Community: Season 1, Episode 8
Home Economics
I never thought I'd be saying this, but Community is just a little like Mad Men thematically. This show is not about the failings of the American Dream, the repression of the sixties, or about the quest for freedom in a society that only wants to tie us down. The comparison is a tenuous one, and I'm not suggesting that Jeff's real name is Dick Whitman, nor that Abed is a closeted art designer, simply that both shows are about the people we see ourselves as, the people we want to be, the things we strive for, and the fact that often in life, we end up settling.

Each of these characters has a past that shames them, none (save perhaps Abed) is at Greendale because it's their dream school, yet each of them is there with the hope that they will be able to reach their dreams, when in fact, they've already been settling for years. Troy settled for shallow popularity, Annie for comfortable anonymity after her efforts to go higher ended in a drug addiction. Shirley strived for a happy marriage, Pierce strived for riches, Britta wanted to prove how cool she was to Radiohead, and Jeff just wanted to be really, really, really rich. Yet each of these characters has either settled, or in Pierce's case, achieved his dream only to discover his accomplishments leave him feeling empty. The only exception is Abed, who blindly enjoys his lot in life, even if that just means watching television and eating cereal. But even the validity of that life choice is questioned tonight when Jeff is made into Abed's foil for an episode, in order to show how dissimilar the characters actually are.

All of this is pretty dark and heady for an episode mostly about faucet-heads and songs about how characters are "B's," but that the show has such thematic resonance so early in its run shows a lot about its lasting power. The main plot tonight focuses on Jeff losing his fancy apartment and moving in with Abed. What initially seems like the most humiliating moment of Jeff's life becomes weirdly ok when he starts to enjoy the Abed lifestyle, bragging about spending only a quarter in a whole day. They bond, watch tv, eat cereal, hang with the Polish kid next door, and don't bathe all that often. And Jeff seems perfectly fine with just sitting back and letting life pass him by. But Abed knows this will not work out for Jeff, that Jeff, like E.T., is better off in his own environment, even if it hurts Abed to let him go. Abed is satisfied with the simple things, but Jeff is a man who loves his material riches. That the show jumps to Britta to resolve the conflict also gives it some points. Every character on this show recognizes the Jeff/Britta chemistry, and her willingness to save him does, as he suspects, show us a little bit about how much she needs him.

Meanwhile, Troy asks Annie for advice about a girl"”and it isn't her. Annie, desperate to spend time with Troy anyway, offers to give him advice, go shopping for supplies with him, and even fake appendicitis to keep him from his date (which leads to a wonderful, if all to brief, cameo from Patton Oswalt. The man is getting around of late, and that makes me very happy. I hope his mildly lecherous student health employee returns). With moments like Troy pretending to be Annie's backpack, being totally oblivious to her obvious disappointment that he isn't asking her ("Oh, you thought"¦don't worry, Randy can be both a guy and a girl's name"¦And in this case, it's a girl!"), and her running in a hospital gown to steal the blanket he and his date are sharing, it's no surprise I find myself rooting for these two over Jeff and Britta. Donald Glover and Allison Brie have an excellent chemistry, and her naïve fawning plays perfectly against his macho ignorance.

Finally, Pierce gets the chance to defend Britta when her ex Vaughan writes a song about how much she sucks. Instead though, he ends up joining the band and co-writing the song "Britta's a B." It's all working out fine until he grows suspicious that Vaughan is trying to Garfunkel him (to which Vaughan replies, "Assuming to Garfunkel somebody is to keep putting up with them even though they're a fat, lazy cat who eats all the lasagna") and quits. This leads to a pretty awful song about Pierce being a B (where Pierce gleefully points out, "I'm Pierce! The song's about me!") and extending the rivalry between the two when Pierce hires Vaughan's rapper to compose a juvenile retort. I sincerely hope the Pierce-Vaughan rivalry continues in future episodes.

"Home Economics" is not as hysterical as last week's episode, but it does give us a nice glimpse at the themes, as well as giving most of the cast some fun material to work with. Shirley is cast to the back of the ensemble tonight, and I hope she gets more to do in weeks to come, but for the most part, it has become a weekly pleasure to hang out with the Greendale gang and see what shenanigans they can get up to.

Grade: B


-"It'll be better if it's man to man. That way we won't be talking about our chubby thighs or how we can have babies."

-Abed worries consistently about talking in his sleep. His most common topics: farm animals and Robin Williams.

-I'm pretty sure no Community Colleges have dorms, and that no concert held there would get a crowd and attendance like Vaughan's, but hey, I don't care. If the show wants to play real college occasionally, that's fine by me.

-"There's a silver lining here. You're attracted to bums."

-"A picnic blanket. Genius! I was just going to lay down newspaper!"

-"I was wrong. Material possessions are important! Look how much happier The Jeffersons were than the people on Good Times!" "But they had good times!"

-"I'm kind of the Hawkeye around here." You sure are, Patton.
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