Community season 2 episode 1 review: Anthropology 101

Life lessons, smug ex-lawyers and one of the funniest cameos you’ll see this year. Community returns for its second season with a touch of comic genius…

2.1 Anthropology 101

As the fall season gets under way in the US, one of the surprise hits of last year marked a triumphant return to NBC this week, the fabulous Community, back for its sophomore year and more college-related situation comedy.

Based around the continuing adventures of the professionally smug ex-lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale, The Informant) and his race to get a real degree at a cheap college, the Breakfast Club-style shenanigans of the show (disparate group of people thrown together discover they have more in common than they realize) helped make Community one of the freshest shows to appear since the amazing 30 Rock.  Helped by a generous dose of pop culture referencing and some fantastic comedy, as well as one of the best character creations this side of Dale Cooper (Abed is a genius), it’s a show for TV and movie nerds everywhere, and is all the better for it.

Conforming to the sitcom conventions it so often spoofs, the show ended its first season with a classic love triangle cliffhanger. Britta declared her love for the engagingly smug Winger, only to be left standing when he leaves to walk into the arms of 18-year-old Annie, the baby of the group.

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The new season kicks off with an unexpected case of Britta-mania at the college. Apparently, she’s ‘the Aniston’ a woman who bares her soul but gets dumped anyway, thereby exponentially increasing her popularity among women. Jeff, being the insecure bundle of neuroses held together with a layer of spray tan that he is, hatches a scheme to regain his all-important popularity. This, of course, backfires when he ends up fake-engaged to Britta, having his nose broken by Annie, and wearing the anthropology teacher’s urine. Life lesson learned, normal service is resumed by the end of the episode. It is a sitcom, after all.

Not that things haven’t changed just a little in the Greendale-verse. Señor Chang is now student Chang, and angling to join the tight knit group, which is fantastic news. Ken Jeong’s (The Hangover) turn as the ridiculously arrogant fake Spanish teacher was hilarious, and his continued presence on the show can only be a good thing.

For an opening episode, though, Anthropology 101 could almost be considered a little ho-hum. But rather than let the through arc from last season dominate the episode, creator Dan Harmon and his team decided to celebrate their return in a slightly different way, with a very special guest appearance. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ms. Betty White.

Yup. Comedy genius, Betty White, always the funniest Golden Girl, makes a fantastic cameo as the anthropology teacher, a urine-drinking mental case with a penchant for hunting big game, or Jeff, as he’s more commonly known.

Seeing Ms. White attack Winger with a homemade crossbow is one of the most satisfying scenes of the entire run, and is enough to make the episode a must see on its own. Sadly, her character is suspended after the attack, which seems harsh (Jeff just has one of those faces), although she’s back at the end of the episode for an anthropology-themed cover of Toto’s 80s classic Africa.  If you’ve never seen Betty White rapping you simply haven’t lived.

And that’s what makes this show so appealing. It’s not just the great dialogue, superb references and Abed’s existence. It’s choices like giving the White appearance time to breathe, in favour of the love triangle, or Abed’s manipulation of the group for a more sitcom-like experience, that make Community stand out.

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Season one was funny, inventive and even touching in places. Oon this evidence, it’s looking likely that season two will continue that trend. Or they could just make Betty White a regular.

Either way, it’s definitely worth 22 minutes of your week. So, what are you waiting for? Get watching!