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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Community plays at "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism"

     In this week's episode of NBC's Community, "Foosball and Noctural Vigilantism," Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Jeff (Joel McHale) team up when some foreign exchange students (led by The League's Nick Kroll) get too arrogant about the foosball table. Ultimately, though, Jeff and Shirley learn more about themselves than their opponents. At the same time, Abed (Danny Pudi) becomes Batman when his limited limited edition of The Dark Knight is gone. Annie (Alison Brie) claims someone stole it, but tries to confess the truth, that she broke it, as Abed's obsession with justice gets out of hand.

     It is very rare when a television series achieves a perfect episode, with not a single complaint. This generally happens a handful of times per year, total, across all of TV. Community achieves just such a feat with "Foosball and Noctural Vigilantism," made more amazing by the fact that it is not an "event" or "special" episode. "Foosball and Noctural Vigilantism" has some great character study, plunging into the depths of what makes certain characters tick, as well as many, many fantastic one-liners sure to keep viewers laughing out loud.

     The A story involves Jeff asking Shirley to help train him in foosball. But what they discover is a shared childhood experience, which results in a bully Shirley beating Jeff badly at the same and making him pee his pants. It brings to mind how small the world is, and how formulative experiences in one's youths help shape who someone becomes. But it also shows how growth and development can make up for past mistakes, and while experience can be valuable, it doesn't necessarily define year. Kudos for giving Shirley such a story, as she is often the most overlooked of the primary study group. Also, as Jeff and Shirley rarely have much to do with each other, their delightful chemistry is a joy. And it is hard to go wrong with a great anime sequence!

     Abed's obsession with Batman has been a recurring theme in Community. Because Abed is able to loose himself so fully in television and movie conventions, he takes on the secret identity more completely than most people would. Troy (Donald Glover) even humorously plays along, asking Abed where he's been after spending the day with Batman.

     The relationships between Abed, Annie, and Troy are fun, with Annie intruding on the duo by moving in with them, and shaking up their groove. Annie is neurotic in her own ways, and brings some of them to bear in "Foosball and Noctural Vigilantism." She can't bear to have anyone hate her, and while breaking the DVD is a mistake, it is one Abed assumes she might make, forcing her to try even harder to cover things up. What results is a comedy of errors that grows worse with each minute, as Abed keeps pushing things even further.

     Although half of the major Community characters have little or nothing to do in "Foosball and Noctural Vigilantism," this episode serves the people that are involved very, very weel, providing plenty of laughs, and some fresh perspectives. One can only hope that the series follows this episode up with one that gives the other half of the cast something equally worthy of their talents.

     Watch Community Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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     To buy Community DVDs or catch up with streaming episodes, please click here.

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