of Letting Go,” I thought, ‘well that was fun, good episode, good story, the end.’
Imagine my surprise when the next day, stories start popping up all over the blogs about the hidden “Community” plot line. I must have watched the wrong episode. I saw not a glimpse of a story about Abed befriending a pregnant girl and subsequently delivering her child in the college parking lot in the final scenes. In fact, Abed was curiously absent from the majority of the episode. Still, there was no way that could have slipped past my watchful eye.
Writers Dan Harmon (creator of the show) and Hilary Winston, along with Director Anthony Russo, managed to weave in a story line just out of sight of the main action of the half hour. Upon replaying the episode, the very first scene reveals what I had missed all along. In the background, out of focus but just in sight, is Abed with a pregnant woman.
This is where the genius of “Community” lies. Harmon and Winston brilliantly got about almost every viewer to watch that episode twice. Not only was it a hilarious story-line, but it was very poignant and a nice way to bring the half-hour full circle with the episode themes of grief, death, religion and letting go.
When discussing this show with a friend last year, at one point she said that Abed was “that character,” the one that drove the humor and brilliance of the show. What an episode like this, and the entire second season thus far, shows is that the writers have done a great job of making every character of this ensemble relevant.
Many ensemble comedies fail to share the wealth equally between all the characters. It is one of the biggest challenges and can either lead to the failure or success of the show. Last Thursday’s episode managed to bring several small stories from different character arcs within the first season, and wove them into the larger story of “The Psychology of Letting Go” seamlessly.
Pierce’s cult obsession became the focus of the episode where as it had previously been merely a running joke. Britta attacks Annie for her “cute school girl” personality. Chang and Duncan go head-to-head in their established rivalry complete with the force field of the restraining order. And Jeff’s self-confident perfection is questioned.
If “Community” continues on the track they have paved this season, they are headed in a direction that can only bring more success and many more laughs. The writers have explored the pairings of different characters such as Annie and Britta while keeping the success of the established ones such as Abed and Troy. Sideline characters have gotten new roles like Señor Chang’s development from teacher to fellow student. This developing of new relationships while maintaining the success of established ones keeps the characters at Greendale and the audience watching on their toes. “Community” manages to find humor in almost every absurd, unusual, pop culture-referencing situation that is thrown at them.
Tonight, “Community” pays homage to “Apollo 13.” You don’t want to miss this one.
“Community” airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.
Rosenberg is a member of the class of 2012.