23
Apr
2010
Community: Season 1, Episode 21
Contemporary American Poultry
Jordan
Let's play a little game. Name a sitcom (discounting Arrested Development which is, bar none, the best sitcom of all time) that has had a better first season run than Community. I'm not sure any other show I can think of has found itself as quickly, developed its style and comedy so fluidly, or realized and executed its major themes with such confidence and (dare I say) panache. If you're just now beginning to pay attention to my reviews of the show, you should realize about now that I'm a big fan. But enough about my love for how the series has come together and how I believe it may go down as one of the greatest sitcoms of all time provided it can keep this hot streak going, let's talk about the glory that was "Contemporary American Poultry."

The show has always been very pop culture literate, generally using Abed to through in the references and meta-humor while the other characters go about their story. But never has the show embraced its parodies as fully as it did tonight. This episode was not, however, simply an insanely detailed parody of Goodfellas with a little of The Godfather movies thrown in for good measure. It also functioned, as those films do, as a story about what happens when one group gains power, and how that power can threaten to tear them apart. Abed takes on the Henry Hill role ("As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be in a mafia movie...") when the group decides that they want daily access to chicken fingers, an item always in high demand, and low quantity, on their campus. The storyline works because it doesn't allow itself to be subsumed by the in-depth parody its tackling, and instead additionally works as a story familiar to anyone whose ever been to college: the good food goes fast.

This is a familiar storyline, but one I don't think I've ever seen done before, which allows it to feel fresh and gives the extended parody a spin that makes it funny even to the uninitiated who haven't seen Goodfellas (if you're among them, stop reading this shitty review site and go watch the movie...now). There are great jokes made better by an intimate knowledge of the movie, like the scene in which Abed sends a message to the gang while the piano solo from "Layla" plays, or the repeated use of freeze framing during Abed's narration, but the episode still works as an elaborate joke about chicken tenders as drugs in an underground community college mafia. And if that last clause didn't make you laugh, I'm not sure what will.

This episode made well a point that I've tried to articulate about the show before: its inclusive in its comedy, in that if a particular joke or reference isn't working for you a very different one is likely right behind it. If you weren't loving the parody portion of this week's episode, you could have enjoyed the silliness of Troy naming his monkey Annie's Boobs or the subtle moment when Jeff realizes his "Shut up" hand motion no longer works, or even the great character moment at the end where Abed gives a long dissertation on why he supplanted Jeff, and the two of them pledge to help each other with their own personal weaknesses. One of the most amazing things about this show is how prolific its jokes are, and yet how well they fit with the characters.

This show is exciting for two reasons, both of which were highlighted in tonight's episode: its gotten to a place where it can figure out how to make basically any storyline work (from an elaborate parody, to a crazy sailboat-in-the-parking-lot bit, to a quiet character moment), and it does so while actually telling a cohesive story about redemption and second chances, with characters who stay shockingly consistent while being impressively diverse. Unlike a lot of other shows, this is one where no line is really interchangeable, because it fits with any given character's voice so well it could only really come from them. They each have jokes, in any given episode, but there is no feeling that any person was given a laugh line just because they hadn't spoken in a while. Every line fits organically with the person they've become. And that's pretty good for a sitcom nearing the end of its freshman season.

Grade: A-

Notes:

-The fact that I didn't give this a flat A is reflective of my growing expectations for this show.

-"Stop trying to coin the phrase 'streets ahead.'"

-"Why do you have a monkey?" "Uh, its an animal that looks like a dude. Why don't I have ten?"

-"I don't have an ego. My Facebook photo is a landscape."

-"He released Annie's Boobs! Annie's Boobs could be anywhere! Annie's Boobs could be on the side of the road..." "We get it, the monkey's name is Annie's Boobs."

-"You were right." "Now go home and write that on your bathroom mirror." "Wouldn't that make it seem like I was right?"
Tags: Community
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