Community season 2 episode 17 review: Intro To Political Science

It's student election time in the latest episode of Community. And Emma salutes the satire count, as it goes through the roof...

2.17 Intro To Political Science

It’s student election time at Greendale this week, thanks to a Joe Biden-themed MacGuffin that sees the college squeeze an entire election, campaigns, primaries, debates and vote counting, into just seven hours. With all lessons apparently suspended and the cafeteria taken over as election central, its democracy Community style, with just a little touch of Jon Stewart.

Annie is, of course, the first student to decide to run for president, and after insulting Jeff’s lawyerly prowess, it’s only normal he’d decide to teach her a lesson and runs as well. Isn’t that how all politicians get started?

Standing against the likes of Leonard, Magnitude (he of the highly irritating and five years out of date ‘pop pop’) and Starburns, surely Jeff is a sho–in for the win, right? Charming, great hair, knows his way around a sound bite, and can communicate with the student on the street, he’s a Republican wet dream of a candidate.

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However, messing with Annie’s political ambitions would appear to be a very bad idea.  When Jeff’s empty slogans prove a little too popular,she resorts to the sort of dirty tricks guaranteed to get you a Republican nomination, very publicly reducing the smug ex-lawyer to tears. Actual tears. Revealing Jeff’s shady past as a Real World wannabe, Annie proves that nobody who ever thought George Michael was cool should ever be allowed into politics. Turns out there’s a little bit of that pit bull with lipstick (otherwise known as Sarah Palin) in little Annie Adderall, and it scares the bejesus out of her. And us.

Of course, not being actual politicians, both Jeff and Annie realise their mistake and pull out of the race, swiftly followed by everyone but Leonard and Magnitude, essentially reducing the election to a choice between two equally annoying catchphrases. And they say TV isn’t realistic. So far, so Jon Stewart, but as a comment on the nature of modern politics, and the role TV has played in the dumbing down of democracy (Fox news, they’re talking to you),  it’s spot on. It may not necessarily be original (see Jon Stewart), but it’s a superb treatment of the ridiculous lengths both politicians and TV news will go to to get your vote.

Sadly, as the results show, when there’s nobody worth voting for, no matter what your TV says, the majority of the populace just won’t vote, which leaves Troy and Abed free to successfully install South Park as the Greendale Student President. Am I the only one who sees an eerie similarity between Eric Cartman and Dick Cheney?

Lofty political analysis aside, the episode was, as always, full of the sort of touches that Community is so good at, the blink and you’ll miss them gags that, if you’re paying attention, can turn a good episode into a great episode. From the Fox-esque news reports with Troy and Abed, to the crawl and candidate info during the reports, and Jeff and Annie’s Republican-style sloganeering, the writing team doesn’t miss an opportunity to make you laugh. And it’s in no way a slapdash ‘let’s throw everything we’ve got at them’ approach. It’s more a well thought out concentration of funny, and it’s fabulous.

Elsewhere, the purported Joe Biden visit means a secret service presence at the college is necessary, allowing Abed to start a tentative, arms length flirtation with one of the agents. It’s a match made in heaven, no physical contact, very little emotional involvement (neither one of them is capable of that) and he gets to choose the date movie. Being observed from a surveillance van has that advantage, at least.

Communicating with his date through hidden mics, car horn code and TV broadcasts somehow makes the suspector/suspected interaction Abed’s perfect relationship. Outside of his bromance with Troy ‘Butt Soup’ Barne,s of course. 

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In a similar way, having Jeff and Annie square off over the student elections is a nice way of not only forcing Jeff to admit that he’s kind of an ass, but of moving on the will they/won’t they arc. It seems that, ridiculous age gap aside, these two might actually be moving towards some kind of resolution to the sexual tension that caused this mess in the first place. Question is: can they get away with it? An official Jeff/Annie coupling might be a push too far, but it’ll be interesting to see where the writers eventually take it.

With a nod to the wonders of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Intro To Political Science is, without doubt, one of the more satirical episodes Community has produced so far. It’s still out and out funny, but with a much clearer real world application than we’re used to seeing.

This is a show so confident in its audience and its own strengths, that it’s more than happy to step outside its usual remit, and still produce an episode that is uniquely Community. Network TV take note: this is how you make great TV.

Read our review of episode 16, Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking, here.

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