Finally, the long dark night of the small sub-section of the world’s population that watches Community is over. “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts” isn’t a huge declarative return for the show, but it is a completely enjoyable and solid episode of the series. Like most episodes it sets its sights on a central thematic concern, the way people both leave behind and retreat to “normalcy” as they grow up, and weaves in and out of stories related to the topic while telling a bunch of pretty damn funny jokes. If anything, it’s a reminder of why Community is such a consistently enjoyable show even if it doesn’t always reach the heights of its best, most imaginative episodes.
It all starts with a singing and dancing proposal from Shirley’s ex, and soon to be once more, husband that comes immediately after Shirley and Pierce decide to try opening a sandwich shop in a vacant part of Greendale’s cafeteria. Shirley quickly seems to lose interest in the shop once she’s stuck making wedding plans and Britta, in all her anti-wedding glory calls Shirley out on how she’s putting her dreams on hold for a man. Britta’s right, and though Shirley’s at first skeptical of Britta’s offer to plan the wedding with Annie she realizes that she doesn’t want to return to solely being a housewife. It also turns out that Britta’s own version of normal, generally being anti-everything everyone else likes, is a response to the fact that she comes from a long line of housewives and mothers which she demonstrates with a ridiculous amount of flair for planning weddings, even when she doesn’t care about them.
One of the things that I’d missed about Community is how good it is at committing to its thematic concerns. Even if all the plots or character arcs don’t at first seem related to this concept of normalcy they almost all thread their way back to it by the end of the episode. Jeff’s inability to write a wedding toast stems from the shattered normalcy that was his broken home life as a child, Pierce’s new “entrepreneurial” moxie comes from the fact that he was fired from his job at Hawthorne wipes after his father died and wants to be a business owner again, and even Andre’s proposal comes out of a desire to return his life to a point where he wasn’t a failing stereo shop owner. Everyone is either grasping for something they once had or running away from something they’re scared of, feelings that are all too easy to relate to.
What I like so much about Community is how strongly structured even more minor episodes like this week’s are. The writers are never content to just fall back on the great cast they have or the solid joke writing they execute on seemingly every time out, they make sure to really focus in on a topic and then explore it. Even when it seems like Andre’s proposal is simply a way to get at a conflict within Shirley it has a life outside of what the viewer sees. There’s a whole different version of this episode where Andre is the lead and instead of being the cool, awesome guy he seems to be in those opening moments he’s a desperate kind of sad figure attempting to relive something he hasn’t experienced since Shirley left him. That Community gives that kind of consideration even to the minor characters in the episode is just one of the things that makes it so special.
One of the other things that makes Community so great is the fact that it’s just so freaking funny. The brief shot of the door to the dreamatorium that allows the viewer access only to the sounds Troy and Abed are creating is just great, as are Troy and Abed in their normal mode, a mode that Andre has difficulty recognizing as anything other than sarcasm. Or how about Pierce’s wireless security device that determines whether people are guests or intruders based on the color of their skin. Or there’s the Grinch like depiction of Jeff’s innermost desires that features things like Annie, Annie’s boobs (the actual boobs and not the monkey who appears later), and scotch. It’s business as usual to an extent, but when business as usual includes Oscar winner Jim Rash, I love being able to say that, being utterly astonished at a transparency depicting a cartoon version of him with bags of money that’s something to celebrate. Community’s back, and I’m oh so happy it is.
- “No to everything you both said!” Britta let me count the ways I love thee.
- “It’s like a thought with another thought’s hat on it?”
- “The trouser bench, for the man on the go who makes frequent stops.”
- “Color me lavender. Lavender means impressed.”
- “That’s me! Where did I get all that money I’m holding?”
- “How fiscal will the quarterly earnings be?”
- “Shut up Leonard! The teenage girls you play ping pong with are doing it ironically.”