On Saturday evening, I had the great fortune to attend a screening of the next episode of our favorite underestimated-show-that-could, Community, at the NYC Paley Center for Media, mirroring the ongoing PaleyFest in LA. We saw a screening of the newest episode of Community that airs on March 15th, and viewed the post-show panel.
I’m not going to give any real spoilers for the episode (but in Community, what is a real spoiler, anyway?), but in many ways, it feels like many of our characters took a break, as well. This episode is a truly gleeful jump back in from the last episode, beginning with an over-the-top proposal to Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) from Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) that will culminate in a wedding (or not!) by the end of the episode. No, this episode doesn’t span months – just a few days, but what action-packed days they are.
While this episode tried to “be more normal” in almost every way, it’s in a way that only Community could achieve – by making fun of the normality. It takes things that “normal people” take seriously and looks at them through its own skewed lens. So don’t worry, friends – you won’t be disappointed.
Shirley is the true star of this episode, as she juggles the two forms her happiness could take, unwilling to give up one to have the other. Will she get married or will she open her bakery? Can she do both?
Jeff (Joel McHale), asked to give a toast at the upcoming wedding, must reconcile his not-so-secret feelings about weddings, marriage, and commitment. Jeff is pretty absent in this episode until the end, his thoughts slowly coming to a powerful boil – as always, McHale delivers on the role that could be his alternate life, had he not gone into entertainment.
Britta (Gillian Jacobs) may have just unearthed a few hidden feelings about herself and, um, at least one person around her. For those of you wondering why this show won’t let Britta be great – this is the episode in which Britta is great. Her rebel-with-too-many-causes attitude comes together after her realization that she came from a long line of wives and mothers (“As many do,” notes Annie), and she decides she must act accordingly.
Annie (Alison Brie) is the one who gets the wedding mania started when she whips out her wedding scrapbook, a white, lacy, overflowing book chock full of colors and ideas and worthy of anyone who looks at weddings as The Major Event rather than the beginning of the rest of life. She has more than one surprise coming her way, though.
Troy and Abed (Donald Glover and Danny Pudi) are concerned that their behavior will be too immature for a wedding, and therefore take on the task of becoming normal. What do Troy and Abed do when they’re normal? What does that mean for them? How do people normally react when someone is upset? Once you go normal, can you back to the Dreamatorium? All important questions of life faced in this episode.
Pierce (Chevy Chase) is trying to be a businessman in his father’s wake, which now seems like a much longer time ago than it should. After a series of hilarious but not-quite-there ventures, he offers to invest in Shirley and her baking.
Dean Pelton (Oscar winner Jim Rash) is now a series regular, his name added to the fortune teller in the opener. He has only a minor role here, weighing his business nonsense against Shirley’s business knowledge, but as always, he is a treasure to be cherished.
Of course, I’ve left out much of the episode, but know that it is really great. I’d forgotten what it was like to laugh until my face hurt, and it was great to have that back. I’d forgotten that the last five minutes of this show are always out of control. I’d forgotten what it felt like to be wheezing by the end of an episode. Community has always been the show that was so self-aware, and this episode is no disappointment. If you love Community, you will love this episode, and I can’t wait for the next eleven after it.
Following this screening was a live feed from the PaleyFest panel in LA, including Gillian Jacobs, Joel McHale, Jim Rash, Dan Harmon, Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, Ken Jeong, Neil Goldman, Garrett Donovan and Russ Krasnoff. The only two actors absent were Donald Glover and Chevy Chase. It was pretty late, given the three-hour time difference from the west coast, but definitely worth it. Though about half of it was just a conversation between the cast and producers, it was funny and informative and interesting. Also, we got to hear about this thing called Chang Tongue that, of course, is from Ken Jeong, which basically involves him making a face when he’s on set but not on screen that is basically designed to make other actors break. It’s pretty great.
All PaleyFest panels will be available for viewing on Hulu as of March 15. Since the panel discussed a bit of the new episode in the panel, you should watch it, as it’ll give you a ton of laughs and provide a little bit of commentary on the new episode. Plus, you get to see Gillian Jacobs do several of Britta’s dances, per a fan request.
The most important takeaway from the panel, to me, was that the fight for renewal is not over. They’re fairly confident, but nothing’s set in stone until it’s set in contract. We need to be talking about Community, getting people to watch it, finding those mysterious Nielsens and using them to our advantage. They worry that Twitter is preaching to the converted, so we need to keep pushing the word in every way we can. Get the word out however you prefer, but we need to keep talking about it.
So this is my first plea to NBC. Give us one more season. This began as the story of Jeff Winger, disbarred and disgraced lawyer who needed to get an actual bachelor’s degree to resume his law career. Let it end that way. If next season is the last, then let it be. I’m fine with that. But let this be the last year of school for all of them. Let them burn down Greendale at the end, if that’s what it takes to ensure the show is over. But four seasons is appropriate for a show about college, though everything about it is non-traditional. Let us have our last season. This show is too brilliant to get canceled now. Don’t let it be the next Arrested Development, dead before its time.
And besides, if you renew it now, you can work Jim Rash’s Oscar into every episode. Give the Dean an Oscar for something. Come on. You know that would be great, NBC. Let Community be great!
Photo courtesy of Instagram user Oscalito.