Tuesday, April 7, 2015

REVIEW: 'Community' - Jeff Battles a New Student & Abed Does His Best Jerry Seinfeld in 'Laws of Robotics and Party Rights'

Yahoo Screen's Community - Episode 6.05 "Laws of Robotics and Party Rights"

Jeff squares off against a charming prison inmate, Willy (Brian Van Holt), who's attending Greendale via telerobot. Britta enlists Abed to get around Annie's rules against parties in their apartment.

Community has largely evolved into a show about various college-based hijinks instead of characters taking classes in order to graduate with a degree and move on with their lives. The show has fully embraced the idea that these characters are never going to leave Greendale. So the bulk of the storytelling is simply about these various characters having funny and eccentric interactions with each other. That's a choice the show has made. While it may seem like doing things this way will keep the characters from ever evolving from where they are now, the show has done a good enough job in grounding these wacky hijinks in a way that feels earned and actually funny.

I bring up this change because of the willingness "Laws of Robotics and Party Rights" has to actually show Jeff as a teacher. Jeff became a professor at Greendale early in the fifth season. Except for an episode or two, the show really has done much with that new dynamic for him. Jeff the student and Jeff the teacher aren't really different people. And yet, it has meant that Jeff has needed to accept more responsibility at the school. He is helping make crucial decisions for the future of Greendale. He may continue to keep up the aura of being the coolest person in the room. However, he does actually care about Greendale and the people who go there.

That's what makes it so amusing when Jeff is put in a position in his classroom where he no longer is the center of attention. Usually, he can get by with saying some vague things about the law and just making his class watch a movie. And yet, the presence of a new student named Willy (played by Cougar Town's Brian Van Holt) steals the attention away from Jeff. Willy is a part of a trial run of incarcerated inmates attending community college via tele-robots. It's a very clever concept and the show does an excellent job in making the various sounds and moves of the moving iPads feel both cool and funny. Willy is the shiny new thing at school and everyone gets way too obsessive of him. He has an even more damaged past than Jeff - because, you know, he's a convicted murderer! And yet, that just adds to his charms. He's able to please everyone and that starts to annoy Jeff.

Sure, it's very amusing to see the robot trying to push Jeff down the stairs. And yet, it's equally wacky to see just how far the school actually goes in regards to their obsession with Willy. They are willing to make him an actual professor after only a few days. Jeff is the only one to see him for who he truly is. And yet, the only way to get the Dean to call this elaborate ceremony off is to show him his vulnerable side. Sure, that then leads to an epic fight between two robots that is allowed to happen the community college way and not the prison way. But it also showcases how much Jeff is willing to actually reveal and say the truth to his colleagues at Greendale. Everything about Willy was a lie. He was wrongfully convicted and is actually getting released shortly. Only at Greendale would people be happy that someone's not a murderer. That's the charm of the show and it just fully embraces it in this week's main story.

The subplot of the episode isn't as strong but it still has purpose in showing how the dynamics between Abed, Annie and Britta are changing now that they are all roommates. In fact, the story would have been worth it solely for Abed's Jerry Seinfeld impression. It wasn't as good as his Don Draper but it was still really enjoyable. The impression actually helped in not making what he later did appear too severe. Sometimes it is difficult to be friends with Abed and the show is addressing that fact. They never make the story feel sad, cruel or melancholic though. It just shows that these people can't manipulate each other in order to get what they want because that would then cause pain in their respective friendships. Britta will have to deal with that now but things will hopefully go back to normal between them soon. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Laws of Robotics and Party Rights" was written by Dean Young and directed by Rob Schrab.
  • The show was smart in not pushing Frankie or Elroy too much in these early episode. And yet, I think I'm now ready for some stories actually centered around them.
  • So much great use out of those iPad robots. The actors interacted well with them and their physical presence also was used very effectively. It was great seeing Jeff fling one down a staircase as well as Dean Pelton carrying one away happy that Jeff was victorious in his fight with Willy.
  • Abed has a plan for domination and the presence of more iPads means he can easily take over all of them. That tag continued this season's streak of wonderful and hilarious final scenes.
  • Britta explaining her definition of the phrase "hoist with his own petard" was the one thing that really connected the two stories. And yet, it too was very funny.
  • I didn't think referring to Troy by name in the brief flashback was all that necessary. It just made me miss him more.