Thursday Comedy Roundup: ‘Community’ 4.08, ‘Parks & Rec’ 5.17, & ‘Archer’ 4.12

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Community - Season 4

Community, Season 4, Episode 8: “Herstory of Dance”
Written by Jack Kukoda
Directed by Tristram Shapeero
Airs Thursdays at 8pm ET on NBC

“Herstory of Dance” is a surprisingly sweet episode of Community. What initially seems like a rather lazy Abed plot, another example of him attempting to enact fictional tropes in the real world, is granted another, deeper level when Brie Larson’s Rebecca assists him in his hijinks. In that moment, it transcends the emptiness of Abed’s arc this season and becomes truly affecting. It also nicely incorporates itself into the A-plot as Abed interrupts Sophie B. Hawkins to declare his love to Rebecca. A moment particularly moving because, while Abed is again exploiting a trope, he’s doing it out of genuine human emotion rather than a calculated attempt to remove himself from the world, to neatly pack the chaos of reality into three-act boxes.

The A-plot is also exceptionally funny this week, something that hasn’t always been the case this season. From the moment the Dean shows up not only in a typical 1950s housewife outfit but also in black and white, the laughs are there. Even funnier is Britta’s dogged insistence that she did in fact mean Sophie B. Hawkins and not Susan B. Anthony. That’s the other area in which this episode succeeds; it really seems to understand Britta’s character. It sees her as more than a mass of manic tics and misguided attempts to psychoanalyze her peers.

It’s possible the early season episodes lowered the standards we hold Community to, but it does seem to have settled into a space where it can be, if not groundbreaking, at least above-average which, with the relationships we’ve built up with these characters over the years, might be enough.

Parks and Recreation - Season 5

Parks and Recreation, Season 5, Episode 17: “Partridge”
Written by Dave King
Directed by Tristram Shapeero
Airs Thursdays at 8:30pm ET on NBC

There is always a sense of relief when Parks and Recreation returns from a hiatus. Ron gleefully laughing (something the show is perhaps overusing, but is anyone complaining?) upon hearing he has won a free dinner at St. Elmo’s steakhouse only to destroy the wall with a baseball bat upon realizing Jamm has sued him is about as perfect a reentry into Pawnee’s Parks and Recreation department as one could hope for. We also visit Ben’s hometown of Partridge, meeting his sister, portrayed by Annabeth Gish, and a vindictive mayor portrayed in a typically excellent turn from J.K. Simmons.

Simmons’ character is named Mayor Stice, which highlights a strange undercurrent in “Partridge.” In David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus Infinite Jest (on which Michael Schur wrote his graduate thesis), the character Ortho Stice is from Partridge, KS. A second viewing of “Partridge” reveals just about every ancillary character and major location is named after a character from Infinite Jest from the law firm of Gately, Wayne, Kittenplan & Troelsch, to the Fackleman Memorial Hospital, to the C.T. Tavis Medical Building (also Drs. Clipperton and Van Dyne as well as the Incandenza-Pemulis Parent Compatability Test). It is strange because none of this really has any bearing on what is happening in the episode; it’s merely a basket full of Easter eggs for fellow DFW aficionados.

The episode itself is quite strong, building on Ben’s history as mayor of Partridge and subsequent Ice Town fiasco while furthering the larger Ann and Jamm arcs. The key to the city ceremony echoes the campaign rally in last year’s “The Comeback Kid,” and Ben on morphine is wonderful.

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Archer, Season 4, Episode 12: “Sea Tunt: Part I”
Written by Adam Reed
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on FX

Those who lamented the absence of Eugene Mirman and Kristin Schaal from the Bob’s Burgers crossover in the season premiere will be pleased with this week’s Archer, as there is plenty of them to go round. Portraying Cheryl’s brother Cecil and his wife, they take the ISIS crew on a mission that seems ill-advised before it goes wrong and then goes even wronger. This is a pretty traditional trajectory for an episode of Archer, but as “Sea Tunt: Part I” primarily exists to set up Part II, one assumes there are a few more levels to go before we plumb the depths of catastrophe.

It further develops the rift that has been growing between Lana and Malory’s perception of what ISIS should be. Lana thinking they should at least attempt to be ethical while their careening reputation has Malory desperately clinging to schemes that test the limits of human indecency, like holding a nuclear warhead hostage. This is punctuated by Pam, in a turn that could serve as a metaphor for Malory’s self-destructive impulses, gluttonously devouring vegan-shellfish despite her intense soy allergy. In fact, everyone’s self-destructive impulses seem to be on display this week, be it Archer’s drinking himself into a stupor or Cheryl nearly wrecking the helicopter in a display of rage toward her sister-in-law. But Jon Hamm doesn’t make his much ballyhooed appearance until the very end of part I, so the self-destruction has only just begun.

Justin Wier





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