Community Review: "Football, Feminism and You" (Episode 1.6)

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Community Review: "Football, Feminism and You" (Episode 1.6)

I don’t think anyone will be making the argument that last week’s episode of Community, “Football, Feminism and you,” is the series’ funniest. The list of quotes in the random observations this time is much smaller than it would be for most sit-coms truly hitting on all cylinders, and yet I can’t help but feel that it was truly at the top of its game … even without either Ken Jeong or John Oliver popping in to take things truly over the top.

So while it wasn’t as funny as previous episodes, “Football” was probably the best-written one yet when it comes down to plotlines. It’s usually pretty easy to separate the a, b, c and whatever other stories in any TV show and record, individually, their conclusions and how well they did. While there are a few character interactions here and there, usually it’s a matter of things going off in different directions until they resolve and come together at the end. It’s a lot easier to watch something written that way, and because of it most TV shows just alternate between plotlines, cross-cutting in order to keep things from becoming too focused. Focused in TV usually means unable to stay mainstream.

“Football, Feminism and You” instead nimbly ducks and weaves through its plotlines, not exactly Altman-esque but certainly with a degree of elegance frequently missing from most TV shows. Anyone who really appreciated Arrested Development should be familiar with what I’m talking about. The episode begins with Dean Pelton interrupting our protagonists’ Spanish study group with an attempt to trick Troy onto the football team. Troy, it’s been set up from previous episodes, is an extremely good quarterback while Pelton is obsessed with improving his college in any way he can, even though Troy rejects his initial offer.

Also introduced in this opening scene is Britta’s wish to join in feminist bathroom visits with Shirley and Annie, Annie’s love for Troy, Chevy Chase’s character working on a new mascot (“The Human Being”) with Pelton, and Joel’s conflicted feelings about the Dean, the college, and Troy’s football career. Each of these plotlines intersects at multiple points and creates a surprisingly cohesive episode, even if it lacks any sort of underlying thematic commentary. It is, after, a sitcom.

Britta and Shirley’s bathroom bonding is probably the least consequential of the episode’s plots but still leads to some character depth. Britta tries to be just one of the girls by heading to the bathroom with Shirley but soon learns that she’s unable to offer the small-talk and judgment-free sympathy that it requires. Shirley mentors her and by the episode’s end she helps Annie out with her issues and has made another step away from activism and idealism and towards the sort of pragmatism that Community often seems to associate with adulthood.

Annie has fallen for Troy, which is especially an issue for her since it may be a repetition of a similar crush she had back in high school. Her thoughts are that by keeping Troy off the field, he’ll stay with her. Unfortunately for her, Troy rekindles his love of football with the help of Joel, who more or less talks him into joining the community college team in an effort to take his picture off of recruitment materials the dean is issuing. Joel doesn’t feel right about what he’s doing and is confronted about this by Annie. While he does do the right thing and tries to later talk Troy back out of football, it doesn’t work. Again this isn’t really Joel’s episode, which is making the show more and more of an ensemble work than it originally seemed.

Meanwhile Chase is working with the Dean on creating the mascot for his Human Being, becoming enlisted after mentioning some apocryphal work he may or may not have done in corporate branding. Chase’s previous work is still pretty ambiguous, and I’d love to see a few episodes where it’s fleshed out, but is enough to convince the Dean that he’s clearly an expert in mascot creation. The dean is utterly convinced about the importance of a non-racist mascot, which is all well and good, but this quickly morphs into the goal of a mascot completely free of non-distinguishing features. This leads to a completely grey, featureless gob of human who is both inoffensive and largely unable to breathe.

Not only are these different plots given enough breathing room in a quick 22-minutes run-time, they also set up a few changes in the show. Troy sticks with the football team, Annie is still in love with Troy, and … uhh… Chase is an insane old man. Ok, the last part isn’t new, but the first two should definitely shake up the rest of the season in some interesting ways. The real third change is the show’s newfound self-awareness. Community has always been self-conscious, but Abed’s role in the episode is basically to point out that he’s been featured a bit much lately so he’ll duck out. He ends the episode with another meta-joke about La Arana Discoteca, which leads to the question of whether this will become a more prominent part of the show. If this element is used as well in future episodes as it was in “Football, Feminism and You,” then let’s hope it becomes a part of Community’s identity.

Random Observations:

-I love that chevy chase was involved in y2k preparedness

"Now let’s meet the minimum requirements for language credits"

"Girls go- in groups—did you learn nothing from standup comedy in the 90s?"

-I like being Asian considered a “creed.”

“That’s a falcon with a gun. …. Now that’s a falcon with an erection.”

-I’m kind of curious where they found a stadium that crappy looking. My high school field looked better than that.

"Annie said that Benjamin Button was compelling - she’s a smart girl but sometimes she’s just wrong."

"How did you know my nickname ws t-bone?" “Because you’re a football player … and your name begins with T.”

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