Tuesday, March 24, 2015

REVIEW: 'Community' - Annie Fights to Keep Hope Alive While Dean Pelton Texts with Jeff in 'Basic Crisis Room Decorum'

Yahoo Screen's Community - Episode 6.03 "Basic Crisis Room Decorum"

The group has to go on the offensive against a claim that Greendale graduated a dog. Abed creates an attack ad discounting the dog. Britta, after pooping her pants, connects with Elroy over the band "Natalie is Freezing." Chang shoots a single person porn.

Annie is an idealist. She is always going to hold out hope no matter what situation she finds herself in. That is a core part of her character. It's also almost always the better detail to center Annie plots around instead of simply having her pine after Jeff. That romance has never gone anywhere. Actually no romance has really been addressed at all this season - and the show is a lot better because of it. However, after all the time that Annie has spent at Greendale, you would think she wouldn't be as surprised as she is that a dog was enrolled there and possibly had graduated with a four-year degree. After six seasons, her idealism hasn't faded - even though the writers have somewhat struggled with giving her purpose in the last few seasons.

When the show knows what to do with Annie, she is a fantastic and hilarious character. When they don't, it's pretty obvious. This episode is a strong focal point for Annie - but it's also a pretty great ensemble piece as well. The entire gang has to figure out how best to handle a situation once they learn City College is going to run an attack ad saying Greendale gave a diploma to a dog. No one is really surprised by the idea that this might be true. It's incredulous but also perfectly in line with the type of school Greendale has always been. It's actually a really funny prospect that a dog was able to sail through Greendale in four years when most of these people are doomed to stay here for the rest of their lives. Granted most of his classes were graded by attendance only.

So, the main conflict is between Annie the idealist and Jeff the pragmatic lawyer, with Frankie in the middle. Jeff doesn't care if this claim is true or not. He just wants to make the official reaction be the most beneficial to Greendale in the aftermath - solely because they are the ones currently paying him. Annie holds out hope that there is no way that this claim could be too. Frankie just wants the facts so that she can be well-informed on this information before moving forward with the reaction. The story is true and everyone else is focusing on how to attack back and be the better school despite going after a dog's credibility! Frankie's speech to Annie about the hopelessness of hope is a very great moment. And yet, Annie wants to believe in hope and allowing that idea to be a part of who she is. She wants to be an idealist but the people around her just don't care about being truthful and honest about this situation. They are being vicious and that's not an environment she wants to be a part of even though she still loves Greendale. She is the one to remind everyone else about their humanity. Yes, it's horrible that this dog got much closer to a diploma than anyone currently in the study room. But that is something that they can embrace and be their selling point as well. The group makes that gesture for Annie in doing a commercial where the Dean says everyone is welcome at Greendale - even dogs. It addresses the situation while still being fun about all of it. That's rewarding. It also shows that, even though Abed had worries that Frankie and Annie would fill the same archetype on the show, Annie is still a very important character in this universe.

Things were allowed to get a little weird around the main conflict of the episode. Dean Pelton was so certain that he was texting with Jeff - because whenever Jeff's not talking, he's texting - when it was actually a teenage Japanese boy. Britta and Elroy bonded over pants and music. And then, Chang left to provide the help that only he could manage to do. Sure, the Chang story was intentionally dumbing him down for no good reason and the rest of the characters largely just want him gone without asking too many questions. But that plot beat also provided a solid comedic beat once Abed started critiquing the porn that he filmed on City College's campus - with a Greendale shirt on. Also, the NBC version of this show never would have had the time to fully flesh out the story between the Dean and his texting partner. Now on Yahoo, they have a few extra minutes to actually add some real depth that made the story much better as a result. Sure, the Dean remained oblivious throughout the story but we got some insight into the boy on the other end of the phone and how the Dean's neglect will shape his future in a horrible way. That's a dark prospect but it was able to get there organically to the rest of the narrative while still being amusing. That works and makes this episode the most fully realized one so far this season. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Basic Crisis Room Decorum" was written by Monica Padrick and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait.
  • So many fantastic reaction shots in this episode including Britta realizing she has just pooped her pants, Elroy learning that Frankie doesn't watch or own a TV and everyone seeing the porn that Chang has made.
  • Britta's dream music sequence was completely random and completely awesome at the same time. Another great reaction shot from Elroy too!
  • I like that the show is integrating Frankie and Elroy into the group at different paces. Frankie already seems fully assimilated even though she doesn't know everyone else that well yet. Elroy, meanwhile, doesn't know much about the rest of them and that's a lot of fun. He brings the coffee and wonders if Annie leaving is suppose to be a big deal or not.
  • I love all the details the gang put into making the study room an actual situation room - with multiple clocks and a transparent board to write on.
  • This is technically the 100th episode of the show and I'm a tad surprised by how low-key it is. It's still a very centered story that uses all of the characters well but it's not as outlandish as the show is capable of pulling off. Those episodes are likely coming in the future and this was still a very solid episode overall.