I've been reviewing every episode of Community partly because there isn't much else that's demanding my interest just now, but also because the departure of Dan Harmon means it has added interest as a sitcom that's lost its creator. This season has done a good assuring most people the show is still worth watching, and for my money the storylines have been stronger, but it's nowhere near as funny or clever. Some lines are amusing and a few of the ideas are decent, but it never really seems to coalesce into something greater than the sum of its parts.
This Thanksgiving special (another mistimed episode because of the show's delayed return) gave us a very strong and emotional core, with Jeff (Joel McHale) being reacquainted with his estranged father Willy (James Brolin). There weren't many laughs here, but it didn't seem to matter because McHale and Brolin worked really well together and Jeff's character shared some back-story that gave his character added depth. His speech to his dad about self-harming as a kid, just to evoke sympathy and feel loved by people, was genuinely touching. And while the laughs were limited in this plotline, I must confess to finding Jeff's younger stepbrother Willie Jr (Adam DeVine) incredibly funny—as someone the opposite of Jeff physically and psychologically, now presented with this comparative Alpha Male big brother. I hope that characters returns, but he will need to be less of a caricature next time.
Less successful was the rest of the group—Annie (Alison Brie), Pierce (Chevy Chase), Abed (Danny Pudi) and Troy (Donald Glover)—having to attend a terrible Thanksgiving party at Shirley's (Yvette Nicole Brown) house. It just didn't work for a variety of reasons (not least how there were no extras for any scenes), and when it became a loose pastiche of The Shawshank Redemption with the group plotting an escape from Shirley "the warden" from her garage, I just didn't care. Community doing a prison escape parody sounds wonderful, but the concept was largely squandered by forcing into a pretty lame sub-plot here. It was a pity, because if this episode had found the time to show us how awful Shirley's party was it might have worked better.
written by Steve Basilone & Annie Mebane / directed by Tristram Shapeero / 7 March 2013 /NBC