Thursday, March 6, 2014

REVIEW: 'Community' - Jeff & Shirley Battle It Out to Be the Most Well-Liked in 'App Development and Condiments'

NBC's Community - Episode 5.08 App Development and Condiments

Dean Pelton invites two designers to Greendale to beta test their new social networking app, leading to an all-out class war as the students compete for the highest score; Jeff and Shirley battle for supremacy; Britta rails against the very concept; and Hickey goes underground until the whole thing blows over.

"App Development and Condiments" probably bit off more than it could chew. It's a concept episode with the intent of having a big commentary on our obsessiveness with social networking and the need to be liked. It then evolves into this dystopia universe created by those needs. The episode does get you thinking. The persona you present online - whether it be writing reviews of TV shows, posting something on Twitter or writing an anonymous comment somewhere - is how you want to be seen in the world. It's not really who you truly are. This episode does handle that idea well. It did get me thinking about our society's dependence on this kind of interaction. And how obsessing over how we are perceived alters who we are.

And yet, it also felt like the episode took a lot of narrative leaps in order to get that message across. It basically creates this conflict between Jeff and Shirley at the start of the episode just for the sake of having tension amongst those two. The best high concept episodes of Community take the inspirations of the genre and apply it to the emotional stakes of these characters. The character beats in "App Development and Condiments" just felt so off. The show felt the need to tell this type of story but didn't really dig as deep as it could on how it would personally affect these characters.

Some more thoughts:
  • "App Development and Condiments" was written by Jordan Blum & Parker Deay and directed by Rob Schrab.
  • The episode itself was a little light on the laughs too. Sure, there was the Britta-mustard stuff and Jeff's comment about a Starburst commercial which were pretty great but not a whole lot else.
  • Also I have no clue what this episode was trying to do with Annie, Hickey, Chang and Abed at all. They got sidelined so Mitch Hurwitz could have some focus, which was probably ill-advised.