I stopped reviewing Community earlier this year because there hasn't been much to say about each new episode lately. They're marginally entertaining and contain the odd excellent line of dialogue, and I still really love the cast, but this isn't the show I fell in love with. I thought "Intro to Felt Surrogacy" stood a chance of turning things around, and it started promisingly with a clever way of transforming the characters into puppets (being part of experimental therapy to aide group communication), but the actual episode itself failed to get off the ground.
How do you make an episode with this premise slightly boring? Puppetry is such a freeing medium, and there's decades of material and tradition to poke fun at with the art-form, but Gene Hong's script just didn't dig very deep. It was nice to have an episode being more character-driven than it's been in awhile, and I have to congratulate the crew on pulling the show off on a technical level, but it just didn't work for me. The songs weren't very memorable, there weren't enough big laughs (I only really giggled at puppet-Geoff lifting weights for the Dean's titillation), and the end result was an episode where the brilliant gimmick appeared to get squandered. I wasn't a massive fan of the ambitious stop-motion Christmas special that Community did either, but at least you got your money's worth and the story did everything possible with that Big Idea. Likewise the 8-bit video game episode, although it also helped that was hilarious.
"Intro to Felt Surrogacy" was too restrained given the potential behind it, and Seinfeld's Jason Alexander was also wasted as a guest-star. I also noticed Chevy Chase's vocals sounded flat, and then discovered he only recorded them as part of his deal to leave the show (this episode was produced last this season), so that made sense of his disinterested tone.
But I bet you disagree, because others have already told me they thought this was one of the better episodes this season. I actually agree with that, which is damning with faint praise.
written by Gene Hong / directed by Tristram Shapeero / 11 April 2013 / NBC