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Community Review: "Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy" (2.18)

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<em>Community</em> Review: "Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy" (2.18)

Community has garnered such a fanbase not just because it has particularly tight writing, which it does, but also because of the way it breaks away from being a sit-com. And no, while I’ve talked a lot about the ways it’s different from traditional sit-coms, that’s not what I’m concerned with here. It’s that the show’s also different from post-The Office and Arrested Development sit-coms. It breaks rules that exist around single-camera shows and the sort of reality they ask us to agree on in a way that, for instance, Modern Family or Outsourced won’t.

Examples of that sort of creativity come with the shows more unique, theme-driven episodes, such as the Christmas special or the zombie invasion. These are fan favorites not just because they’re really good genre parodies, but also because they take the show into places that traditionally remain unexplored by live-action sit-coms, regardless of when they’re being made. They may be gimmicky, but that’s about the only complaint that can be leveled at them.

That being said, with 24 episodes a season Community just can’t do that many gimmicks, due to both time and expense. I would also hazard that interest is another reason why it doesn’t do that type of episode every week; despite its flexible reality the show is interested in grounding its characters. Some of the remaining episodes will still be very good, but they’re also more sit-com-y and tend just to be not as strong for various reasons.

“Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy” for one thing gives Pierce and Annie virtually no screentime in the episode, which is understandable given the large cast size but still regrettable. Community is always at its best when everyone is involved. Its more important plot is related to Chang’s wish to be part of Shirley’s child’s life, which goes against her will. When she asks Jeff to convince him to sign a contract relinquishing his parental rights, Chang reacts by trying to emulate what he believes a good father is like.

Most of this plot is pretty enjoyable, but at this point in time Chang’s become the show’s most inconsistent character. This is understandable given the way he’s gone through the biggest changes since the show began, but it still seems like the principal’s right hand man would be smart enough not to, say, chase his backpack around. It’s a dumb joke and cheapens who he is a tiny bit. The plot’s end, with him going through a prison vent, is equally cartoon-y and disappointing. It’s still not a bad storyline, but it comes out a bit forced.

The other half of the episode is devoted to Troy and Abed’s newest friend Luka. According to them, Britta always sleeps with their friends and learns things about them that ruin their friendship, so they don’t want her to have anything to do with him. It turns out he’s a Balkan war criminal, and Britta really should be mentioning this to Troy and Abed.

This makes sense… except we haven’t actually seen it on the show. It’s something Britta would do, but the ret-conned nature of this plot makes it also come across as trying too hard. Fortunately, their friend is played by Enver Gjokaj, who turns this throaway plot into something more memorable. I can’t say it was a wonderful plot, but it worked well enough due to how believable Enver was in his role.

So the episode featured two plots that were decent enough but nothing particularly special. For a show as consistently good as this that’s fairly disappointing, but oh well—as usual, a bad episode of Community is still better than most everything else being made. We’ll probably be back to normal in just a week.

Stray observations:
•Annie’s “inclusiveness” at the episode’s beginning is wonderfully grating
•”If it’s mine, I’ll be a loveable uncle. Ok, creepy uncle, it’s my final offer.”
•”I really got Jewish personed out of that one.” – Would you say that’s more or less racist than the phrase he was going go tuse?
•”We like him a lot … so you’re not allowed to bone him.” “You just guaranteed she bones him.”
•Why can’t “Hit me with your genie’s bottle” be a real Britney/Christina collaboration
•Jeff nipple-play Winger is a nickname I sure hope sticks
•I had a roommate in college who was an awful lot like Luka, only without the whole genocide business.
•”I’m tired of confiscating saws.” Glad we see more of what their life together is like. I assume it’s largely just saw confiscation hijinks.
•”Between you and me, I don’t Chang a lot of chicks.”
•”Ugh, girls are so un-desensitized.”
•”Though your flirtation technique is hilarious, it’s distracting.”
•Chang’s “dad” figure is based on Mr. Rogers. Kinda wish they’d gone further with this concept, but it does seep into some of his dialogue.
•”I’ve been a father for 11 years, and a good one for nine of those.”
•”Now you’re just ruining cool guys for fun.”
•”What are you doing? Who are these tiny people?” – Jeff really shouldn’t have kids
•”Did you know you can make an ashtray out of only a cigarette and a snitch’s forhead?”
•Troy taking off his green bandana when he sees Britta’s wearing one as well is a great detail.

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