Unfortunately, Karen will not be able to write this week’s review so I, being no stranger to the show myself, am subbing for her. But when I agreed to fill in, I wasn’t expecting this. I’d heard murmurs that “Conventions of Space and Time” was, by far, the lowest point in Community‘s run thus far, except I took those as the hyperbolic reactions of those who simply refuse to accept that Community can continue without its former captain, Dan Harmon.
Admittedly, I had similar concerns upon watching the premier, which skewed too closely in quality to the laugh-track driven schlock it aimed to tear down, yet the following episode was enough to renew my faith and give me cause to look forward to what comes next for the first time since the news came down that Harmon was out. While it lacked that undeniable, yet at the same time indescribable, trait that set the Harmon-led Community apart, it appeared to be on the right track to becoming at least a worthwhile fascimile.
With “Convention of Space and Time,” however, all we are left with is that fascimile and none of the hints of what used to be. Under Harmon, these characters felt human, but in this week’s episode they felt like cheaply-made copies of the real thing.
Jeff, whose always sought to distance himself from the group, yet found himself pulled back in kicking and screaming each time, spends most of the episode in a heightened version of his too-cool-for-school (as well as his friends) state. He tags along with Troy and Abed to their Inspector Spacetime convention, lured by the promise of skiing which he is promptly denied, and ducks out as soon as his alternate plans are foiled.
It’s only when Annie re-focuses his attention with a splash of scotch to the face, brought on by her schoolgirl-like crush on Jeff turned mental, with her playing out a fantasy by herself of them being married, that he comes back to his senses. Yet even that feels contrived, his decision to stick around at the convention at the end seeming like an excuse to have him embrace his likeness to a certain Inspector Spacetime character, on top of shirtlessness.
Because, if there’s one thing Community and its fans alike love, it’s the writers giving their characters reasons to strip down. Honestly, without its steady stream of gif-worthy moments from internet favorite Alison Brie, and those infamous boobs of hers (and I don’t mean the monkey), I doubt the show would have nearly as big an online presence as it does. So I was surprised they resisted the urge to have Annie stop playing and jump Jeff for real.
Instead, they had her play it down by saying she’s done it before with Troy and Zac Efron. Especially Zac Efron. They use her hidden feelings for Jeff as a justification for the sort of play-acting that Britta would’ve been dying to psychoanalyze, then write it off as nothing with one line, proving it wasn’t them being true to the characters as much as it was them using what they know in order to twist the characters into doing what they wanted them to do.
Similarly, Pierce and Shirley could just as easily have been written out of the episode altogether since all they did was serve to set up the obvious joke of Inspector Spacetime being Americanized, but through Pierce’s pervish lens. Having the two of them play off of one another and the big-wigs looking to bring the show to American soil sounds like a decent enough idea in theory, but it devolves into nothing more than excuse for Pierce to act especially old and pervy, and for Shirley to act offended, as usual.
Worst of all, though, was their handling of Troy and Abed. Abed starts by flat-out ditching Troy, his best friend, something he would never do, especially not for some new guy he just met in person for the first time moments before. Then Troy’s bromance with him is allowed to balloon out of proportion, crescendoing with him going all “crazy girlfriend” on him, as Britta put it. And lastly, he becomes suddenly lucid, going so far as to do Jeff’s job for him, in what was perhaps the most out-of-character moment of the entire episode.
Sure, Abed has shown a deep understanding of his friends, and everyone else around him, but this was taking matters too far. Some may chalk it up as Abed growing as a person, and I would be alright with it if it were merely that. But it was simply too much, too fast. This is the same character who, two episodes prior, had to retreat into a dream world inside of a dream world in order to escape from a reality he found disagreeable. Him having this grand epiphany just doesn’t work.
Neither does Troy and Britta’s relationship. The show’s done nothing to make them seem like anything more than what they are, which is a mismatch and an unwanted distraction from Troy and Abed’s little bromance. And Abed being cool (cool, cool) with them sneaking around to have sex regularly in his and Troy’s place, mostly because he likes donuts, rings false as well. That change alone would’ve necessitated Abed spending an entire episode coming to terms with it in the past, but here it’s glossed over.
Hopefully, though, this was just one of those inevitable bumps along the way and next week’s episode is more like last week’s or, at the very least, like the premier. Because, if this is going to become a trend, I might have to make Community the third show I’ve given up on in the past year.