The numbness from my disillusionment over Community’s demise may have jaded my enjoyment of last night’s episode (“Herstory of Dance”). Objectively, I know it was a pretty funny episode – one that didn’t feel too forced or manufactured – but I couldn’t fully embrace it because what’s the point? The series is pretty much on its death bed and the new show runners have no sense of how to maintain the intellectual and creative strengths the show once held.
(In full disclosure, I took Roger Ebert’s passing yesterday pretty hard. That may have also contributed to my apathy.)
While Britta has never been among my favorite characters on Community, it was fun to see her blind passion for feminism and women’s rights reemerge, even if it was to protest something as innocuous as a Sadie Hawkins dance. When the dean announces that Greendale will be hosting a sock hop/Sadie Hawkins dance, Britta complains that we shouldn’t celebrate the only social gathering where women are “allowed” to ask men out, we should take offense. (Her logic is nothing if not ridiculous.)
Britta declares she will be hosting a competing dance on the same night celebrating a strong female icon who should inspire women everywhere. Unfortunately, she confuses Susan B. Anthony, an actual female icon, with Sophie B. Hawkins, a 90s pop singer. Jeff points out to Britta that she once owned a cat named Susan B. Anthony and it’s almost unbelievable that she would make that mistake. Whatever. She will not be deterred and promises her Sophie B. Hawkins dance will be amazing. AND she promises Sophie B. Hawkins will be there in person!
Abed, who is quite peeved about Pierce’s obsession with the American rip-off of Inspector Spacetime, decides he needs to pump the brakes a little on the pop culture references and show some growth. Troy is understandably unsettled by this. Shirley and Annie, however, take this as an opportunity to set Abed up with a girl for the dean’s Sadie Hawkins dance. Annie’s choice is a quirky, Zooey-Deschanel-turned-up-to-11 hipster explosion named Kat, while Shirley selects a nice, quiet girl from her church. Abed doesn’t want to hurt either Annie’s or Shirley’s feelings – and seeing the chance to enact a classic TV sitcom trope – so he decides to go on both dates. Okay, so maybe he isn’t going to totally back off the pop culture reenactments.
Unlike the vast majority of the episodes this season, “Herstory of Dance” did make me laugh a few times. The episode title, though, is too cutesy. Dan Harmon would never have allowed such an easy pun. Abed’s storyline is especially intriguing as he enlists the help of a coat check girl named Rachel in his ruse to go on two dates at once. Rachel, unsurprisingly, is the perfect girl for Abed and his realization of that is pretty well done without feeling insincere for Abed’s character.
Jeff and Troy are pretty much moved to the side in the episode, which is unfortunate because Joel McHale and Donald Glover are two of the three funniest actors on the show (Jim Rash being the third, obviously). Jeff does coin the phrase “Brittastrophe” which is magnificent. I haven’t gotten tired of the verb form of Britta’s name yet which is good because it’s used quite frequently here. Troy is supposedly trying to come up with wacky hijinks on his own since Abed is preoccupied, but the concept is never really developed or executed.
As I said before, I think the episode had its funny moments and was more of a return to form, but it just seems like too little too late. The episode falls into the trapping that Community has always suffered from (a too-easy resolution with everyone on happy terms), but taken with the season’s overall pathetic work it feels even more schlocky than usual.
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.”