Community season 4 episode 3 review: Conventions Of Space And Time

Review Emma Matthews 25 Feb 2013 - 09:10

Community at a sci-fi convention? It sounds like a match made in heaven. So why didn't this episode raise many laughs?

This review contains spoilers.

4.3 Conventions of Space and Time

After last week’s spooky/Daddy issue fest, this week the gang spends a second week away from the rarefied Greendale air, and ‘treats’ themselves to a trip to Troy and Abed heaven – an Inspector Spacetime Convention. While, generally, anyone who isn’t Troy and Abed would rather eat their own feet than go to a sci-fi convention, thanks to the handy proximity of some mountains to the convention centre, the etiquette of pretending to enjoy something your other half is obsessed with, and Pierce’s inability to take a hint, the whole gang descends on the nerd-fest.

In an ideal world, Study group + Road Trip + sci-fi convention should equal Community comedy gold. This is, after all, is the area in which the show traditionally prospers; it should be almost too easy to squeeze a classic, reference-filled, razor sharp episode from the comedic situation.  And yet... Somehow, that did not happen. Instead, the road trip/convention was used to move the Troy/Britta relationship further along, which left little room for obscure references or Winger-patented nerd-baiting. Given that those things are pretty much the show’s bread and butter, a script without them is always going to feel a little flat; add to that a less than sparkling cameo from Matt Lucas, and Shirley’s plea to the network during the Inspector Spacetime focus group and confidence would appear to be in very short supply. Telling us what makes the show great, and then showing us a Luke Perry-shaped nightmare vision of what TV will be like if networks continue to allow elderly white men to dictate what’s broadcast, only goes so far. Just doing what the show does best, without fuss – which after all is one of the things that makes Community so great; it always felt effortless – would be worth a hundred lacklustre trips to sci-fi land. The last couple of episodes have clearly taken a lot of effort – on everyone’s part, and that includes the audience.

With a truncated season, time for nerve-settling is in short supply – given the show’s shoddy treatment by NBC, it would have been apt for the writers to come at the start of the season with all guns blazing, but there’s a definite air of defeatism about this and last week’s episodes. That defeatist air has been almost completely embodied by Abed’s role in both – relegated to the surveillance room last week, unsure of his place in the group this week, and attempting to find a quick fix in Matt Lucas, something that could also be said about his appearance in the first place.

Upping the cameo and nakedness quotient – two chests for the price of one, and a woman in her underwear (isn’t it weird that a man’s bare chest is seen as the TV-nakedness equivalent of a woman in her bra and knickers?) – as well as adding some actual swearing, did not help with that defeatist air. Throwing everything in your arsenal into the pot and hoping that something makes comedy magic isn’t only hit and miss, but it may actually be a Community first. The show has always been rapid-fire, but here there was a distinct whiff of kitchen sink-ness about it all. Having said that, it’s always a pleasure to see Luke Perry popping up where he really shouldn’t.

So, while, as things stand, it appears that season four will be a slightly watered down version of the show – Community Light, if you will – there were still one or two flashes of the genius that raises it above the run of the mill; Danny Pudi once again showing off his frighteningly accurate mimicking skills, and the aforementioned Luke Perry pop-up among them. Also, Jeff gets two drinks thrown in his face, so even in the new Community, Jeff remains the fall guy, which is karmically, exactly as it should be.

Of course, the latest instalment of new Community did throw up some rather disconcerting questions – with Britta and Troy now Abed-approved, how will the Troy/Abed dynamic change? Is the show about to commit Friends-style Hari Kari and break up the central comedy partnership? Similarly, as Jeff and Annie’s friendship morphs into something that resides in a far more overtly grey area, are we about to see a double coupling? Is that something that Abed – or any of us – can cope with? And perhaps most disconcertingly of all – has Pierce even owned a TV since the eighties?

So, with three episodes down, things are still looking a little shaky over at Greendale. And while shaky might be forgivable for a limited time, sooner or later, the writers are going to have to bite the bullet and make a decision. Let’s hope it’s the right one. 

Read Emma's review of the previous episode, Paranormal Parentage, here.

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Better than awful first two, but still not quite getting it are they? Also, wasn't Jeff just calling his old man on the cliffhanger last week?

The cliffhanger isn't really a mistake, it can bridge it to the next episode, (similar to Digital Estate Planning). I agree with the review. I like the cast so much that I want it to succeed, but Dan Harmond was just very important it seems (what do you expect he created the thing? I still find it really weird to fire him, if you fire him cancel the show, I would say). Whiteout him I'm scared it will never be more then at best very good fan fiction.

Am I the only one who's incredibly mad at the fact that it feels Community is pulling a... BBT? Now it's about *shudders* relationships. Quoting Abed from the previous episode "I remember when this show used to be about a community college". Seriously, Annie pretending to be married and Jeff being OKAY with it? Troy and Britta dating fur mere three episodes and Abed is just okay with it? Plus the pace is suddenly VERY slow, when previous seasons we had joke after joke in a matter of a minute. This season just doesn't feel like Community anymore.

OK I've tried to be patient but I HATE BRITTA AND TROY'S RELATIONSHIP! It feels so false and awkward and it has severed the heart of the show which was Troy and Abed and removed the great tension between Britta and Jeff.
That said I laughed more at this episode than the previous two. They could really do with getting back in the college though. It's starting to feel like a spin off.

I wouldn't object to a relation between Troy and Britta, but this is such a huge thing in the plot it should be worked out in an episode. Not, Hold hands, 'I see this has evolved', and they have a relationship. I think the current show runners have made not so funny things in the past. They seem nice guys, but nut incredibly funny. I'm sorry, it's just the way I think it is. The guy who says yes and no is the most important one I think, a lot of people can have good ideas it's the guy who can spot them and make them work who's the most important. I think that person was Dan Harmond, and he's not adequately replaced. So, perhaps there are just 2 shows Community season 1-3, and after that, played with the same actors and based on the characters and plots of the first show.

I have to say episode 4 was just very good for me. Not different from 'normal' community season 1-3. If it stays like this, I complained to soon.

It feels odd after my major complain over episode three, but I agree with you. This episode made me feel like the Community I've grown to love is back. I still have the relationship-y stuff though.

It's Dan Harmon, the exiled creator of Community. Not Dan Harmond. For a self-professed fan of the show, you should know this.

Thnx I know by now, actually surprised I didn't know back then, btw I don't like you

or maybe I do, and I just didn't like your comment, I don't know

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