Community: “Herstory of Dance” (Episode 4.08)

TV Reviews
Community: “Herstory of Dance” (Episode 4.08)

I wish I still liked Abed, I really do, because I’m sure that would make Community’s fourth season much, much more enjoyable. As he gradually became the show’s focal point, though, Community’s comedy edge has dulled and the very act of referencing shows or even jokes has replaced jokes themselves. Every time he’s had a story this season I’ve found myself bored or even annoyed at the laziness, the self-references that again aren’t actually funny but instead employ a kind of knowingness that implies it’s OK that there wasn’t a joke so long as it’s acknowledged by him and, therefore, the writers. He used to be sweet, but season four Abed has lost that—now he’s smug.

Abed’s half of “Herstory of Dance” is almost a case study in what’s not working. It begins with an overly self-referential riff in which Abed decides his character needs to grow because he’s becoming a parody of himself. However, he almost immediately concocts a series of events in which he’ll need to attend two dates at once in order in order to make Annie and Shirley happy. He then tells Troy, and therefore us, that he can’t help himself from wanting to re-enact that terrible sitcom staple, so that’s what he proceeds to do.

The two girls he’s set up with aren’t people. One is (my editor won’t be thrilled at my use of the term, but oh well) a manic pixie dream girl, or “quirky girl like from the movies” as Community puts it in a strain not to use that term. The other one, though she barely receives any screen time, is a caricature of a Bible-loving black girl. Abed, of course, doesn’t care for either of them, and instead he prefers the hijinks to the actual dates. He meets the coat check girl, who loves putting on hijinks, too… in fact, she’s so similar to Abed as to sap her of much character, too. He first rejects her, then asks her out, and despite moments of sweetness due to a magnetic performance by Brie Larson, the storyline wasn’t funny and led to the conclusion that the only woman Abed can care for is one exactly like himself.

The other half of “Herstory of Dance” focused on Britta putting on a Sophie B. Hawkins dance due to a verbal blunder in protest of the school’s Sadie Hawkins dance. Unfortunately, she needs to actually get Sophie B. Hawkins over there, a problem for which she has no solution. She consults Pierce about this and he takes pity on her, actually hiring Sophie for the dance and making the whole thing into a big success. As strange as this storyline may sound, I far preferred it to Abed’s hijinks. For one thing it was an original plot, unique to the show, and while the point of Abed may be that he doesn’t do those, that’s become less a concept at this point than a crutch the show relies on because it’s easier than coming up with new ideas. The heart of the Sophie B. Hawkins storyline comes when Pierce asks Jeff to lay off Britta and cut her some slack, and it was smart and moving and came from a real place.

Community knows that it has an Abed problem at this point, but doesn’t seem to know how to solve it. He’s getting stale, he needs to grow and change, as he himself admitted, but “Herstory of Dance” did exactly the opposite of that. It gave us another Abed story light on humor or wit and heavy on references and self-indulgence. His girlfriend seems likely to just make him go into more of the same, as in her own way she’s almost as “quirky” as the “quirky” girl hula-hooping alone on the dance floor. She wants to do plots and shenanigans and re-enact movies, and while that’s fun for Abed, it’s far from growing. Conversely, what happened between Jeff and Britta and Pierce hit all the right notes, and was a story that moved Community’s characters in a new direction. Abed is stuck, but at least the rest of the show isn’t.

Stray observations:
•So eight episodes into the season and still more or less zero stories focused on Annie. Would never have thought she’d be the cast member who’d end up so marginalized.
•”He’s like the Colin Farrell of people.” – There have got to be at least five dozen people who would’ve made more sense in that joke than Farrell.
•They keep chips in the school supply closet, which students have access to?
•The dean’s explanation of why so many people went to the Sophie B. Hawkins dance was really the only way to make sense of that large a turnout.
•And the puppets during the credits were pretty much the definition of pandering to the audience.

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