Community: Season 1, Ep. 5 and Ep. 6 – ‘Advanced Criminal Law’ and ‘Football, Feminism and You.’

In both of these episodes, the show is still largely making fun of Greendale and, through it, it’s own central conceit. “What happens when a whacky bunch of kids gets together at a rundown community college . . .?” Later on, Community will start to take on television and movies more broadly, but in the beginning, the show is one that makes fun of itself.

We see that especially with ‘Advanced Criminal Law,’ which opens with Dean Pelton bragging about a new statue that will be dedicated to the college’s minor celebrity alum and “model Puerto Rican American” Luis Guzman. They’ll also commission a new college song. “I don’t know about you, but this sure feels like a real college to me,” he says. Next we see John Oliver asking Jeff whether he and Britta are an item — the potential hookup that started the study group — and Troy and Abed walk into Spanish class, with Abed genuinely excited about meeting Guzman and Troy teasing that he knows Guzman because he’s President Obama’s nephew. Abed bites. Soon, though, Senor Chang walks in and accuses someone of cheating. He’s found a crib sheet, and threatens to fail the whole class unless someone comes forward. This is the central story-line of the episode.

At this point in the series, the show’s still concentrating on establishing, playing with and subverting the stereotypical characters that each member of the group is meant to fulfill, and it does this really well. While they’re discussing the cheating and guessing who’s responsible, Abed repeats Troy’s earlier lies to the whole group; Abed tells them Troy invented rap and is related to Obama. Shirley cries out, “Abed, have you been racist this whole time?” Troy explains that he was just trying to mess with Abed, which launches an elaborate effort on Abed’s part to try to convince Troy that he’s an alien. Because all we know about Troy as of yet is that he’s a slightly stupid football player, we think he’s falling for it.

The next big move is that while Chang is threatening again to fail everyone, Annie cries out in apparent pain, and Britta reveals she’s the cheater. That launches an honor-board style investigation, because Greendale takes this kind of thing very seriously. “Much like a university would!” Dean Pelton proclaims. The trial is held by, of all places, the pool, because Dean Pelton wants to make use of its new PA system. The panel is made up of John Oliver’s character, Dean Pelton and Senor Chang, and Jeff, our fallen lawyer, offers to represent her. It provides a chance for Jeff to gloat over the soapbox-loving Britta, and she ultimately reveals she cheated because she’s insecure. She’s even insecure in Jeff’s friendship, because she suspects he’s still just trying to get into her pants. “Look at me,” he yells at her “Look at how handsom my face is. If all I wanted was sex I could get it from plenty of women without having to go through all this crap. I’m here because I like you and I’m psyched to be your friend. I just didn’t want to take sex off the table until I’d done my due diligence.”

Later on, Troy tells Abed he isn’t fooled by his alien gimmick, either, and tells Abed he doesn’t need to do that to be his friend. Without being hoaky, the show pretty easily establishes that we’ve moved from contrived study group friends to possibly actual friends, and it does it with the light touch Community’s really good at.

Notes and Quotes:

    Can we do this in a place with less balls?
    It would be less creepy if you were an alien.

‘Football, Feminism, and You,’ deals with the other sets of friends — the ladies, Pierce and Troy — and resolves Annie’s lingering crush on Troy. It opens with the group in their usual meeting place. Dean Pelton walks in and says “Hi everybody. Well, look at this group having some kind of meeting and being so diverse.” It’s like those community and for-profit schools that advertise with posters of multi-racial groups of friends, backpack-laden, smiling and walking through some fake campus. Dean Pelton’s visit is to try to convince Troy to play football for the “Human Beings,” and Pierce offers to design the mascot. Whether or not Troy will play football means a lot to Annie — in high school Troy the Football Hero didn’t pay attention to her, but in college, Troy the Study Group Partner is her friend. Dean Pelton ropes Jeff into helping convince Troy to play football by blackmailing Jeff, who’s embarrassed to be in the school and afraid it can ruin his law career.

The main story line, though, is that Britta offends Shirley because she doesn’t go to the bathroom with her. “Girls go in groups, did you learn nothing from stand-up comedy in the 90s?” Jeff asks. Britta resolves to go, but ends up offending Britta because she goes on a pseudo-feminist rant in the stalls instead of engaging in girly small talk. After Shirley gives her about what the ladies room is for, Britta tells Shirley she doesn’t really no how to bond with women and starts crying. Shirley interrupts her. “Not out here. In there.” Britta comes full circle by helping Annie through her Troy troubles later in the episode.

The sub-theme of the football story line is one of race: Dean Pelton’s stumbling, ridiculous efforts to design the Human Beings lead to an overly PC nonperson whose skin and facial features are a horrifying blend of everything while avoiding anything in particular. “I think not being racist is the new racism,” Jeff says. Yet, also in this episode, Troy is good at football and Shirley is the comforting mother figure who teaches Britta how to be a proper woman. At the same time, neither of them is all or only those things, and they don’t feel those roles in stereotypical ways. It’s this intelligence we at PostBourgie loved so much in the first place. Of course, one needs to tread carefully, because old racism is actually still the new racism, but it does make for a really delightful, smart show.

Notes and Quotes:

    A lot of these students have been called animals their whole lives.
    Troy: How did you know my nickname was T-bone? Jeff: Because you’re a football player and your name begins with T. Your. Name. Begins. With. T.