Community, Season 4, Episode 4: “Alternative History of the German Invasion”
Written by Ben Wexler
Directed by Steven Tsuchida
Airs Thursdays at 8pm ET on NBC
It’s difficult to say whether the coherence of “Alternative History of the German Invasion” is a product of the episode itself or the low-standards Season Four has set. It’s not quite as good as Megan Ganz’ Halloween episode and is far from perfect, but it is a distinct improvement upon the season premiere and the Inspecticon episode. Using it as a gauge for the rest of the season to come proves difficult as it was initially intended to follow the premiere (which explains why the premiere’s Chang cliffhanger has been ignored for two weeks).
Whether NBC moved it to air the Halloween episode on a holiday or because they felt it was weaker and wanted to hold off until after sweeps is difficult to tell. If they decided it was better to lead with more high-concept episodes to reassure fans Community is still weird, that is perhaps a less understandable decision. It is the fact that this episode is grounded in typical community college going-ons in the classroom and study room that sets it apart. This feeling extends to the characters, Annie and Britta seem less manic than they have in the previous weeks, more relatable.
Of course, the episode does devolve into a parody of Hogan’s Heroes, with the group realizing that they are the Nazis. It’s always nice when a sitcom addresses the un-likeability of its characters, and tying it into their history lectures is good writing. However, as weird as it is to say, Nazi comparisons have become something of a cliché in our culture and they make it difficult to take anything from the episode, so maybe it’s not a step up at all.
Archer, Season 4, Episode 7: “Live and Let Dine”
Written by Adam Reed
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on FX
“Live and Let Dine” is the best episode to date of Archer’s fourth season. The show excels at utilizing guest stars, and here Adam Reed crafts an episode perfectly tuned to Anthony Bourdain’s sensibilities. What could come off as a gimmick actually functions as a fine-tuned comedic machine. The reality show framework allows for some great gags, from Cyril and Ray’s aliases (Chet Manley and Gilles de Rais, respectively) to punctuating every joke with “Boom! Bumper!”
The change in perspective brings a freshness to the show that hasn’t always been present this season. It’s been consistently entertaining, but the focus on serialization and an increased familiarity has seemed to dull the show’s edge a bit. As a result, “Live and Let Dine” is the first episode this year that has been on par with the series’ best.
Bourdain is basically playing a younger version of himself, but for a non-actor he performs rather admirably. He has a panache for profanity that is perfectly suited to the show, and it’s fitting that Archer would view his character as something of a father figure (another running theme this season). The plotting is sharp as well, the third act twist is quite amusing and Barry and Katya’s appearance ties it into the rest of the season. Anthony Bourdain on Archer brought with it high expectations, and it would be hard to argue they were not met.