Community: Season 2, Episode 22
Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts
I have been somewhat disappointed with the back half of Community's second season. By television standards, it hasn't been bad. Yet in its first season, and in the first half of this season, I often called Community the best comedy on television, and with the weak back half of this season as well as the flat out phenomenal run that both Parks and Rec and Archer have been having over the same period, that just hasn't been true of late. I have a theory about why this is true. When season two started, the show had terrible ratings. In fact, it was sort of surprising that it got a full season two pick up right off (if it wasn't on bottom-of-the-barrel NBC, it probably wouldn't still be on the air right now), and the writers probably lacked confidence that they could pull it off again and come back for a third season.

I posit the first half of this season was the show going for broke, afraid it was nearing the end of its run. But as the season wore on and NBC continued to suck, and shows like Perfect Couples and The Paul Reiser Show (both of which had been produced as fall premiere shows and held back because they were terrible), the liklihood that Community would get to come back for a third season increased exponentially. As the show's writers became more confident that they would get another season, things sort of stalled for the characters, and we have spent most of the back half of this season stuck exactly where we were at the end of "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas." Just look at the run the show was on before that episode: it was preceded by (in reverse order) "Mixology Certification," "Conspiracy Theories and Soft Defenses," and "Cooperative Calligraphy," very likely the greatest run of four episodes in the show's history (and, if we skip over the mediocre "Aerodynamics of Gender," that quartet was preceded by Epidemiology 206." Damn this show was hot at the beginning of season two). Afterwards, we had duds like "Asian Population Studies" and "Celebrity Pharmacology 212." Has the show lost something? I certainly hope not. My hope is that they've just been cooling their heels on the realization that they'll probably be around for a while.

All of this leads us to "Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts," the third bottle episode of this season (after the "this is a bottle episode" episode "Cooperative Calligraphy" and "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons," unless I'm missing something), likely a money saver before the two part paintball finale (thoughts on that down in the "Notes" section). The gang is in their "final" for Anthropology which involves drinking with Duncan and celebrating the blow off class, when the Dean and a reporter from Dean Magazine show up to observe the final in progress. There's nothing to see of course, and when Duncan fleed I feared this was about to be a big "fool the Dean" episode. Instead, it was the inevitable "Shirley gives birth" episode. I'm not a big fan of these episodes, as it's pretty impossible to do anything original, since this has been a stalwart of television as far back as I Love Lucy (which did a great job, by the way).

Look, I know the show had to do this (though I would have been so much happier if it had been one of the flashbacks to adventures we missed in last week's episode), but it didn't really do too much with it beyond the standards, which isn't much of a criticism considering anything they did would have been cliched. Shirley was forced to give birth outside the hospital, but would it have been less cliche if the whole gang gathered in the waiting room wanting to get in to see her give birth? No, not really. There are some character moments that land here, like Britta self righteously suggesting natural birth before being horrified by it, Troy mourning the death of his secret handshake, and especially Shirley finally bonding with Chang even though the baby is apparently not his (Changs are born with tails).

I didn't love anything in "Applied Anthropology," but I also didn't hate any of it. I enjoy Community, even when it isn't at its best. But I can't help but be disappointed when it fails to live up to my (admittedly very high) expectations for the show. When Community is at its best, I really do think it is the best comedy on television. Sadly, this show hasn't been at its best in a while. I miss the show I love. Hopefully it comes back soon.

Grade: B-


-Ok, here are my thoughts on the two part paintball finale, apparently entitled "A Fistful of Paintballs" and "For A Few paintballs More" (cute): I am worried about it. I loved "Modern Warfare," but that doesn't mean I am begging for a sequel. I think the show already covered this ground, and after a downturn over the last several weeks (months), I was really hoping the show would blow me away in the finale. On the other hand, I don't think the writers would return to this well unless they had some good ideas about how to do it (and from the preview shown tonight and the titles, it looks to be a spaghetti western episode, which could be fun). So, in conclusion, I am worried but choosing to remain optimistic for now.

-I have been watching a lot of Community over the last few days, seeing most of the first season again. That may have slightly colored my views on tonight's episode, and if so, I apologize. But this just didn't stack up to, say, "Contemporary American Poultry" or even "Beginner Pottery."

-"Wowee. This IS a real college."

-"Could someone please get every mop on campus?"

-"You ever try googling me? Can't be done!"

-"Hey, give me some respect. I may be that child's estranged father!"

-"$500." "That's like a million bucks in dog dollars."

-"I don't want to alarm anyone, but the World Food Festival has taken a dark turn!" Another great instance of Community mocking the awesome (or in this case, terrible) things characters are so often missing during bottle episodes. But in this case, I kind of wished we were at the World Food Festival instead.

-"Don't tell any doctors I said this, but at this point the bus pretty much drives itself."

-"Dean Magazine Shuts Down After Two Issues."
Tags: Community
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