Friday, 7 March 2014

COMMUNITY, 5.8 – 'App Development and Condiments'

Friday, 7 March 2014

written by Jordan Blum & Parker Deay | directed by Ron Schrab

I've always loved how Community runs with an outrageous concept and somehow makes it feel oddly plausible. "App Development and Condiments" concerned the Yelp!-like beta-testing of an addictive smartphone app called 'MeowMeowBeenz', which allows users to rate their social interactions on a five-point system. In typical Community style, the popularity of the app skyrocketed over night—even turning technophobe Buzz (Jonathan Banks) into an avid user—and Greendale College soon became a caste-based society.

The best episode of Community are often the ones that have something serious to say about something, and achieve that through allegory and spoof. This episode was a wonderful look at human manipulation, vanity, greed, and the desire for acceptance and approval, as Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) used her God-given talent to evoke sympathy to turn herself into a "Five", as Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) tried to overturn the system as mediocre neutral "Threes".

Of course, this episode had a huge amount of fun playing with the idea of a society built on stratification. Greendale became a kind of futuristic version of Ancient Greece, as imagined by a science fiction writer from the 1970s weaned on Zardoz and Logan's Run; all vibrant togas, exposed chests, gladiator sandals, and silly hairstyles. There was also a slight Hunger Games feel to the "talent show" where non-Fives could perform to be rated to ascendancy, and it couldn't have been more different to the misfiring fourth season's attempt to parody those books/films. The approaches taken exemplify how essential Dan Harmon is to Community, as there's so much more to the show than empty spoofing with him around.

It was also very cool to see Harmon's friend Mitch Hurwitz have a significant role on-screen as Koogler, one of the privileged Fives who presides over Greendale alongside Shirley and Abed (Danny Pudi) in their palace. If you're not aware, Hurwitz is the creator of the sublime Arrested Development, so I was delighted to discovery he's a gifted comic actor as well as a brilliant comedy writer. The episode's tag (an Animal House-style 1980s comedy trailer with Koogler the star) was absolutely spot-on, and I actually hope this isn't the last we've seen of Huritz's character if Community gets renewed for that circle-closing sixth season.

Overall, I had a ball with this episode. It didn't target anything that hasn't been harpooned by comedy writers a hundred times already, but it put enough of a spin on things to pull it through a general feeling of familiarity. I'm also enjoying how many episodes this year have a different member of the study group playing a villainous role, post-Pierce and with Chang's (Ken Jeong) involvement somewhat reduced. I also didn't even give Troy's absence a single thought during this episode, which bodes well for the future.

5 March 2014 | NBC