Thursday Comedy Roundup: ‘Community’ 4.05 & ‘Archer’ 4.08

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Community, Season 4, Episode 5: “Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations”
Written by Steve Basilone & Annie Mebane
Directed by Tristram Shapeero
Airs Thursdays at 8pm ET on NBC

Reviewing comedy can be a difficult proposition at times as so often it comes down to your own personal sense of humor. You can attempt to focus on story-structure, performances, characters, theme, and, if the show is deep enough to warrant such analysis, that’s usually sufficient. However, when reflecting back on “Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations” from the team of Steve Basilone & Annie Mebane who delivered Season Three’s superlative “Introduction to Finality” as well as the relatively abysmal “Regional Holiday Music,” the problem is often that it just isn’t funny, and as far as that goes, your mileage may vary.

Which isn’t to suggest it’s perfect on all those other fronts. The group’s desire to escape Shirley’s Thanksgiving is arrived at a bit too quickly and without any rationale, Jeff’s encounter with his father is a bit schematic and sentimental in a sitcommy way (which was something Harmon’s show indulged in from time to time), Britta is closer to the Britta of episodes 1-3 than the rational Britta that appeared in episode 4, and Jeff’s gesture of generosity doesn’t feel completely earned. The thing is, most of these problems could have easily been ignored if the episode was just a little funnier.

Let’s focus on what did work. For the first time this season Pierce has felt integral to the group as opposed to the rather insufferable butt of everyone’s jokes. While the attempt to invoke The Shawshank Redemption initially seemed a bit forced, it was redeemed as Abed realized he was losing control of the homage as it veered towards Prison Break. His relinquishing control and going all-in with the map on his stomach was a great punchline and represents character growth in a uniquely Abedian way. So it wasn’t a total loss, and with these two more reserved episodes airing back-to-back there is a feeling that the writers are beginning to get a handle on the show. It still has a long way to go, but there seems to be an attempt to settle it down and get comfortable enough to regroup and move forward with confidence.

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Archer, Season 4, Episode 8: “Coyote Lovely”
Written by Adam Reed
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on FX

Adam Reed saw fit to play with structure again this week, framing the entire episode within an interrogation conducted by Malory. As she interviews Lana and Cyril, the details of the bungled mission, and Archer’s role in them, begin to emerge. It’s a fun episode with lots of great reveals, but the most telling is the discovery that Malory is, much like last week, working against the ISIS agent.

ISIS has never been the most ethical of operations, and its employees have always been recklessly selfish. This season there seems to be a shift. Either the show is getting more bold, or there is something in the works. The scene in “Once Bitten” with Lana questioning her loyalty to the organization, and Adam Reed’s general fastidiousness, would seem to point to the latter.

On the flip side, Archer’s ability to recover from near death experiences is bordering on the parodic. Perhaps it’s just this episode’s proximity to “Once Bitten,” but it seems Adam Reed & co. are going to this well more frequently than they have in the past. On the plus side, with two incredibly funny episodes in a row, it would appear things are gearing up for a satisfying end to the season.

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