Community Season 1 Episode 5: Advanced Criminal Law

By Darin Skaggs

 

Well here we are, we have reached another bad episode of Community. Honestly, there is not that many. There are sub par episodes, but not that many that I find not very good. There are situations that are just not that funny to me, maybe trying too hard. There are some funny moments, Jim Rash is in the episode and that guy is made of comedy. Also the writers stick to the characters they have created, and what they will become. It is a hit or miss episode that mostly misses for me.

The story is about a note full of test answers that someone left behind in Spanish class during a test. Chang threatens to give everyone an F on the test unless the cheater fesses up. It ends up being Britta who is then put on a faux-trial with Jeff as her faux-attorney. There is a lot of great back and forth between Britta and Jeff. Gillian Jacobs and Joel McHale, who play Britta and Jeff respectively, have some wonderful chemistry. In fact this episode pairs up the “classic” pairs of Troy and Abed, and also Annie and Pierce. Shirley is not really in the episode, but works well with Annie especially when at the study table. Pierce is more of the outsider of the group, but lets it be known that Annie is her favorite later on. It’s the story here that does not work. Britta is on trial, but Greendale doesn’t have a place to do something like that so Dean, who needs his school to be treated with respect, has the trial in the pool room where the $6,000 table and built in sound system are. That is the joke, they are deciding Britta’s future with the school where people are swimming and diving. I really do not find this funny. They explore all the aspects of this like the mic set up being splashed and a recess session where Duncan and Chang run into a naked man showering, who is not shy of his body. It really does not make me laugh.

The B plot however is great. At the beginning after the dean announces he will have a ceremony to unveil the Luis Guzman statue, due to the fact that Guzman went to Greendale at some point. Troy then messes with Abed that he knows the famous actor. Abed will believe anything Troy says, so Troy admits he is messing with Abed. Abed then goes into his own prank where he tries to convince Troy he is an alien. This is constantly funny and shows the friendship between Troy and Abed. It seems the writers at this point knew they needed to get those two to be best friends and this storyline makes it official. The best part is how far Abed goes with the prank and how much Troy was never going to believe it. The commentary says Troy was supposed to fall for the trick, but it works so much better that he doesn’t. He gets Abed, and Abed is having so much fun doing this with Troy. Also they do their secret hand shake here. I had no idea that happened so early.

There is this odd C plot where the dean needs a school song so Annie asks Pierce to write it. This leads to some funny Chevy Chase moments and shows Annie is a recovering perfectionist. This is a decent enough story, not that many big laughs. I did like the speech that Annie gives that is nearly word for word motivation speech her mom gave her when she went to go tryout for cheerleading. It does influence Pierce to write a song, unbeknownst to him that the melody he has is Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” That is a great moment. The lyrics are really funny especially the ending “Annie believes in me” which is a ridiculous lyric to put in a school song, but touching for a lonely buffoon to conceive of. The lyric “Dancing in your underwear, taking air conditioning repair” is not only hilarious, but foreshadows a Troy plot line in later seasons.

Now these episodes are still introducing the characters, making sure each character gets their own episode to see who they are. Britta has had a lot to do so far but we have not really gotten to know what makes her Britta. Unfortunately for her and luckily for us we find out she is a total screw up. She is awkward, at times she is a total fraud and yet, her heart is always in the right place. She cheats on a test, and she cheats poorly, but she takes the blame so no one else will fail the test. Even when Jeff convinces everyone that she did not cheat, she cannot help but admit that she did anyway because she does not want to feel the guilt or be dishonest. I love her character, so sweet but kind of dumb as well. She believes in the right way, but mostly has not clue how to handle it. At one point in the series Annie claims “You have weird reactions to things” and Britta replies “Thank you.” This might be the character I relate to the most right now sharing many of those qualities with her.

We are introduced to Leonard (Richard Erdman) who we find out is skinny dipping in the pool. Leonard is a great character, he is old. The running gag with him is that he is insulted on something he is doing off screen like skinny dipping in a public pool. He has a story we rarely get to see, but I love the world building with him as he gets more and more ridiculous. And the best part is Erdman is totally in on the joke, he plays that character so well, in this episode responding to being accused of not wearing trunks is “Busted.” He is a reliable comedic presents and is brought back a whole ton. Jim Rash is pretty funny in the episode, he enters the room with a nice burn on Britta and then comments on it. The dean has two arcs throughout the series; one is him being comfy with his confusing sexual orientation which is hinted at here and the other which is less subtle is his desire to be a good dean at a school that is considered excellent. The ladder gets a bit repetitive, so on rewatch here I just feel sick of hearing about it. Of course like I said Rash is a comedy machine and gets enough laughs out of me to win me over immediately.

Andrew Guest is credited with the writing for the episode and he is a writer that sticks around for a while, writing some of the best episodes of the whole series. So it is kind of odd that he writes one of the worst with this episode. In the commentary Harmon mentions that they wrote the scenes while the actors were filming, and they did not have their flow quite yet so that is probably why it is a clumsy episode. Joe Russo directed the episode. At some point that will mean something to me, but not yet.

 

I DON’T GET THAT REFERENCE:  Like I said on earlier posts, there is not a ton of homages or referencing to pop culture but Abed does comment on the fact that some of Luis Guzman’s movies have rhyming names. Ex. Carlito’s Way, The Hard Way and Q&A. Troy, played by Donald Glover, says he is related to Danny Glover which a lot of people were probably ignorantly speculating at the time anyway, so they bring it up.

 

RANDOM THOUGHTS: The ending is strange featuring Troy seemingly asleep with his mouth full of pencils. He wakes up and asks how many did Abed fit into his mouth and you realize they are competing who can get the most pencils to fit in their mouths. It is funny. Some of these post episodes scenes are good, but nowhere compared to the ones they come up with in later seasons. There is a great blame game before Britta admits she does it where they think Jeff did it, but Jeff blames it on an uptight person which everyone turns to Annie, then she blames someone else and so on. When it gets to Britta she is blamed for being a lesbian by Pierce, which is not true. Her “blame” moment is the only one that is false and ironically she is the one to blame. This is a moment where Harmon might be being too cleaver, but I liked it.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS: I do not find this episode funny or very creative. The funny part with Troy and Abed is near too cliché which Harmon is constantly trying to prove that he is not. It has good enough moments, every episode does, but it is not enough to make it positive to me. It just does not work.

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