Community Watch: Messianic Myths And Ancient Peoples

Too much of a good thing can eventually become bad. This was a lesson taught by Community in last season’s finale, Pascal’s Triangle Revisited, through a hilarious visual metaphor of Troy attempting to eat a giant cookie.

For me, that lesson rang true during this week’s episode of Community. Though I normally love Abed’s self-referential humor, there was simply far too much of it.

The main plot of this episode focused around the production of a film Abed was making. While this project starts as a cooperative effort with Shirley to get the word of Christ on YouTube, Abed’s ideas for the film become more and more ambitious. His goal is to create a film about God and Jesus from a filmmaker’s perspective, which eventually becomes about the filmmaker and the filmmaking process. Word of Abed’s production spreads, and soon enough, Abed is regarded as a genius visionary. With a new cabal of sycophants in tow, Abed’s descent into megalomania is rapid, eventually leading to his delusion that he is both a messiah and the world’s greatest filmmaker.

Once he finally sees the fruits of his labor, Abed realizes his movie is atrocious, and prays to God about his fears of his filmmaking future. Shirley, who has grown furious with Abed for his blasphemy, hears his prayers and takes pity on him. At risk to her own reputation, Shirley destroys the prints of the film in front of Abed and his lackeys, destroying in their eyes the chance to see the greatest film ever made. Abed realizes the sacrifice Shirley makes in doing this, and thanks her by filming the original rapping gospel viral video she originally wanted to film.

Now, religion is a particularly tricky topic to tackle, so some slack must be given to Community’s writers for the effort. And the plotline is not without its moments – both Shirley and Abed are very entertaining throughout the episode. Besides, it fits well with the comedic standard that “people in Jesus wigs are always more funny”. But the premise of this episode stretched into a 22-minute comedy simply doesn’t work. I enjoy digs at Charlie Kaufman as much as the next guy too stupid to appreciate his films (Synecdoche, New York bored me to tears), but when too much time is spent on the same reference, it becomes grating instead of charming. Meta humor loses its allure when it’s pushed into the forefront, just as Abed’s entire movie about the filmmaking process turns out to be crap.

Unless, of course, the entire episode is a parody of itself – about how Community and Abed’s character overuse meta humor to begin with! Wow. I need to lie down.

At any rate, the subplot this week was much more charming and damn near as absurd as the main plot. In most television shows, when you have octogenarians drinking whiskey from the bottle and stealing cars, that’s usually the most absurd thing that week. But then there’s Community.

Pierce, growing tired of being told what to do by his younger and more responsible classmates, decides to sit with the “hipsters” – a group of whippersnappers who all have hip replacements. The hipsters are able to get away with murder at Greendale, since whenever anyone tries to reprimand them for their crass or outrageous behavior, they fake bouts of dementia. Jeff and Britta , who serve as the study group’s surrogate parents, try to convince Pierce that the hipsters are a bad influence on him, but he’ll hear none of it.

Pierce at first feels liberated by the behavior of his newfound friends, but it grows wearisome as they become more reckless. Eventually, the proverbial shit hits the fan when the hipsters steal Dean Pelton’s car and crash it in the slowest joyride ever caught on film. Jeff is at first angry with Pierce (and eager to get his name removed from Pierce’s emergency contact list), but then realizes that Pierce was only acting out for attention. He lovingly scolds Pierce, and the bizarre father-son relationship between the pair returns to normal.

This entire subplot plays like an after-school special and is pinpoint in doing so. Pierce’s character is such a juvenile that you absolutely buy into his naiveté and his child-like shenanigans, and by the end of the episode you are rooting for him to do the right thing.

Extra Credit:

- This week’s Quote of the Week was tough to choose; while the episode wasn’t the strongest, there was no shortage of hilarious exchanges and one-liners. But as I stated earlier, Shirley was in fine form this episode, and her rapid-fire religious insensitively won me over. After Abed quotes the Bible during a quarrel with Shirley, she asks him, “Did you just Scripture me, Muslim?” When Annie points out that Jesus was Jewish, Shirley asks, “Are you ever gonna let that go?” Shirley is also hilariously mean to Britta while filming her religious movie, and snaps at her to “do the line, Atheist.” Why are these quick, religiously intolerant quips so funny? It’s all in the delivery. Shirley was on fire.

- I also have to praise Abed on his cinematic comparisons for Jesus in the New Testament, whom Abed describes as a mixture of E.T., Edward Scissorhands and Marty McFly. I’d watch that movie, no question.

- The closing gag was also great to see, since it wove in more of Troy and Annie (who were both absent from most of the episode). Abed, Troy and Jeff all arrive in the study room at the same time, with Troy and Abed dressing like and emulating Jeff. The charade continues until an annoyed Jeff leaves, which would have been funny enough, but Annie comes in seconds later dressed in the same outfit.

- I really hope the writers find more to do with Abed as the season continues. Like I said, I enjoy his meta-humor, but it works best in small doses. Abed was at his best this season when emulating Gary Sinise’s character from Apollo 13 in last week’s episode Basic Rocket Science. And I loved his Don Draper impersonation from last season’s ep Physical Education. I’d like to see him take on more personalities of famous pop culture characters. That, or for Abed to have a storyline woven into the main plot that doesn’t entirely rely on his detached behavior.