Gillian Jacobs

‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 12 Review: “Basic Story”

It’s not often that you get to see a major network television show arguing with itself. But that’s one of the surprises, and pleasures, of “Basic Story,” the first installment in Community’s two-part fifth season finale, which spends much of its first half suspiciously tiptoeing around the idea that, for once, Greendale Community College is free of chaos, its staff and students utterly content. “Usually a lot more than this happens in 30 minutes,” notes Abed, at the end of a half-hour of study group playing-on-their-phones time, and that denomination of time isn’t accidental. For a show that spends plenty of time playing in the meta sandbox, this week’s episode represents a continuation (after last week’s “G.I. Jeff”) of the idea of pushing beyond inside jokes and self-awareness, and genuinely exploring (and exploding) the very nature of fiction. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 9 Recap: “VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing”

Community is about as dialogue-heavy and joke-dense as any comedy on television, but sometimes, they earn their richest laughs by saying nothing at all. Two of the best moments in last night’s very good “VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing” were pauses, perfectly timed and beautifully executed: the Dean’s deep and rather frightened breath before running out of the study room following a fierce and angry freestyle rap in a Payday candy bar costume, and the looooooong moment of Annie, Abed, Annie’s brother Anthony, and Abed’s girlfriend Rachel just staring blankly at the television, trying to wrap their heads around the “Pile of Bullets” VHS game. If there’s been a longer pause on network television, I’m not aware of it—but the indulgence of that pause wonderfully summarizes the spirit of the show this season. Ah, what the hell, it seems to say. It’s not like we’re scaring any new viewers off! … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 8 Recap: “App Development and Condiments”

When we take the long view of Community, what may be most interesting—and riskiest—about the show is its total inconsistency with regards to “realism.” The word is worth putting in quotes, since it’s such a loaded term when you’re talking about television or film or any of the performing arts; it’s all fake, even the works praised most highly for their naturalism. But there are shows whose proximity to a recognizable reality are closer than others; The Wire is more realistic than, say, The Blacklist. Yet Community won’t let you find your footing; they change up their reality on an almost weekly basis. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 7 Recap: “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality”

The question of how Community would get over the loss of Donald Glover has proven as all-consuming, for fans, as how it would function without Dan Harmon—though with much happier results. After an interminable month off the air for the Olympics, Community returned last night with the provocatively titled “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality,” with… Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 6 Recap: “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking”

Community’s fifth season has, thus far, spent much of its time taking care of old business. First order of said business was jump-starting the show in light of Dan Harmon’s return as show-runner; we had to tie up the loose ends, explain the speed-bumps of the “gas leak year,” and most importantly, establish that the show could be great again. Once that was done, there was the matter of departures: first a proper send-off for the already-absent Chevy Chase, and then last week’s epic farewell to Donald Glover. Now that all of that is out of the way, this week’s episode, “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking,” merely has the job of being a good, solid episode of Community—and our first real look at what that show will be from here on out. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 5 Recap: “Geothermal Escapism”

There are two types of episodes that Community does particularly well, though they seem direct contradictions of each other. The first is tightly focused, character-and-dialogue driven stories—bottle episodes, a bit of television terminology that the show itself made common knowledge in season two’s “Collective Calligraphy.” For all their narrative complexity, “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” and “Paradigms of Human Memory” would also fall into that category, as would last week’s excellent “Cooperative Polygraphy.” And at the other end of the spectrum are the big, high concept, gimmick episodes, wherein character and emotion are smuggled in underneath spoofs of genre tropes. The multiple paintball episodes are the most obvious examples; the Ken Burns-influenced “Pillows and Blankets” and Law & Order-styled “Basic Lupine Urology” also leap to mind. But no stunt episode had as heavy an emotional burden as last night’s farewell to Troy Barnes, “Geothermal Escapism,” which makes the show’s dual success as comedy and drama all the more remarkable. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 4 Recap: “Cooperative Polygraphy”

Those lucky enough to get screeners for last night’s Community had been hyping it in a big, albeit spoiler-free, way for weeks before it aired. So going into “Cooperative Polygraphy,” I was expecting something big: yet another paintball free-for-all, maybe, or one of the hyper-specific parodies that’s become one of the show’s specialties. But this episode is the perfect counterpoint to last week’s showy take on the David Fincher crime flick. Where “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” completely altered the look of the show to fit another filmmaker’s aesthetic, “Cooperative Polygraphy” strips Community down to its bare minimum, leaving a group dynamic that’s unmistakably the brainchild of Dan Harmon. Despite taking place entirely in the study room, “Cooperative Polygraphy” never feels claustrophobic. The tangled relationships between these characters and their near-infinite comic potential are all Community needs to land its funniest, most effective installment yet of Harmon 2.0. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 3 Recap: “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics”

An old, familiar feeling crept into the bones of this Community fan during last night’s episode, “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics.” The premise is simple: a spoof of the David Fincher playbook (Seven and Zodiac, specifically), with moody photography, constant rain, bright flashlights, and muted color saturation illustrating the investigation of a serial criminal on the Greendale campus. The twist is that the evil-doer is the “Ass Crack Bandit,” who drops quarters into posteriors. It’s a technically well-executed episode, with the stylistic parody elements on point and the cast going through their familiar paces. But it’s also kind of a Xerox of the third season’s inspired Law & Order spoof, and like most Xeroxes, it’s not as sharp as the original. And that’s when I got that unfortunate shudder: this was like watching season four again. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Premiere Recap: “Repilot/Introduction to Teaching”

When the troubled fourth season of Community drew to a close last May, our final recap took the form of a question: should this show continue? It wasn’t that year four had been a total washout; if there were only a couple of great episodes (and there were), there were also only a handful… Read More

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