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Saturday, April 25, 2015

COMMUNITY "Features" Character Development

Article first published as TV Review: 'Community' - "Advanced Safety Features" on Blogcritics.

Community_AdvancedSafetyFeatures
In the latest installment of Yahoo! Screen’s Community, Britta’s ex-boyfriend from season three, Rick (Travis Schuldt), returns. This time, he’s working for Honda and is guerrilla marketing at Greendale. Britta (Gillian Jacobs) can’t help but fall for him all over again, but can they make their relationship work while serving Rick’s Honda overlords? Also, Jeff (Joel McHale) tries to win Elroy (Keith David) over.

“Advanced Safety Features,” the name of this episode, is a terrific look at Britta, highlighting her various sides. It doesn’t really reveal anything new about her; fans already know she is easily influenced, especially by handsome, charming men, and also that she attempts to be a rebel against corporate interests. But by letting these two sides of her go to war in her heart, Community profiles a character in a way that reignites interest in her and gives her much-deserved focus.

I wish Rick were able to give up his salesman instincts for Britta. As Community is likely starting to wind towards a conclusion, now halfway through the sixth season of what could very well end up being #SixSeasonsAndAMovie, she deserves a happy ending. But it wouldn’t be true to either Rick or Britta for them to give up their ideals, and Community has never been the type of show to let any of its leads have a healthy romantic life. Britta would be the exception, and I’m not sure that really works for the show.

Even Britta’s relationship with her parents (Martin Mull and Lesley Ann Warren), while healing, remains tenuous. When Britta takes Rick to meet them, things seem to be going well, the estrangement ended. But by the conclusion of “Advanced Safety Features,” Britta is frustrated with the pair once more, and they are still clueless as to the why, unable to fix it. All of the players in Community are developmentally arrested, and Britta does not escape that this week.

Speaking of arrested development, Jeff is desperate to have everyone like him. This isn’t news, either, but in Elroy, Jeff finally finds someone who doesn’t fall for his cool aloofness. Jeff goes to extreme measures in order to correct this while trying to make it look like he’s not doing anything, even booking Elroy’s favorite band for the school dance. None of that works, and Elroy remains unmoved.

“Advanced Safety Features” gives Jeff a clue as to how to accomplish his goal early in the hour, but Jeff misses it. After Elroy bonds with Annie (Alison Brie), Abed (Danny Pudi), and Chang (Ken Jeong), they observe that genuine human interaction is something the man responds to. Jeff does eventually show his vulnerable, true side to Elroy, not in a calculated move, but rather through a desperate eruption. Elroy immediately responds.

Jeff has gotten much more open over Community‘s run, sometimes by choice, and sometimes being forced to act real by his friends. One might think that by now Jeff would learn what works and what doesn’t. If he did, then he’d be fixed and able to operate normally in society. This series is about a bunch of misfits, so that won’t fly, at least not until the show comes to an end for good.

“Advanced Safety Features” has great character stuff, but is also charmingly quirky and funny. Jeff tricks Frankie (Paget Brewster) into learning to play steel drums. A song from earlier in the season comes back. A musician keeps complaining that everyone asks where the person in the name of the band is. The Dean (Jim Rash) fills his office with Honda stuff. Billy Zane (Titanic) plays Rick’s boss who ‘magically’ disappears. This is all great stuff that makes the episode feel full and sharp.

I give a ton of credit to Honda for their participation in “Advanced Safety Features.” I don’t know how much involvement they may have had in the production, but surely Community couldn’t release this episode without permission from the brand, and the way the product is portrayed isn’t always 100% favorable. Any company that has a sense of humor has my respect, so if you need good value and lots of leg room, check out the Honda Fit. I assume. I’ve never been in one.

New episodes of Community post every Tuesday on Yahoo! Screen.

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