Friday, 10 January 2014

COMMUNITY, 5.3 – 'Basic Intergluteal Numismatics'

Friday, 10 January 2014

written by Erik Sommers | directed by Tristram Shapeero

I enjoyed Community's double-bill comeback with Dan Harmon at the ship's tiller, but they didn't make me laugh very hard. That changed with the excellent "Basic Intergluteal Numismatics"; a sharp spoof of serial killer thrillers, with a particular focus on the artful style of David Fincher classics like Se7en and Zodiac.

The so-called Ass Crack Bandit is stalking the hallways of Greendale College, dropping coins down the back of unwitting student's trousers whenever they innocently bend over. It's a ludicrous way for Community to riff on the clichés and tropes of "campus killer" thrillers; from obvious things like the grungy production aesthetic, to clever touches like The Dean (Jim Rash) furiously clicking his fingers to trace a call when the Bandit unexpectedly called his office to gloat.

There were nods to all manner of things, so as a "parody episode" this definitely ticked a lot of boxes. It was clear writer Erik Sommers knew his targets and expertly guided Community's characters along a formula films like Scream and The Silence of the Lambs tend to follow. It was possibly the best spoof of such things since Hot Fuzz.

I particular loved how the story focused on Jeff (Joel McHale) and Annie (Alison Brie) as "the mismatched detectives", and kept the mystery genuinely engaging with its own merits. It was great to see the return of fan-favourite Star-Burns (Dino Stamatopoulos), whom we thought had been killed in season 3; there was unexpected closure to Chevy Chase's absence this season (as Pierce was tragically revealed to have died); I found Troy's (Donald Glover) role as the traumatised survivor of a "coining" utterly hilarious; and the way the mystery was left unsolved worked incredibly well. The Ass Crack Bandit's activities arguably brought a lot of the characters closer together, too, and perhaps even improved their lives: Britta (Gillian Jacobs) got to write about it, Abed (Danny Pudi) was inspired to fill his DVR with crime procedurals, Shirley's (Yvette Nicole Brown) sandwich business is suddenly booming, and criminology professor Hickey's (Jonathan Banks) got an unsolved mystery to perhaps obsess over.

Overall, this was just a huge amount of fun. If you were in any doubt Community's not back on-form after season 4, this was easily the best and smartest episode we've had in a few years. I could just list funny moments, references and one-liners, but I'd rather just watch this episode again.

  • US singer-songwriter Ben Folds plays the botany professor and prime suspect, who also write the episode's closing song.
  • Anyone else slightly puzzled Donald Glover's role in these three episodes hasn't been more substantial? The writers knew he's leaving and would only be appearing in five episodes, so it just feels weird not have used him a lot more. Or is this intentionally done to wean us off Donald Glover? They're going to have a hard time replacing him.
  • I like how they're using Chang (Ken Jeong) this season. His character works so much better as a little extra spice, rather than trying to make him work as someone on equal footing as the others. His appearance in that anti-Bandit costume (reversed clothing with a fake butt on his crotch) was fantastic.
9 January 2014 | NBC