I admired "G.I Jeff" more than I enjoyed it, and a lot of that was down to one simple thing: G.I Joe™ wasn't part of my childhood, and that's likely true of my fellow Britons (we played with Action Man™). While this was clearly a very loving pastiche of the 1980s G.I Joe cartoon, it was never going to tickle my funnybone in terms of Joe-related gags. I just enjoyed seeing the attention to detail in its 1980s-style animation (familiar to me more through cartoons like Transformers and He-Man), although that wasn't enough to see this episode transcend itself.
You have to admire any show (especially a poorly-rated one) that decides to animate an entire episode, although this isn't the first time Community's done that. Season 2's "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" (filmed using stop-motion animation by the same team) was far more accessible than "G.I Jeff", whereas this instalment aimed directly at Americans who were kids in the '80s. There's nothing wrong with that because Community is, first and foremost, an American comedy primarily made by middle-aged geeks—but it's a shame there wasn't more to savour for those outside of that demographic. I did giggle at some of the jokes (like the scene where a prisoner who's spent years digging a Shawshank Redemption-style escape hole, announces his work seconds before his cell wall was blown apart anyway), and seeing the Community cast drawn in Joe-style was amusing for awhile.
But I didn't laugh very much throughout this story, truth be told. I just appreciated the care and attention that had been spent on creating it. Animation is hard at the best of times, but to make a convincingly old-fashioned cartoon must be particularly difficult. The reasoning for why this story was 95% animated also worked well; being similar to Life on Mars, in that Jeff (Joel McHale) was imagining a cartoon reality, just beyond the limbo of a toy advertisement dimension. Kudos to Hasbro for giving Community permission to lampoon their product, too, which is still relevant to millions of people because of the live-action movies.
Overall, it's great something as bonkers as a GI Joe-style episode of Community can get made, and if you were a young fan of the franchise I'm sure this worked much better for you... but for me it wasn't anything I'd count as especially funny, just an admirable endeavour.
written by Dino Stamatopolous | directed by Rob Schrab | 3 April 2014