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For the last four months fans of NBC’s Community have fretted about the future of their favorite television series. Taken off the winter schedule, we had no idea when it would be back, and were both surprised and relieved to learn that the hiatus would be ending this Thursday, March 15th. What we still don’t know, however, is the show’s long-term status and whether or not it will return for a fourth season. But we can’t worry about that now. All we can do is enjoy the new episodes as they come out and that’s not difficult when the episodes are as great as “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts.”
The episode begins with the return of Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) and Shirley making a decision snowballs into a fair bit of conflict, which involves Jeff and Britta’s commitment issues, Troy and Abed attempting to not be weird, and a possible new sandwich shop on campus.
Though not to most original or brilliant installment that Community has come up with in its two-and-a-half season run, the new episode works simply because it’s very funny. As per usual, Troy and Abed steal every scene – aided by time in the wonderful Dreamatorium and references to Inspector Spacetime – but what’s wonderful about “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts” is that it’s one of those episodes where everybody gets a great moment in the sun. The business meeting held between Shirley and Pierce has plenty of great one-liners, Britta and Jeff get drunk, which is always a scream, and Annie has more than a few opportunities show off her skills, nervously avoid disasters and taking clandestine photos of beautiful flower arrangements.
What’s interesting about Community’s newest chapter is that it actually doesn’t call any attention to the fact that it’s the first episode following a hiatus. Sure, Troy and Abed’s battle with “normalcy” can be seen as the collective show toning down its weirdness so that it can gain more popularity, but it never reads that way. Instead it’s a fairly self-contained 30 minutes that focuses more on exploring what makes the characters tick, be it their fears of true commitment or that pretending to be normal can prevent you from being weird. In all likelihood the writers didn’t know when they would be returning to the air and didn’t want to risk any “timely” or “meta” jokes falling flat, but what they’ve come up with is excellent regardless.
“Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts” isn’t one of the program’s famous high-concept experiments, like “Modern Warfare” or “Remedial Chaos Theory,” but it does show that even without a big flashy display of creativity the reason why the program works is because the characters are inherently hilarious and the writers know exactly what to do with them. The episode never going to end up on any Top 10 lists, but it effortlessly makes us laugh and reminds us why we missed Community so much to begin with.
The new episode will air in Community’s normal timeslot at 8PM EST on Thursday. Be sure to come back after the episode has aired for a full recap.