Community: “Competitive Wine Tasting” (2.20)

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Community: “Competitive Wine Tasting” (2.20)

Like most television shows about school, Community has always featured as little depiction of actual schoolwork as possible. Classes and homework are repetitive and pretty uninteresting, not to mention minor compared with what happens during the rest of our lives. For instance, you probably have fewer memories of that science class you took second semester of your sophomore year of college than you do of a particularly bitching New Year’s Eve party.

But Community does in fact need an excuse for these characters to interact and have wacky adventures together, which occasionally means episodes focusing purely on classes rather than zombies or gangsters or whatever. “Competitive Wine Tasting” is one such episode, and in a way it attempts to distill all those classes into one episode. So we haven’t shown courses in a while, well then here’s an episode that gives a bunch at once so that we can run through them and not really have to deal with any classes other than anthropology again this season.

And this is still Community, which means that the courses being offered are … let’s just say comical in nature. At the beginning of the episode we get a list of possible choices, but the ones actually explored by the episode are a wine-tasting course taken by Pierce and Jeff, a drama course taken by Britta and Troy and a media studies course on Who’s the Boss taken by Abed. If that sounds like an awful lot, well it is, making for an extremely packed episode that’s not one of the show’s deepest, with Abed’s third of the episode being essentially three one-minute segments disconnected from everything else.

The fullest of these is Pierce and Jeff’s plotline, which is also the best, though not as keen as the show’s previous Pierce/Jeff pairings. Pierce meets a young Asian woman in their class and instantly decides to marry her, which Jeff is suspicious about because she immediately rejected his romantic overtures. Turns out Jeff was right that she had a nefarious plot in mind, in fact attempting corporate espionage, but that doesn’t really help Pierce’s esteem much so Jeff sets them up again right before the episode ends. We run through this material incredibly fast, even for a sit-com, and everyone else in the study group’s reaction to events seems pretty unnatural. That for once they think Pierce is doing the right thing just doesn’t jibe with the show’s reality very well, although the jokes here are still plenty entertaining.

A much more interesting pairing occurs with the drama class, since Britta’s interactions with anyone other than Jeff and Annie have been pretty limited so far. Here we also have a super-quick romantic story, which shows that the two characters are entertaining together but doesn’t really give us much more than that. Kevin Corrigan reprised his role as the school’s drama professor and was predictably great, but it wasn’t a particularly new take on a drama class.

Abed’s story was incredibly short but still fun, mainly because of its lampooning of academic media criticism. The seriousness with which students regard the subject matter and the pretension from both students and professor gives this bit a very nice feeling. The only problem is that it is in fact so short that, well, it’s barely a plot at all, and wouldn’t feel out of line as a set of three webisodes.

Community has always been a particularly antic and fast-paced show, which is necessary given the show’s ambition and large cast. But here it felt like we didn’t quite have enough space for any of the stories to become truly great, instead we get three passable but not particularly memorable storylines that felt a bit like a spec version of Community. All the characters and jokes are fine enough, but it was just filling space before we get to either an episode that really shakes things up with character developments or offers a big set piece. Most Community episodes do one or the other, but this one did neither and the result wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t something that will be anyone’s particular favorite.

Stray observations:
•Pierce’s father’s advice on the night he lost his virginity: “Just pick one, they all cost the same.”
•”When I wasn’t defending the wealthy from justice, I was drinking their finest wines.”
•”We don’t discuss the special gym.”
•Assuming you Intro to Italian Wines is for credit, it is in fact the best class ever. I’d take that at a community college any day.
•”That’s the first time sexism has made me hungry.”
•”Please take weird haircut, stupid grin and go sniff another dog’s ass.”
•Trevor St. McGoodbody or Da-vid? Both are great names.
•”That is an actor’s job. That and… pretending to be other people.”
•Really nice that Fat Neil and the drama teacher are both back. It’s always difficult for live-action shows to create a whole universe in the way an animated show does, but they’re doing pretty well.
•So if Troy’s “no no” is his ass, then “no no juice” is…
•”Pierce married three of his wifes after a month… maybe he’s just a romantic.” – Funny, but Annie’s not normally that stupid. This was particularly out of character for her.
•All acting should just involve people yelling “my emotions” repeatedly.
•”For homework: drink a glass of cognac in a bathtub.”
•”It seems like just yesterday me and Abed dine and ditched here.”
•”I wasn’t so much ‘molested’ so much as I ‘made it up’”
•”Before my ex-boyfriend Pablo was arrested for forging church relics…”
•”That may sound like an easy resolution, but we’re not writers … we’re actors.”
•Ok, the all-black production of Fiddler on the Roof was in fact genius.
•”How about Thai, they’re like Chinese Mexicans?” “So true.”

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