Unlike the unexpected but pleasant surprise that was Community episode 3-14 ‘Pillows And Blankets’, this Law & Order homage has been anticipated since it was first mentioned during the show’s hiatus. Now that ‘Basic Lupine Urology’ (title a nod to Law & Order creator Dick Wolf) has finally made it on the air, how did one of TV’s most absurd shows do in channeling one of TV’s most serious?
The episode begins with one of Law & Order‘s famous on-screen “scene change” cards. The study group’s biology project, a yam they’re growing themselves, is found broken and smashed on the floor. When Professor Kane (Michael K. Williams) tells Annie (Alison Brie) that this mishap will result in the study group getting only a passing grade on the project, it compels Annie to find out who committed this malice act.
“A passing grade? Like a C? Why don’t I just get pregnant at a bus station?! – Annie
From there the study group immediately falls into their roles: Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) takes the role of no-nonsense police chief with her 15 years of drama-watching; Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) become detectives; Jeff (Joel McHale) and Annie become district attorneys. Britta (Gillian Jacobs) and Pierce (Chevy Chase) have really marginalized roles in this episode and are hardly seen.
Troy and Abed proceeded to canvas the Greendale campus trying to rustle up some clues on the situation, questioning Community‘s who’s who of side characters. First they talk to Pierce who’s running a geriatric arm-wrestling circle (hilariously between Leonard and the old blind student from ‘Pillows And Blankets’). He then leads them to Todd who leads them to Fat Neil, then to Magnitude, then finally to Starburns.
After some tough negotiations Starburns eventually points the finger back on Todd and it is up to Jeff and Annie to prove in front of Professor Kane’s unofficial court of law that Todd indeed is guilty. Unfortunately for them Todd has some strong representation with real accredited lawyer Lt. Colonel Archwood and his knack for swaying the opinions of jurors with his smooth talking (at one point calling Starburns a “Holocaust-denying, 9/11 pedophile”).
‘Basic Lupine Urology’ is another one of Community‘s over-the-top themed episode and as always the show successfully recreates the world they aimed to parody. Their success here was in the details by simulating the Law & Order universe through as many methods as possible. From the “scene change” cards, the classic sound effects, the recreated New York street – you can tell the writers did their homework for this one. They even got Leslie Hendrix who plays the coroner on the dramatic series to dissect the broken yam.
And it wasn’t all about the crime procedural here as there were a lot of other things to enjoy in the episode. It was great to see a lot of side characters being utilized and it really reminded you how full the Greendale campus has become over the past three seasons. The meta jokes included here were very fun to spot such as Troy wearing a Spider-Man tie (a nod to Donald Glover‘s campaign to play Spider-Man in the next movie) and the use of the phrase “a man’s gotta have a code” (a nod to Michael K. William‘s character Omar Little in The Wire).
Even though that “pregnant at a bus station” line was my favourite, there were also some other great one-liners found in this episode:
“Can we take a sidebar from this sidebar?” – Annie
“Boiling water is the icicle stabbing of yam growing” – Jeff
Overall, ‘Basic Lupine Urology’ did a great job as a parody, aping nearly everything Law & Order did so well to make their show stand out among the rest of the crime and legal dramas out there. Beyond the parody however, nothing really developed among the character arcs that would add to the Community canon (other than the shocking ending, sort of) and so if you were unfamiliar with the Law & Order style, this episode may not have been as mind-blowing for you.
Still, it was a very enjoyable episode no matter what your familiarity is with the long-running series. That being said, it’s always better to be in on an inside-joke before hearing it, right?