Community: Season 3, Episode 17
Basic Lupine Urology
To begin with, a qualification: I don't like Law and Order. I'm a pretty huge law geek, as a rule, and a fan of great legal shows (I'm currently knee deep in The Good Wife, and loving every minute), but the longest running series the genre has ever produced has always left me feeling cold. So I am not the target audience for "Basic Lupine Urology" (get it? Dick Wolf?), and were it most episodes of Community, that would be fine. At its best, this show's parodies are centered around character conflicts that make the episode resonate even if the jokes go over your head. If you've never seen Goodfellas, "Contemporary American Poultry" still works as a story about how Abed gets corrupted by the feeling that he understands people. If action movies aren't your thing, "Modern Warfare" has the Jeff-Britta tension to back it up. You might hate those animated Christmas specials (or even the holiday itself), but "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" still tells a poignant story about a character who feels abandoned by his mother. Yet if you weren't familiar with the beats that make up an episode of Law and Order, I'm not sure what this episode offers you. It's funny, sure, and it has a sort-of emotional beat at the end in the death of Starburns (I knew the show was killing off a recurring player, and while I will miss Starburns, I was worried it would be Leonard, so I feel a bit relieved, honestly), but in terms of real character work, it offers us nothing. This is the first parody episode of the show that seems to basically leave the characters we love behind, turning them into tropes instead of telling a story that manages to hang together within genre constructs. And in that respect, its disappointing.

When the group's yam gets destroyed, they are in danger of failing biology. They quickly leap into action to solve the case, with Shirley becoming the stern police chief, Troy and Abed as the beat cops working the case, Jeff as the Sam Waterston, and Annie as attractive female DA. Throw in Michael K. Williams as the judge, and you've got quite the legal procedural parody going on. The episode does an admittedly excellent job taking on Law and Order, from the fact that the first suspect interviewed becomes the person on trial, to the gambling ring Troy and Abed break up in its early moments, to the interview scene, the chase scene, and the twist in the closing moments of the trial. It apes the series incredibly well, which is surely to its credit (Gilbert and Sullivan reference unintended, but enjoyed), but it all feels a bit empty.

What did this episode tell us that we didn't know before it? Shirley watches crime procedurals, Troy and Abed throw themselves head first into any role offered them, Annie is obsessed with grades, and Jeff is a good pretend lawyer. Even all of the appearances by recurring characters did little to add depth to the proceedings. It all felt very rote, which is hardly what I expect from an episode of Community. the only thing that seems to have changed after this week is that Neil wants to bang Vicki, which I guess is new information, but I'm not sure that really adds to the greater story the show is telling.

And probably, it isn't meant to. If you bought what I was selling last week about the show having done an excellent Abed arc since its return, then you might look at "Basic Lupine Urology" as a palate cleanser before the final stretch of episodes, a chance to laugh effortlessly in between some heavy lifting, character-based episodes. If that's what the episode aspired to, it certainly succeeded. I did laugh a  good deal, yet I can't help thinking that "Basic Lupine Urology" will be akin to last year's "Competitive Wine Tasting": funny enough, I guess, but ultimately entirely forgettable (for those of you who have forgotten, "Competitive Wine Tasting" is the one where Abed takes the Who's The Boss? class with Stephen Tobolowsky and Pierce almost marries the rival towlette company representative. It's as mediocre as you probably forgot to recall).

If this is simply funny filler before another stunning stretch of character-based episodes, that's all well and good. Chances are, "Basic Lupine Urology" didn't work as well for me as it did for the Law and Order addicts in the audience, and chances are it was just a misstep for the show. It serves as a cautionary tale, though, about what Community could easily become, if it forgot the beating heart that is its characters: a hollow parody machine that has laughs, but little else, going for it. I very much doubt that this week hearkens a turn for the worse from the show, but it did remind me just how good we usually have it, and how easily all that could slip away. Let's hope I'm never reminded of that again.

Grade: B-


-"Jeff, technically you are about to get screwed in the biology room, because our final project has been destroyed!"

-"A passing grade? Like a 'C'? Why don't I just get pregnant at a bus station?" I am in finals currently, and this is my new rallying cry. It might make less sense coming from a guy with a beard though...

-"We can't both do the zinger."

-"That doesn't make sense! You don't order ketchup, it's a condiment!"

-"I can both see and hear you."

-"Move! Non-police business!" Every time Troy and Abed were forced to admit they had no authority, I chuckled.

-"Kiss me! I'll explain later." "What? No!" "I'll explain later!" "The explanation is not the issue!"

-"I'm upholding the pinky swear."

-"I'm sorry about my partner. He's been on edge ever since we switched."

-"Objection, she's clearly ramping up to something." "Objection, that's not a real objection." "Objection, I hate both of you."

-"is that why you hit your wife? Withdrawn. Is that why you drink and pop pills? Withdrawn. Is that why you're a virgin? Withdrawn."

-"Can we take a sidebar in our sidebar?"

-"Holy crap! We are definitely dissecting pinecones next year."

-RIP Starburns. I will miss your slowly evolving style, but not your obvious drug dealing.

Tags: Community
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