Community Review: "Basic Lupine Urology" (3.17)
Every time Community does an episode fully in the style of another TV show or movie, it risks losing part of the audience who doesn’t know what it’s talking about. In an episode like “Critical Film Studies” that parodies something relatively obscure like My Dinner with Andre, the show’s pretty much guaranteed to be making references most of the audience won’t get. That risk is obviously much less so when parodying a cultural staple like Law & Order, but you’ll always have someone who’s out of the loop… and in this instance that person is me. That’s right, I’ve never watched a single episode of Law & Order all the way through. But that didn’t matter for my enjoyment of “Basic Lupine Urology,” which was thoroughly excellent regardless of how many in-jokes (for lack of a better term here) you understood.
It helps, of course, that the Law & Order formula makes for very tight stories, which is something Community sometimes struggles with on its own. Not that Community is poorly written, but it has rushed acts and the occasional b-plots that meander without much purpose. The show it’s parodying, however, is a streamlined machine, and that translates well to Community‘s formula. No, not all of the study group gets a decent part, but it’s hard to care when it’s driving through plot points so quickly.
The impetus for this investigation is that the study group’s yam project has been smashed and in order to get a decent grade they need to find out who did it. Troy and Abed act as investigators while Jeff and Annie are prosecutorial attorneys, with the rest of the cast filling in where needed. Everyone suspected is a student we have some familiarity with already, such as Starburns and Magnitude, and Michael K. Williams returns to act as biology teacher/judge, doing such a good job that it’s easy to forget the strangeness of them still being in his class.
But with a Law & Order-esque plot steamrolling the episode forward, the show has so much momentum that it’s hard to quibble with the little things. It’s an enjoyable ride, and although there’s no real emotional content, the show’s been heavy with that lately. Unlike even the other recent episodes that were stylistic parodies, “Basic Lupine Urology” is just about having fun with these characters and a ridiculous situation. The episode reminds us repeatedly that this is not an investigation, nor a trial, nor are the stakes at all high, which heightens the enjoyment. It’s the sort of the thing the show’s best at, and it didn’t feel forced for a moment. No one’s working out issues or going through a crisis, it’s just goofing around the school, and that’s something Community really needs to do more often.
•"I fell asleep in a sunbeam." – I realize he’s not the center of the show, but I can’t be the only one who hopes that Harmon and Chase resolve their issues to keep giving us gems like this. Even when Chase is only there for 30 seconds, he really shines.
•This episode was directed by a certain Rob Schrab, Dan Harmon’s co-creator of the Sarah Silverman Program and longtime friend.
•Wait, Abed can’t tell time all of a sudden? I want an obsessive fan to check if that contradicts previous episodes.
•Donald Glover went into full Mystery Team mode with the sting.
•Enjoyed Troy’s Spider-Man tie.
•Of course Dean Pelton hula hoops in his office.
•It seems entirely possible that the show hired Michael K. Williams simply to have him say “A man’s gotta have a code” as many times as possible. And no, I can’t blame them for that.
•"I have to assume there’s a female equivalent to that. A… codette?"