This review contains spoilers.
3.11 Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts
Finally back on our screens after its extended suspension for alleged incomprehensible behaviour, Community’s all-too-quirky students cordially invite you to a wedding – Greendale style…
Yes, you read that right. A wedding. At Greendale. Classy. And who’s the poor soul that has to spend her wedding day looking at Leonard and listening to Jeff and Britta whine? Who else but Shirley. Thanks to a surprise proposal in the college cafeteria – again, classy – Shirley will once again be a happily married woman. Or more likely, just a married woman. Stereo stores don’t run themselves you know.
While Shirley’s repeat nuptials might not seem like traditional Community material, the Theo Huxtable-fuelled, acapella 90s swing proposal gave Team Community the room to make some very salient points, not least that Jeff and Pierce’s daddy issues need some serious attention. In a Shirley-centric episode, in between in-depth discussion about sandwiches and flowers, Urban Matrimony waxed wise about the necessity for compromise in any long term relationship, the need to accept the changing nature of a chosen partner, and the rejection of enforced roles that seem demeaning. Anyone else get the feeling marriage isn’t really what’s being discussed here?
The show’s current network troubles have been well documented; whatever the rights and wrongs of the enforced hiatus, we could be forgiven for worrying that the show’s removal from the schedules would see a weaker, less interesting Community on its return. Can Community keep its nerdy core while satisfying NBC’s lust for The Big Bang Theory sized audiences? The short answer is possibly. Thankfully, Urban Matrimony did not resort to appalling 80s throwback comedy with the least funny group of non-threatening actors ever to grace a TV studio.
Instead, we were treated to a subtle, layered protest of an episode, that paid lip service to the so-called problems with the show – Troy and Abed’s bout of self-imposed normalcy being the most overt – while doing its damndest to remain the sharp, strange and inherently superb show we all love. The result was an oddly 30 Rock-esque episode – in feeling rather than tone or action – which while it had its moments, clearly had a higher purpose to serve.
Not that story was completely ignored in favour of protest. Thanks to the large amount of booze available at most weddings, there was plenty of scope for drunken honesty – in particular Britta’s dawning realisation that she’s set for a decidedly average existence leading to some hilarious fake wedding vows, and Jeff’s child-like reaction –at 40 years old – to the revelation that parents sometimes lie. And that’s where Community managed to stay true to its core – grown men crying, grown men dressing up like Gordon Gekko, and a stinging dig at Jim Belushi – all authentic Community and all hilarious. And yes, Pierce was Gekko not Bateman – Patrick Bateman wouldn’t be seen dead with that haircut.
Outside of the protest-style marriage-is-a-prison theme, Shirley also found herself coming very close to going into business with Pierce – having been kicked out of Hawthorne Industries for being an incompetent fool, it’s time for him to throw money at something almost worthwhile. He and Shirley pitch the Dean for the catering concession in the cafeteria – unsuccessfully, as it turns out – nearly missing the bride’s wedding in the process.
This being TVland of course, everything turned out all right in the end – Shirley can begin married life a few days early, thanks to a priest who would rather lose $70 than come back to Greendale a second time, and none of the students will ever have to eat anything that Pierce has touched, so total win-win.
So, can Community keep its place in the schedules? If the new goal is accessibility, Urban Matrimony makes a good start, but removing Troy and Abed from the equation is perhaps a little bit of a cheat. It’s also the most disappointing element of the return episode – the pair often deliver the show’s strongest comedy, and having them ‘normal’ just wasn’t funny. But then, perhaps that was the point… The show’s real test will be keeping this same level of accessibility and keeping T&A as funny as they should be – that will be one hell of a balancing act, and if nothing else, it’ll be interesting watching Team Community attempt it.