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Community Recap: Just Say No

Over the course of the fourteen (dog) years we’ve been recapping Community, a general, persistent perception has bubbled up from the comments: Namely, that we don’t like the show. While this couldn’t be farther from the truth — we’re enjoying a delicious plate of Dildopolis’s signature cinnamon biscotti as we type this! — we have been rather consistent with our criticism: The show, since its premiere, has often had difficulty achieving a balance between its considerable heart and its insatiable love for Scooby-Doo (or whatever)–referencing zingers. We were thinking of this hobbyhorse of ours while watching “Celebrity Pharmacology 212” and smiled because finally — mercifully! hopefully! — that particular critique can be put to bed, no doubt in a bad neighborhood with a dedicated rapist as a landlord. Does this mean we liked the episode? Far from it! We found it pretty mediocre. But what’s notable is the way it was mediocre: It wasn’t relying on gimmicks, or yanking on our heartstrings with all the subtlety of Ken Jeong delivering a one-liner. No, it was merely an off episode of Community and, bizarre as it may sound, that’s a good thing. All successful network sitcoms need breathers — heck, 30 Rock took one last night, too, and The Office has been taking one since last March. We actually enjoyed watching Community swing and miss a few times while staying completely true to its inimitable, apparently pro-drug self.

As for the plot, it was fine. Annie is leading the study group in their latest incarnation: the Greendale Anti-Drug Players. Troy and Abed amuse as furries easily peer-pressured bees Buzzby and Bumbleton, Britta and Jeff are (duh) a pair of Cool Cats, while Shirley is a crayon. Pierce is feeling undervalued as the silent — yet deadly — Drugs. There’s a little half-hearted meta (“I do physical comedy!” Pierce brags, then complains about how it seems like Jeff Winger is the star of the show), but nothing to get too worked up about. Actually, there was very little to get worked up about in general as many of the jokes seemed not so much lazy as sleepy: Chang gives Shirley a mixtape (although the kicker about cassette players on Craigslist was a nice touch); Jeff sexts with Britta’s 14-year-old nephew, thus dragging her “kicking and screaming” into incest 1997; a room full of angry children are given baseballs and, shockingly, wind up throwing them at people onstage. Pierce, feeling left out, follows the industriously recycling Annie home to her Dumpster-dived apartment and cuts her a check, ostensibly for being independent and cobbling together a living without any help from her parents or the “Period Fairy,” but really in order to gain control over the performance. (In a cut-scene that was as on the nose as warts on witches, old filmstrips reveal that Pierce’s father — a genteel fifties robber baron of the burgeoning moist-towelette industry — hired a “better” little boy to play Pierce in TV commercials.)

So, yeah, in search of adulation, Pierce transforms his low-key anthropomorphic marijuana leaf into a flatulent, firecracker-lighting goofball with a rainbow clown wig and a zippy catchphrase (“Pokemon!”), and soon the troubled youth are cheering for drugs and we’re laughing with our eyes but maybe not with our whole front stingers, you know? Then it’s up to Chang to don the pot mantle and reveal that while they may start out fun, drugs soon become creepy, one-note, and unwelcome in the study group a bummer. Annie asserts her independence, Jeff steals Britta’s bra, and the Dean gets his framed photo of Jeff wearing cat ears. Done and done. A forgettable episode but by no means an objectionable one. To put it another way, do you know how many times Babe Ruth struck out in his career? 1,330 times! And they still named a candy bar after him. One, we might add, that’s a lot better than those damn Charleston Chews.

Photo: Trae Patton/NBC