Community season 4 episode 4 review: Alternative History Of The German Invasion

Review Emma Matthews 3 Mar 2013 - 20:40

Has the once-brilliant Community lost its identity? Here's Emma's review of the latest episode...

This review contains spoilers.

4.4 Alternative History of the German Invasion

It’s week four of the new order and the new school year at Greendale, and after a wobbly few weeks since the beginning of term, the show needed a comedically strong, confident episode, not just to set our minds at rest, but to settle the team’s new year nerves. How sad then, that rather than raise the bar, along with our hopes for the season, Alternative History of the German Invasion settled into what is looking more and more like a slow decline into comedic white noise.

Set around a pointless battle for the group’s study room – a room, it turns out, that other people are in fact allowed to use despite evidence to the contrary – ostensibly to paint the group in a selfish light so that they can redeem themselves by the end of the episode, but really, it was so they could resurrect the oh so funny ‘Chermans’, along with some seventy year old jokes. And no, I’m not referring to Malcolm McDowell’s cringeworthy appearance. Just FYI writers, this plot would have made a lot more sense if the group hadn’t spent the last two episodes running around in costumes at parties and conventions...

After the Chermans have pushed the gang out of their ‘home’ by hilariously getting up earlier than anyone in the study group, Winger hits upon the idea of a Hogan’s Heroes-style ruse to vanquish their oppressors. Given that Hogan’s Heroes didn’t get an airing in the UK – one can only wonder why – for British viewers, imagine an American version of comedy ‘classic’ It Aint Half Hot Mum, only with less Windsor Davies and more... this. Having done a little research, it seems that Hogan’s Heroes was once voted by people who know such things, as one of the worst TV shows of all time - which is surely enough to question the sanity of basing an entire episode of what used to be one of the best shows on TV on one of the worst. The completely played German stereotypes – They Get Up Early! They Have No Sense Of Humour! They Want To Take Over The World! – may well have been funny four or five decades ago when Hogan’s Heroes was somehow allowed on air, but in the twenty-first century where the rest of us live, comedy is supposed to have moved on a tad since then.

But has it? With the comedic domination of throwback shows like The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother, clearly, comedic white noise sells. Networks have no need to waste time and money on fresh, inventive, God forbid niche comedy – why bother, when the jokes that worked thirty years ago apparently still work just as well? What we witnessed with Alternative History of the German Invasion was the beginning of the show that will henceforth be known as Big Bang Community. There’s an internet theory that any discussion that disintegrates to the point where someone is compared to Hitler, immediately implodes... or something. Step forward Britta. Her comparison of Winger to the moustachioed mass murderer marks the official beginning of the end for this show. How apt that new Britta be the one to pull the trigger...

Harsh? Perhaps. The show wasn’t unwatchable, but let’s be honest, it wasn’t massively funny either. Aside from the luftballon motorboarding (you’ll have to look quite hard for that) and the notion that when Winger is forced to get out of bed ‘crazy early’ he apparently dresses in the dark, there was very little of note, or of the Community that we have come to love. This week, the character that most embodied the entire episode wasn’t a lost Abed, but unbelievably, the amnesiac Chang. His ninety-six hours of memory perfectly encapsulates what’s happening at Greendale. In a clear case of total memory loss, Community has completely forgotten its identity. ‘Not unwatchable’ might be good enough for other shows, and it might even be good enough to keep the show on air til the end of the season, but it’s not acceptable for a show that started with a love letter to John Hughes, and once treated us to the sight of John Goodman in a French plait. With this episode, it would seem that the battle fought between Community and NBC is long over, and we’re all the losers.

Read Emma's review of the previous episode, Conventions of Space and Time, here.

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