The sliver of optimism that built inside me after last week’s episode of Community has shriveled up and died. Community is not going to turn things around in its final death throes and Season 4 will forever be the Godfather Part III of one of the most creative and inspired series of the new millennium. With “Economics of Marine Biology,” Community hit a new low, evidenced by an episode that isn’t just unfunny, it is actually annoying with every moment more grating than the last. By the halfway point, I found myself hoping my DVR would fail so I wouldn’t have to suffer any longer.
“Marine Biology” felt like one of the series’ early Season 1 episodes where the writers had to rely on zany adventures to keep the audience interested since they hadn’t yet tackled the weightier “concept” episodes for which they have become so loved. In an attempt to land a “whale” – a student whose daddy is filthy rich – Dean Pelton unleashes a fury of wacky, half-concocted ploys to make Greendale appear as the most alluring community college in the world. The prospective enrollee, Archie, is a spoiled burnout who has failed out of or destroyed several schools. But, because of his dad, no one says “no” to him. (You’ll never believe what Dean Pelton says to him after learning a valuable lesson about morals.)
The dean rolls out the red carpet for him with the help of Annie who makes sure Archie’s every wish is granted (“For Greendale!”). Jeff is tasked with distracting Pierce who would otherwise ruin the dean’s plans by throwing a fit over not being the center of attention. To occupy their time, Jeff and Pierce spend the day together in a barber shop getting their faces shaved.
I’d like to stop for a minute. I have gotten a straight razor shave a couple of times in my life. It’s a wonderful experience and I recommend every man do it at least once. However, it takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. While the dean and Annie are taking Archie on a guided tour of campus, decorating the cafeteria, hiring strippers and having a party, Jeff and Pierce are spending “the day” getting shaved. This is just absurd.
Troy and Shirley enroll in a class which apparently starts mid-semester called P.E.E.: Physical Education Education. In the course, future gym teachers learn how to teach physical education. This involves a “mocker room,” whistles and timed races to put rubber balls in storage. Shirley, who was always picked last in gym class as a child, excels at coaching while Troy, the natural athlete, fails miserably. Wow! There’s a role reversal we didn’t see coming.
Of course, Pierce finds out that Jeff is babysitting him and Jeff has to make amends. Shirley helps Troy with his coaching skills by mentoring him as they teach Kevin (Chang) to use a water fountain. And the dean learns that he shouldn’t change Greendale to suit Archie. The school is just fine the way it is. Everything is wrapped up with a nice bow and I have lost 24 minutes of my life that I will never get back.
Probably the most obnoxious aspect of the episode is Abed’s obsession with creating a fraternity just to rile the dean who, in the episode’s first scene, made one disparaging comment about fraternities. Clinging to this very thin reason to enact a movie homage (in the vein of Animal House), Abed and his pledges do a bunch of stuff that is neither funny nor necessary. Even the fraternity’s name (Delta Cubed) feels forced.
To co-opt the title of one of Roger Ebert’s books, I hated, hated, hated this episode of Community. If this is what the few remaining episodes are going to be like, please put it and us out of our misery now.
Matthew Newlin lives in St. Louis, Missouri and has been a film critic for over six years. He has written for numerous online media outlets, including “Playback:STL” and “The Weissman Report.” He holds a Master’s of Education in Higher Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is an Assistant Director of Financial Aid. A lifelong student of cinema, his passion for film was inherited from his father who never said “No, you can’t watch that.”