Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Usually people think they yearn for a time and a place in their personal history, but what they really look back on is a feeling. In this week of Community Lite, the study group plus one Dean looks back fondly on the 1950s and 1990s concurrently (more on that in a moment). But I just looked back on a show desperate to recapture its first season, making me nostalgic for what was in the episode and what was not.
The Dean and Britta are at war. Realizing that there has not been an onscreen dance since Season 2 (not counting when he rents out the library for dayglow Gay bar raves in the show’s junior year), Dean Pelton has decided to throw a dance for Greendale. He calls it a Sadie Hawkins dance, so that the women can invite the men. Oh Dean, how we know that you dream of Jeff asking you. Oh yes, we know.
Anywho, Britta is offended that this is the “one day a year” that women are allowed to pick their mates and decides to hold a counter-protest dance in the same school cafeteria. Except hers shall be named after women’s lib icon, Sophie B. Hawkins….yeah, she Britta-ed that. Of course she meant Susan B. Anthony. Her friends and the show’s writers even acknowledge her dead cat was named after the icon. But dammit, Britta cannot possibly be told that she’s Britta-ed something else. The line must be drawn here and no further! So, she sticks to her brain fart and insists the dance is in honor of Sophie Hawkins, the 1990s soft rock/pop star of such instantly dated guilty pleasures like “As I Lay Me Down.” Come on, you know if it came on the radio tomorrow and you were driving alone….you would let it play through. Admit it.
Thus, the school is at war. On the one side, you have the Dean going all out with his classic high school theme by making half the cafeteria look like a nauseating late night infomercial for 1950s pop music CDs and cassette tapes. An the other end, Britta gets that vague satisfied-with-low-ambition ‘90s counter-culture vibe going like she is straight from the Seattle underground of 1992 or snoochy boochy-ing Jersey circa ‘95. As the Dean says, “A large percentage of Greendale students sort of ‘gave up’ in the mid-90s, so for many of them, Sophie B. Hawkins is the most recent music they’re aware of.” But Britta continues to insist her impossible dream will happen thanks to Pierce’s Madoff-inspired pep talks and Jeff’s general condescension to her creating a Brit-tastrophe (he may as well copyright it).
There is another sub-plot about both Annie and Shirley trying to set Abed up on a date, thus allowing him to book one for each dance. He obviously plans to do the classic double date sitcom switcheroo, Jack Tripper style. Even though he admits it is a step backwards for him to jump into meta worlds of “delusion” (or lucidity for a TV character), it at least feels like Abed. By the end of the show, he has met a third girl as equally Geeky and obscure as himself, but I appreciated most he simply concedes that for every step of “growth” he makes, he falls back into old habits. The writers are throwing in the towel on progressing the characters any further. And eight episodes in, it is probably for the best.
I really enjoyed this episode. It is not as good as “Advanced Documentary Filmmaking” from earlier in the season, nor does it reach the ‘dance’ episode classics from freshman year, but it creates a level of nostalgia for that old timey Community from the long, long time ago. All the characters’ voices felt authentic and nobody seemed to behave abnormally for just a joke, save for Abed who shamefully owns up to his own regressive actions. It is a light-hearted dance themed episode that features the Dean dressing literally in black and white make-up and a guest spot from Sophie B. Hawkins (Pierce paid for her to show up). And yes, she does sing the “Lay Me Down” song. Ah, memories of the ‘90s; ah, Season 1 of Community. Sure, it was only in 2009, yet it is nice to be reminded of those early quality bite-sized comedy gems. Even if it is from a novelty token that has all the authenticity of a 1950s diner that serves $5 Martin and Lewis Shakes.
P.S. Am I the only one who thought they were taking a dig at New Girl and Zooey Deschanel with Annie’s set-up date? She looks nothing like Jess, but she does communicate only through song, bubbles and balloons. It was kind of funny… if that is what they were going for….