Review: Community 218 and 219

Posted: March 31, 2011 in Television
Tags: , ,

For the past two weeks, Community has been running unopposed in the 8pm Thursday time slot.  The Big Bang Theory has taken a few weeks off, for whatever reason, and it has left Community with the center stage.

However, instead of doing an individual review of both Custody Law and Eastern European Democracy (218) and Critical Film Studies (219), I have decided to review them together.  On the surface, they are very different episodes: Custody Law moving along the Shirley-Chang storyline and Critical Film moving along the Abed’s weird fascination with movies storyline.  But they come together around a couple different points regarding the way the show is written and run.

The first point is that of multiple storylines.  Mainly that the show’s writers are able to work with multiple storylines without bringing down the general quality of the show.  While some episodes ignore one storyline in favour of another storyline, there are no episodes that do not fit or seem extraneous to the episode.  At no point does the viewer stop and say “Hey, what’s going on?  None of this makes sense.  Where’s the other storyline?”

In Custody Law and Critical Film, Community’s writers have taken two completely different storylines – with the characters taking on completely different roles – and placed them in back-to-back episodes.  One has been a primary feature of Season Two while the other has been a recurring theme that pops up here and there throughout the show.  Each one has consequences for the future of the show and the primary characters involved.

However, the main point here is that, while these storylines have came and gone throughout the series, they feel like they’ve never really left, that they’ve always been there under the surface just waiting for the perfect moment to emerge.  The fact that the show has so many storylines going – there are also the crazy, old Pierce storyline and the Jeff-Annie relationship – points to an exciting end-run for the season and a thrilling season finale.

The Shirley-Chang storyline started with episode 206, Epidemiology.  It wasn’t seen again until episode 212, Asian Population Studies.  The Abed storyline started way back in episode 103, Introduction to Film.  It has cropped up in episodes such as Communication Studies (116), Contemporary American Poultry (121), Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples (205), and Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas (211).

The Shirley-Chang storyline is fueled by Chang’s closeness with the study group and him temporarily living with Jeff.  Abed’s storyline is fueled by, well, Abed himself.  They come about naturally, almost like you’d expect them to.  As such, they don’t require a long run of consecutive episodes to keep them relevant.

The second major point that has come out of Custody Law and Critical Film is that of how the show’s writers utilize the show’s main characters.  This is a study of contrasts as well as an analysis of a trend throughout the series.  On one hand you have episodes like Custody Law and Eastern European Democracy that take two different stories and wrap them up in one episode, and in doing so only really focusing on smaller subsets of the entire main cast.  On the other you have episodes like Critical Film Studies feature the entire main cast in a single, contained storyline.

I tend to find the storylines that divide the cast into subsets less appealing than those that utilize the cast as a whole.  Those that divide the cast into subsets tend to leave out certain characters, whether it be Annie and Pierce in Custody Law or Shirley in Intro to Political Science (217).  Each character brings something different to the table.  They bring a different dynamic to the show in terms of they way they relate to other characters or the just through their own personality quirks.  Episodes that leave out one or more characters leave out some of that dynamic.

However, episodes that utilize all of the main cast, whether together in a bottle episode like Cooperative Calligraphy (208) or in an episode with diverging storylines such as Early 21st Century Romanticism (215), give the viewer the full load of tension and comedic relief.  They pack the action and excitement into one episode.  These are the episodes where major story arcs are usually developed or concluded.  Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking (216) is a good example of this.  The whole old, crazy Pierce storyline is largely resolved in this episode, which features the entire main cast in key dramatic roles.

Overall, Custody Law and Critical Film are both solid episodes despite being very different in both their storylines and the way that they utilize the show’s cast.

Stay tuned for the next Review featuring The Big Bang Theory episodes The Zarnecki Incursion (219) and The Herb Garden Germination (220).

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