At this point in time, I’m well aware that it’s too much to ask for an episode of Community to completely forego pop culture parodies, so the question is really what makes some of these good and others, almost exclusively in this fourth season, awful. Of course, there’s no real rule to these sorts of things, but one of the main questions that has to be asked is whether the “parody” is simply a re-enactment or whether it’s building toward something else. “Basic Human Anatomy” was fortunately one of those cases where Community took a well-worn premise and took it in an interesting direction, and while it certainly had its fair share of flaws, the episode also had some real ambition.
The main crux of “Anatomy” was that Abed and Troy switch bodies a la Freaky Friday and dozens of other terrible movies in that strange genre that has somehow become a staple for tween movies. This can’t really be the case, because Community’s world doesn’t quite have magic in it (although, at this rate, expect fairies and elves to visit midway through season five), but they still expect everyone to act as if their switch was real. Jeff, as usual, doesn’t have time for these shenanigans, but no one else really minds, including, to a certain extent, Britta, despite it being her one-year anniversary with Troy.
The best part of the episode ends up being a pair of performances, although it’s probably not the ones you’d expect. Donald Glover does a great job acting as Troy acting as Abed, and fortunately he’s given a lot of screentime. Also great was the episode’s writer, Jim Rash, who performed as Dean Pelton “swapping” bodies with Jeff. He helps uncover a scheme by Leonard to be their class’ valedictorian and helps Shirley and Annie move back to their rightful place (that being said, if Greendale allows students to graduate with only taking courses pass/fail, well, that’s its own fault). Much worse, unfortunately, was Danny Pudi’s performance as Abed acting as Troy, which came as a surprise given some of the mimicry Pudi’s done in the past. Rather than speaking as Glover, he put on a largely stereotypical accent that was cringeworthy and made whole portions of the episode difficult to watch.
Still, with Community’s fourth season, it’s been the writing that’s made the show succeed or fail, and the episode nimbly makes use of the doubling by turning it into a sort of freak-out on the part of Troy due to his inability to break up with Britta. Had the show really turned their relationship into anything of interest whatsoever, this would’ve been excellent, and it’s really the lack of a compelling storyline that made it at times kind of weird. Imagining the two together has always been pretty much impossible given Troy’s perpetual pre-adolescent status, and little we’ve seen this season has shown otherwise. Their relationship began and ended with a shrug, but at least it led to this one interesting storyline.
The rest of the episode worked well in circling around this central problem and tying up loose ends, even though part of this meant another speech by Jeff, which fell pretty flat. It’s one of those elements of Community that its new showrunners decided was integral to the show rather than something that occasionally cropped up when it was necessary and felt earned. By featuring these so constantly (not to mention making these monologues so dreadful), they’ve lost not just all impact but have actively become one of the more annoying parts of the show. Preachiness is never a good thing, and that’s all these ever feel like anymore.
I come off negative here, but really this was one of the better episodes of the season, and with last week’s episode that makes for two enjoyable ones in a row—by season four standards, that’s a lengthy streak. Like I said last week, there’s an almost palpable difference when it feels like the writing staff is trying, and here there was a solid attempt at making the most of a strangely irrelevant continuity and increasingly inconsistent characters. For all its strange flaws, “Basic Human Anatomy” was funny and different and felt, for the most part, like Community, and that’s all we can really ask for at this point.
•...and then Pierce reappeared. I assume he will randomly be gone again next episode, because the show’s just a mess like that sometimes.
•They still have the same course, before and after Christmas? This is a full-year class? Come on, at this point it’s not even trying with the college side of things.
•Pierce’s “You two are dating?” makes sense, considering how little the show’s cared about this. I’m sure some intermittent viewers felt the same way.
•I loved the janitor petting the stuffed white tiger.
•Sooo Abed forgot that he’s in a relationship with a girl as of, like, four episodes ago. I guess all of that was meant to just disappear into the ether.
•Actually, I assume the bylaws say that it’s specifically scolding Leonard that requires granting wishes. He’s just that old.
•“I think I proved today that I’m not ready for this.”