During all the NBC internet chatter this week, I couldn't wait for new episodes of scripted comedy. The Thursday lineup was loaded with guest stars, none bigger than Jack Black
's appearance on Community
, which says one if not two things: the show is underperforming ratings-wise, and A-list actors want to be a part of a comedy they enjoy watching.
The question is not how the Kung Fu Panda
would interact with the tight ensemble cast, but how the show's producers would buck the tired traditional sitcom celebrity guest tropes.
Viewers tune into Community because it takes familiar sitcom cliches and turns them into meta-commentaries on the genre. The show even has a character, Abed, whose main purpose is to point out and criticize the effectiveness of these pop culture references.
The episode begins with everyone catching up, as they haven't seen each other since winter break, an effective tool for bringing those who may be watching for the first time up to speed.
Abed and Troy spent break playing a video game that is so realistic you can do your taxes ("but don't get audited") or attend community college.
Jeff cooly enters the room, as he would have at the beginning of the series, before dropping the act and inciting a group hug.
Jack Black's character, Buddy, wants to join the Spanish study group. He assures them he was in their class all last semester, recalling Jeff and Pierce's oral presentation from the second episode, the time Britta cheated, and his fantasy where Britta and Annie dressed in cheerleader outfits and wrestled in a kiddie pool full of foam while he ate a cheeseburger.
Buddy acknowledges his presence may throw off the group's comedic timing and -jump cut to opening theme- rhythm.
The main plotlines involved keeping Buddy out of the study group he so desperately wishes to join, and Jeff's appointment by Dean Pelton to editor of the college's newspaper.
One of the best lines of the night came when Dean Pelton shows Jeff his spacious office and tells him he'll also receive an English credit, to which Jeff replies "That ain't bad, neither!"
Immediately Jeff starts using the paper to his own ends, becoming a good-time havin' guy cracking wise. He sends reporters out to get pizza and beer and promotes Annie to reporter so she won't expose his abuse of power to the Dean.
Abed compares him to Alan Alda
's Hawkeye, beginning a string of M*A*S*H* references that someone as young as Abed shouldn't make. This did lead to some fantastic set pieces, Jeff reclining at his desk drinking beers, while Abed works at a distillery made from chemistry lab equipment so he can make "Hawkeye" a martini.
The group finds Buddy, Jack Blacking it up, to be an annoyance, a commentary on the celebrity guest appearance forced upon fully functioning programs by nervous network executives.
Image © NBC Photo: Harper Smith
Jack Black's self-parody works well with the material, and his knack for physical comedy fits well with the tone of the show, particularly when Buddy tells the group they need a guy like him who can do jump kicks and gives Jeff a bloody nose.
His physical ability does not go without comment, as Troy marvels his flexibility-to-girth ratio during the group's debate on bringing in new study group members.
A cast as strong as Community's doesn't need guest appearances, but the writers handled this one better than any program since Arrested Development
. Even without much to do, Donald Glover and Chevy Chase
still make the most of their scenes with reaction shots and appropriate tshirts worn in an attempt at irony, respectively.
Jeff convinces the group to allow Buddy to study with them, because he just wants to be a part of what they have. And just when you think they're never going to be able to write Jack Black out of the series, Owen Wilson
, Starburns, and a punky Asian girl- the "cool" Spanish study group- show up to tell him they'll let him join them.
I would watch a spinoff of Starburns hanging out with Eli Cash and Jack Black. I was also hoping Sr. Chang really died because the actress he hired to break the news was smoking.
Other sweet stuff:
Dean Pelton's dalmation furry costume
"I need my genitals!"
"Gary wears loose fitting jeans."
When Annie referred to Buddy as having "a song in his heart"
Story by Matt Anaya
Starpulse contributing writer