Community: Intro to Felt Surrogacy, Review

Is it getting better? Have they remembered how to write the intricate plots? Find out.

This is the episode I’ve enjoyed most of Season 4 and I think I understand why.What Season 4 has really blatantly lost is the intricacy of the writing that the series used to have. The result of this is plots that feel lazy and sloppy and jokes that aren’t often that witty or sometimes don’t land whatsoever, coming off as convoluted and confusing, rather than brilliantly crafted.Where the show still manages to sporadically succeed is when it mines the emotional connections we already have to these characters because it doesn’t even have to do a lot to actually make that stuff work. In fact, I’d say the majority of the jokes these days draw from the well of “oh, don’t you love it and isn’t it cute when [INSERT CHARACTER HERE] says this or acts like that?” This doesn’t make for a lot of laughs, but it does (perhaps unfairly) revive some of the warm fuzzies I regularly used to get in full effect from Community. It also seems to lend itself well to the dramatic moments where comedy isn’t the goal whatsoever, like in the Thanksgiving episode when Jeff told his disturbing story to his estranged father about cutting himself just to get attention in school.

So “Intro to Felt Surrogacy” does pretty okay because it’s almost entirely focused on the warm fuzzy bits and a few chunks of drama. It certainly isn’t an episode trying hard to have a solid or complex plot. Here, I’ll sum it up for you:The gang has been awkward around each other lately. We learn it’s because they went on a hot air balloon ride because they were bored, the balloon crashed, and then they all ate hallucinogenic berries and told each other their darkest secrets. Back in the present, they realize nobody remembers anyone else’s secret anyway, but, in recapping what happened, Shirley ends up revealing her secret again, this time while everyone’s sober, making her feel awkward, so everyone else reveals their secrets again to make her feel better. That’s it.The only reason they get away with a plot this flimsy and absurd is that this is the puppet episode where the whole gang is represented by puppets. The setup for why they’re puppets is flimsy too, but, oh well, whatever, I guess. It doesn’t seem to do anything all that inventive with the puppet premise other than use it as an excuse for a couple of musical numbers, which, luckily, are pretty catchy, so they got away with those not being all that funny, too.Basically, the first half of the episode made me cringe like crazy. The Dean is being way too ridiculous in general and there’s the reintroduction of the new aspect of his character (which has felt wrong to me since the season premiere) of him coming on to Jeff much more overtly. Plus, as I’ve explained, the setup is total nonsense crap and only gets worse when the gang takes the hallucino-berries for no real reason. But, eventually, all that stuff falls away and we just get a nice moment between these familiar characters where they sing a little song and I guess grow closer together (though whether it’s in any meaningful way is up to debate). And, hey, there are some good jokes, too. In fact, there were probably a few more than usual, like the reference to a strip club named “The Landing Strip” and Shirley’s bad Judge Judy pun.Intro to Felt Surrogacy” makes a good case for the whole show being told in puppet form from now on. With the lower budget, the series has gotten crappier and crappier looking, but, when everyone’s a puppet, it’s easier to accept all the unrealistic environments and cheap-looking green screen effects. Really, when everyone’s a puppet, I just feel less critical on the whole of all the stuff that would normally feel like it was actively decimating what the show once was. Also, if they hadn’t been puppets, there would’ve been something really disturbing about watching Jason Alexander hand-feed everyone berries.