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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All this Dr. Spacetime stuff is tedious also.

I mean "Inspector" of course. Please accept my alpolgologies.

Well said Emma may your true words echo across the hills so the tribes may rally on NBC and inject the cash to get a writer for these episodes instead of baboons and typewriters.

"Given that Hogan’s Heroes didn’t get an airing in the UK ".
I used to love watching Hogan's Heroes when I was a kid, living in 'Bristol, England;" where the local ITV channel showed it all the time :)

You have said it perfectly. Community is 'Not-Unwatchable' but it isn't good enough. I think it's worse because in 3 seasons of the show, I still couldn't find a bad episode. Every episode had merit, and even the lacklustre ones felt like they embodied the spirit of it all... But here we have four episodes in a row which must rank as the four worst episodes of Community so far. If they thought that getting rid of Dan Harmon was the best way to solve a problem, they were dead wrong. Firstly, the problem then said the n-word and left the show anyway and secondly, it's created an even bigger problem. It's not Community anymore. I'll still keep watching in hopes that they'll come out with a classic episode, but my doubt and fears rise every week. Please NBC, don't cancel this based on your bad decision. Instead, fix your bad decision. Hire back Dan Harmon.

Hmm..have to disagree. I thought the previous episodes this season were awful and really unwatchable. But this one was pretty good. I laughed a lot - which is all that matters.
Still a little too obvious compared to what Dan Harmon did but the absurdity of the 99% protest was vintage Community.

It was like someone had accidentally broadcast a spec script or possibly fan fiction. Having established that the group were monsters in... that one with Todd and the tortoise. No one needed to hear that restated.
There was nothing here that rang true, either in the characters or relationships it felt like someone had accidentally hit reset.

I get change, Troy's adventures in air conditioning, the apartment and Chang's private army from last season were signs of a show exploring comedic options. Now it feel like there is no-one with an overview of how to develop that, give it purpose and take it forward.

I'm hoping this episode is why we've waited months for Community's return, and that shocked by its quality, the team behind the show decided to do it all again, only good.

I agree with this. The only real LOL moment was the Cherman running over saying "There must be nearly 100 luft ballons!". Great joke.

But otherwise, an episode that felt 20 years out of date.

Come on, Community! You can do better than this.

Hogan's Heroes was less It Ain't Half Hot Mum and more 'Allo 'Allo, and more of a spoof of POW movies like The Great Escape and Stalag 17 (the authors of the latter unsuccessfully sued the network which made Hogan's Heroes for plagiarism). In retrospect it has indeed been castigated as one of the worst shows in TV history, though more for the overall idea than because of the acting or writing.
As for Community, it's like the steak that was put through Seth Brundle's telepod: it *seems* to be like the original, until you taste it...

You nailed it with fan fiction. That's exactly what these past three episodes have felt like (because I maintain that the first episode was a brilliant new direction to take the show in, in keeping with the show's mentality completely). Isn't Troy stupid? Laugh. Isn't Pierce inappropriate? Laugh. Isn't Abed fixated on TV? Laugh. Doesn't Shirley have children? Laugh. It is starting to feel like it has been polished and honed into what NBC always wanted it to be, a comedy like all other comedies.

I agree with you, and episode 5 now is just very good. I mean that.

Ep 4 is up there with any of the best Community has done. Ive never seen Hogan's Heroes but it still worked - the Germans referring to "Hogan's Villians" was genius, their europop serve was brilliant, and the line "all the time we thought the Germans were the Germans, but its turns out WE'RE the Germans" was perfect. I showed it to a German mate btw and he loved it too,

Lol season 3 sucked ass. Season 4 the characters are actually human and not boring cartoons, imo the show has gotten a hundred times better since they stopped trying to make every episode another paintball episode.

The Germans are still trying to take over the world, only this time with the economy instead of war, so th epoint is still exploitable they already nearly run all the banks in Europe by forced takeover, There were some comic gold pieces in this episode mainly when the Germans are walking out the room after making some terrible puns and you can hear "you know English is my second language yah", still makes me laugh typing it out

Thank you. Without Dan Harmon at the helm, it's amazing how quickly this show is crashing and burning. This episode really felt like everybody in charge was yelling "Look, Ma, without hands!"

Like pigsty said, "fan fiction" describes the feel of this episode perfectly. In case you haven't heard in the meantime, Dan Harmon is coming back in the fifth season as a showrunner. He's the one with the overview, and he wasn't on board for season 4.

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