Writing recaps/reviews of Community is a greater challenge than it may appear. Series creator Dan Harmon and his team cram more material into a pre-credits sequence than an episode of Whitney or 2 Broke Girls get into entire episodes. Ranging from sly meta commentary to wild slapstick; the Community writers dazzle fans weekly by starting the laughs before the theme song and not letting up until Parks & Rec has replaced it on the screen.
The latest episode, “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” is an epic demonstration of this remarkable pre-theme song laugh phenomenon. In just the opening 2 minutes of “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” there were at least 12 laugh out loud moments (based on the counting of my own instances of laughter) before the opening credits.
Even a very good sitcom like How I Met Your Mother would be happy with 12 laugh out loud moments in an episode; this was simply Community pre-credits. Not only was the sequence hysterically funny it also laid out the plot that would unfold with Jeff (Joel McHale) becoming obsessed with Foosball and Annie (Alison Brie) ruining Abed’s (Danny Pudi) DVD leading to an outlandish Batman parody.
Jeff has tired of the obnoxious antics of a trio of European students playing foosball in the Greendale common area. Unfortunately, after confronting them, Jeff is beaten and becomes obsessed with getting revenge. Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) is drawn into Jeff’s madness when she reveals her hidden talent for foosball. It turns out that Shirley has a long and tortured past with the game that haunts her. When she plays, she goes over to the dark-side.
After finally agreeing to help Jeff, Shirley’s competitive dark side reveals a long lost history between Shirley and Jeff that is, admittedly, quite convoluted but nevertheless funny. Jeff had been humiliated as a child while playing foosball. Shirley, as it happens, was the foosball bully who humiliated Jeff many years ago.
This revelation leads to one of those ‘only on Community’ sequences when reality somehow turns to anime and Jeff, Shirley, and for no good reason, a cat, battle to the death over foosball. The animation in this sequence is remarkable, see the video embed below, that you will think you’ve stumbled over to Cartoon Network on a Saturday night. This glorious sequence builds to such a surprising and sweet ending that you really cannot believe how the show arrived there.
The B-story this week found Abed and Troy (Donald Glover) preparing to enjoy The Dark Knight on a limited edition DVD that only a true geek could love. The DVD is limited edition, cost 299 dollars and features a personalized autograph from Christian Bale, Batman himself, who declares that Abed is the new Batman; this declaration rounds back into the story in a highly unexpected and wonderful way.
Naturally, there have been growing pains in Annie moving in with Troy and Abed. Annie’s neat-freakiness has clashed with Troy and Abed’s more lax standard of cleanliness. This tension sets the scene as Annie attempts to dust the TV and accidentally steps on Abed’s DVD causing it to break.
After confessing to Troy, Annie decides that a cover-up is her only option. After Troy talks Annie out of trying to replace the irreplaceable DVD; reminding Annie that Abed is aware of every sitcom in which characters have attempted to secretly replace a broken priceless item, Annie stages a fake break in.
Of course, Annie’s ruse will fail but how it fails is spectacular. Believing the break in story and unable to deal emotionally with his loss Abed decides to become Batman and seek vengeance on whomever took his precious Dark Knight DVD; the lead suspect being the apartment landlord.
Danny Pudi’s pure commitment to this premise sells this outlandish plot to unreal comic heights. Pudi’s Batman is not the least bit convincing but is terribly funny in being so terribly unconvincing. Abed may literally be the least intimidating Batman since George Clooney.
- Britta (Gillian Jacobs) and Pierce (Chevy Chase) disappeared completely after the opening credits. They did however get more screen time than Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) and Chang (Ken Jeong) who were MIA for the full episode.
- Britta did have the best line of the episode, despite her post-theme song absence. After Jeff wondered why Britta had not been willing to buy a name brand phone but had bought lasik surgery for her cat Britta offered this priceless response: “He only has the one eye Jeff, I can’t exactly buy him a cat monocle can I? It’s pretentious.”
- FYI, I want a monocle for my cat. Pretension be damned.
- Comedian Nick Kroll, one of the stars of the brilliant FX series, The League, played the lead German foosball jerk.
- Annie does a surprisingly good Christian Bale as Batman impression.
- For future reference, Shirley’s childhood nickname was Big Cheddar and Jeff’s was Tinkletown.
- Dan Harmon enjoys including pseudo-rants about things that bother him on other sitcoms. In ‘Foosball’ Harmon took aim at the convenient prop. Indeed, there are a number of sitcoms on which characters carry a prop into a scene solely for a comical bit and then the item is discarded. The soccer ball bit in ‘Foosball’ was a classically Community riff on this irksome phenomenon.
- As for the meta moments this week, the award for most-meta joke goes to Troy who, after Annie’s fake break-in sends Abed over the deep end, says to Annie: “You moving in here was supposed to tone us down.”
- Was that little Abed in the black and white flashback to Jeff and Shirley’s childhood foosball fight? I think it was.
- I may be wrong but I believe this was the first episode in three seasons where Leonard (Richard Erdman) was given the post-credits sequence. The choice may or may not have something to do with a classic Hitchcock idea. Hitchcock stated that if you introduce a gun in the first act that gun must go off by the third act. In this case, Leonard’s Youtube reviews of frozen pizzas are the gun and we needed to see the video before the show ended. Thanks Hitch.