Thursday Comedy Roundup: ‘Community’ 4.10 & ‘Parks & Rec’ 4.19 & 4.20

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Community - Season 4

Community, Season 4, Episode 10: “Intro to Knots”
Written by Andy Bobrow
Directed by Tristram Shapeero
Airs Thursdays at 8pm ET on NBC

Let’s talk for a second about Abed Nadir. In a lot of ways, he seems emblematic of the problems that have hamstrung Community’s fourth season. As soon as he arrives at Jeff’s Christmas party, he is actively trying to mold it into a Die Hard homage. This isn’t unprecedented behavior for Abed, he shaped what is perhaps the series’ best episode “Critical Film Studies” into a My Dinner With Andrew homage, but recently it seems to be his sole motivating concern week in and week out. It feels like a shift in his character. If we take a look at “Cooperative Calligraphy,” an episode “Intro to Knots” closely resembles. Abed constantly comments “It’s a bottle episode!” but he is not attempting to propagate it. Abed seems to have gone from being primarily reactive, commenting on things as they unfold, to primarily proactive.

This seems to be the case across the board. Sure Britta is a psychology major, and that is very important to her. However, rather than having that guide her reactions to things, she is often proactively imposing that on her surroundings. With a few exceptions this year—“Paranormal Parentage,” the Sophie B. Hawkins episode, and last week’s “Intro to Felt Surrogacy”—this has more often than not been the case. The writers seem to be forcing the character’s traits on to the story, using them to drive the story, rather than writing stories that allow the characters to react organically.

That’s certainly the case in “Intro to Knots.” The majority of the episode is spent explaining to the audience what is happening rather than just sitting back and letting things unfold. It’s nice to spend some time with Malcolm McDowell’s character, and his attempts to poke and prod at the tenuous bands holding the group together are indeed the most rewarding part. Unfortunately, whatever good will is earned by this is undermined by a horribly executed, confusingly placed, dark timeline referencing tag.

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Parks and Recreation, Season 5, Episodes 19 & 20: “Article Two” & “Jerry’s Retirement”
“Article Two” Written by Matt Murray and Directed by Amy Poehler
“Jerry’s Retirement” Written by Norm Hiscock & Aisha Muharrar and Directed by Nicole Holofcener
Airs Thursdays at 8:30pm ET on NBC

The outtake from Patton Oswalt’s Star Wars filibuster that NBC released online earlier this week set a high bar for “Article Two,” but the episode manages it to clear it. Parks and Recreation has built itself into an excellent outlet for political satire. “Article Two” tries to discover the point at which a strict interpretation of the constitution becomes ridiculous. Is it when talking about what you think will happen in J. J. Abrams’ Star Wars film is a legitimate way to delay legislation, or is it when you are throwing a guy named Ted into a pond against his will on a yearly basis because of a typo?

The answer is probably somewhere in between those two poles. The Constitution is undoubtedly the epoch of self-governance, but “Article Two” also questions the wisdom in adhering to a code of conduct prescribed by people that were not even around for the Industrial Revolution. It’s understandable that after 200 years a few cosmetic tweaks may be necessary to adjust for revolutions in the way we live. “Article Two” makes this point and features a wonderful guest turn by Patton Oswalt.

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Jerry Gergich is eternally the butt of everyone’s jokes, yet despite that he is forever grateful and his enthusiasm knows no bounds. This is the aspect of his character celebrated in “Jerry’s Retirement.” Typical of his coworkers, they don’t even realize he’s retiring until he’s ready to walk out the door with all his possessions in tow. Leslie attempts to help him fulfill his professional ambitions before leaving, but they prove unfruitful. This doesn’t faze Jerry. The effort Leslie puts in to help him realize his dreams seems to make him happier than their fulfillment would.

Leslie’s visit to his house reveals why. Jerry’s family life could be described as perfect if there wasn’t a hint of cultishness in the air. The thing is, while the office tries to figure out who’s going to take Jerry’s spot as the office oaf, who will become the “Jerry,” we see that Jerry is not “Jerry” at home. He is even graceful, catching Leslie’s cup as she drops it. It’s this loving family that allows him to approach life with his ‘aw, shucks’ attitude.

It inspires Leslie to discuss starting a family with Ben. It’s the logical next step for their relationship now that they are married, and with Chris and Ann moving in that direction, season six could be a baby heavy edition of Parks and Recreation. “Jerry’s Retirement” holds Jerry’s unfailing optimism up to the light, his inability to let anything get him down. It’s an aspect of the character we could all learn something from, and one that will be missed of Jim O’Heir disappears from the show.

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