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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Jeff" Supported By COMMUNITY

Article first published as "Jeff" Supported By COMMUNITY on TheTVKing.

The latest installment of NBC's Community, "G.I. Jeff," doesn't feel like Community when it first begins. Animated in an older style, the opening has G.I. Joe and company in combat with Cobra. Then Jeff (Joel McHale) and his friends join the battle, fighting for Joe, which ends poorly when Jeff kills one of the bad guys. Because, after all, you're not supposed to kill people in cartoon war.

Community has poked fun at a number of genres and mediums in the past, and the G.I. Joe take-off is the latest in this tradition. It's clever and well-drawn, fitting the style and format. I love how the writers bend the conceits of the genre in general and the show in particular, pointing out the absurdities and inconsistencies.

To make a good idea even better, Community adds themed commercials for the G.I. Joe toys, which are part of the tale, a layer of the world. These are fun, but they also mean something, as does the "message" tag on the end. This demonstrates not only a clear understanding of the topic being parodied, but also a brilliant formation of a cohesive story.

The cast of Community is folded nicely into this imaginary world. Jeff and the study group fight for the right side, with Britta (Gillian Jacobs) being renamed Buzzkill, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) always mentioning her three kids, and so called Three Kids, Abed (Danny Pudi) pointing out the elements of the format as Fourth Wall, the Dean (Jim Rash) serving as the Vice Commander of Cobra, Duncan (John Oliver), Hickey (Jonathan Banks), and Chang (Ken Jeong) are sort of themselves, and Greendale is a dangerous place that thrives on ambition but sucks away the soul. It's a fitting parallel.

That Annie (Alison Brie) is a big-boobed sexpot may not completely match her character, but it quickly becomes clear why she's taken on this persona when we find out "G.I. Jeff" happens in Jeff's mind. Depressed on his fortieth birthday, Jeff has drank too much scotch and taken some suspicious pills, resulting in a delirium while he recovers in the hospital, his friends surrounding him. This whole thing is Jeff's attempt to recapture his youth and expose his frustrations.

Thus, as much of the season has done, "G.I. Jeff" takes a dark turn. Jeff isn't trying to kill himself, but he isn't happy and needs to get unstuck from his current situation. While past years have seen our heroes revel in their joyous fantasies and friendships, this one focuses on the undercurrent of depression and failure. For some, becoming a college professor would feel like a dream fulfilled. For Jeff, returning to a place he has a love-hate relationship with, it's killing him.

There is no closure in this plot, nor can there be at this time. Jeff does realize he's loved, and that will help him heal from the latest wound. But the damage to his psyche is much deeper. He can escape the animated world in his head, but he cannot escape his reality.

This does not bode well as to how the series will end. Jeff has to leave, which will, by necessity, separate him from the people he cares about. The group may remain friends, but nothing will ever be the same when they leave the sheltered community college. However, leave they must, as that's the only way to find the successes and satisfaction they crave.

"G.I. Jeff" is a clever way to deliver this sermon, all the while playing to the familiar Community characteristics and style that make the show so good. A reference to Pierce and 'Harmon Sucks' graffiti are the touches that make the show so beloved, and even when an episode is more emotional than funny, it remains highly entertaining.

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

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