NBC’s ‘Communtiy’ season 4, episode 3 review: The ‘Inspector Spacetime’ test

CommunityBack when we first heard some details about “Community” season 4, the “Inspector Spacetime” convention was an episode that genuinely had us excited more so than almost anything else the show was working on. When we heard that Matt Lucas and Tricia Helfer were stopping by, we were even more excited. Then, we watched the first two episodes, and suggestions from those who had seen the screener here suggested that this half-hour was tragically terrible.

To be fair, we actually did laugh a number of times this week, and as a whole it actually felt stronger in terms of comedy than last week’s ho-hum journey through Pierce Hawthorne’s mansion. The opening with Britta was actually pretty spectacular, mostly because this seemed like the sort of thing that season 2 or season 3 Troy would have done to keep his relationship a secret to not upset Abed. The ending (featuring a pair of surprising guest stars) was also inspired, and a rewarding conclusion to a story about Pierce and Shirley joining a focus group for “Inspector Spacetime’s” American adaptation.

Sadly, the problems with this episode were literally everywhere in between. For one, we really still don’t get why Troy and Britta are together, mostly because we were deprived of the whole get-together moment on the show. The chemistry wasn’t bad this week and she did allow us to see a new side of Troy and Abed, but we don’t really see what she is getting out of a relationship with a goofy man-child who seems more obsessed with his best friend than anyone.

Meanwhile, many of the other characters this season are regressing. Jeff’s goals for the future are unclear, Annie is back to obsesing over Jeff again, and Shirley has been reduced to “oh no’s” and a few other assorted interjections. We did call for a little less Dean Pelton and Chang, but having two straight episodes without either one of them (and with barely a mention of Greendale) is pretty shocking in itself. Even most of “Community’s” most meta episodes used the show as a setting. (The only real classics that we can think of that did not were the “My Dinner with Andre” spoof and “Remedial Chaos Theory.”)

The final issue that we have here is a pretty serious one that keeps us from really liking this episode more so than just a quick joke that we would get on “The Big Bang Theory”: the notion created within it that people at these sort of conventions should be mocked rather than celebrated. Dan Harmon would have ranted about this far worse than he ever did about Chevy Chase if this happened on his watch. In some of these jokes, “Community” was almost mocking its own loyal fandom that has sang Christmas carols wearing Abed goatees, holding art shows, and begging their friends to watch.

We really want to stress here that the new “Community” is not necessarily a terrible show, and it’s still better than the majority of the comedies either CBS or NBC have on the air. The problem is just that it used to be a wonderful gem that was an escape from the world; now, it is a reminder that the world can be a cruel place.

We’ll end here with a lighter note, and remind you to go watch this video of Alison Brie rapping. Despite what is happening with Annie, she’s still awesome.

Photo: NBC

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