Wow! What a fantastic episode! Community’s back, everyone!Nah, just messing with you. This episode continues the crystallization of the new “average madcap sitcom” Community. It was a fine distinction between the Community of old and any other situational comedy with implausible happenings regularly taking place, but Community seasons 1 through 3 balanced their zaniness with a lot of sincerity. There were great pains taken to make certain that, as crazy as Greendale got, it remained true to itself. Season 2’s Halloween episode, “Epidemiology”, for example, found a way to work zombieism into the show’s world and was still, shockingly, canon with events that took place in it having repercussions later in the season.“Herstory of Dance”, like much of Season 4, has little to no interest in being true to the show’s world or its characters. There’s some good stuff here, but the core concepts driving the episode plots are totally lazy and sink the show all the deeper into the depths of sitcom cheese.There are two plots. The first is that the Dean is holding a Sadie Hawkins’ dance so Britta, finding this sexist, decides to throw her own dance, a Sophie B. Hawkins dance. See, Britta meant to say she’d throw a Susan B. Anthony dance but when the group calls her out on this she refuses to acknowledge her mistake, insisting she meant Sophie B. Hawkins and assuring everyone that Sophie B. Hawkins will be performing at her dance.This is madness. I know Britta has gotten dumber over the course of the series, but really? Why is she suddenly so nuts that she’s planning an entire dance around something she said by accident? Britta’s insane dedication to this ploy just stretches things past where they feel true to the character.The other plot is that Shirley and Annie are competing to see who can find a date for Abed for the dance(s). Shirley and Annie for some reason become really competitive about this pretty much just because. Yes, they’ve been competitive in the past, like in Season 1’s “Science of Illusion” when they joined campus security both wanting to be the bad cop, but it was set up better and felt true to their characters. In this case, it’s unclear why they wouldn’t just work together to help Abed.Abed ends up saying he’ll go to two dances with two girls because his instinct to get involved with sitcom-style hijinks gets the better of him. Fine… I guess this is enough like Abed (at least some version of him anyway), but the episode handles it by just having Abed comment on how he’s indulging in clichéd sitcom situations as the episode, well, indulges in clichéd sitcom situations.Ultimately, it’s the ending of this episode that drives home what a different show this version of Community is. Everything just wraps up so perfectly and nicely in really cheap ways. Pierce’s wealth is used as a deus ex machina to get Sophie B. Hawkins to perform at the dance(s) and Abed jacks the mic from her to give some romantic speech to get back the girl he likes who supposedly left but, once she hears Abed’s speech, just reappears again like she was standing out in the hall or something. I’m not saying it’s stupid because it’s too nice; Community has always worn its heart on its sleeve. But the way the episode reaches this niceness is sloppy and feels unreal.[Related Article: Chevy Chase, Retrospective]There’s good stuff in “Herstory of Dance”. I laughed at loud at a good number of the jokes in the cold open (which lately seems to be where the best of the show lies before the plot derails it) and I liked the Dean’s line “Boooo, looks like someone underestimated the time it takes to plan a dance!” Also, the bit at the end where Pierce tells Jeff he should give Britta a break and just plain be nicer to her actually did feel right and like a decent progression of the characters’ relationships. It’s weird that the non-crappy character stuff for these past two episodes has come directly from Pierce, considering the rumor is that Chevy Chase was completely checked out at this point and working him into stories was a chore. But, whatever, I still think he’s doing good stuff in these episodes, maybe not a lot of stuff, but it’s pretty good stuff anyway.All in all, if the hackneyed sitcom premises here don’t get to you, “Herstory of Dance” hits some of the right notes. But if you’re like me, though you’ll enjoy yourself here and there, you’ll find that these plots pervert and cheapen everything that takes place within them.
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