It’s not that Community hasn’t been very funny the past few weeks, but — actually, it hasn’t been. I professed my disappointment with last week’s “Virtual System Analysis,” an episode that I thought didn’t succeed because there was no The Scene. It needed something to tie everything together, a centerpiece, a Lebowski rug, and that never happened. “Basic Lupine Urology,” too, doesn’t have a single Scene, either; the whole damn episode is The Scene. And it was great.
Even if you’ve never seen Law & Order – I should rephrase. Even if you’ve never seen an entire episode of Law & Order, like me, “Basic Lupine Urology” is still a great episode of TV. Sure, knowing that Shirley’s mimicking Lt. Van Buren might add an extra, knowing layer to the proceedings (pun?), but everything worked because the show was so gung-ho with the homage. It just went for it, without any set-up. It never stopped to wink at the viewers (much credit goes to writer Megan Ganz and director Rob Schrab for making the show feel like Law & Order – even the act break fadeouts were perfect), and midway through, you realized you actually cared who smashed Annie and Jeff’s yam, no matter how ridiculous that statement sounds. Plus, there was no terrible Jeff speech. Win-win!
Honestly, the thing I found most refreshing about “Lupine” is that it ditched everything the show’s been doing the past few weeks (There is such a thing as too much sentimentality.) None of the characters really had arcs to speak of, but everyone still remained in character, without any increasingly whimsical Inspector Spacetime references. Annie was still the one who cared the most, and Jeff the least. Britta, in one of my favorite scenes of the episode, still tried to impress everyone with her psych knowledge and cool factor, before the camera cut away from her mid-sentence. Troy and Abed were still buddies, but with the word “cop” following; they were allowed to pretend, but this time about something real, or at least as real as things get at Greendale. Nearly every recurring character made an appearance, too, from Neil’s spot-on scene as a overworked administrator, to “Omar” making an Omar reference, to the Dean revealing his fetish with men in uniforms (“I’m shocked,” says no one), to Chang literally just standing around during the trial with his mouth agape, to Leonard arm wrestling other senior citizens in an illegal match fronted by Pierce, to Quendra (with a “Q”) not letting Starburns kiss her. Poor Starburns. Not just because of the kissing thing, but also because he’s dead.
“Basic Lupine Urology” was just a fun, brilliantly executed episode of TV, completely devoid of any of the recent hang-ups I’ve had about Community, and one/third of one of the strongest NBC Thursday nights in some time. (30 Rock and Parks owned – the taco C-plot of The Office, not so much.) I’m sorry I was beginning to doubt you, Community. Won’t happen again. CLANG CLANG.