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Saturday, May 16, 2015

"Basic" COMMUNITY

Article first published as TV Review: 'Community' - "Basic RV Repair and Palmistry" on Blogcritics.


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In the latest episode of Community on Yahoo! Screen, “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry,” the Save Greendale Committee is riding in Elroy’s (Keith David) RV on their way to deliver a giant hand sold on eBay. Why is this happening, you may ask? Well, if Abed (Danny Pudi) ever gets his longed-for flashbacks, you just might find out. Or the characters eventually explain things.

Community has done “bottle” episodes before, where the entire cast is trapped in a single space together, and they’re always good. The reason for this is a large part of the show’s success hangs on the chemistry of the cast. Putting them in a tense situation and allowing their conflict to fester makes for great entertainment, delivering the definition of a situation comedy, or sitcom. “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” is another example of this.

On the whole, though, it is a pretty tame half hour. The tensions arise because The Dean (Jim Rash) does something stupid, purchasing a giant hand for the community college. Because the college really can’t afford the thing, the Save Greendale Committee decides they must sell it. The Dean is against this, but comes along anyway as they strap it to the roof of the RV and attempt to deliver it. Unfortunately, the RV gets a dead battery and cannot make it.

The logic behind why the entire Save Greendale Committee, except for Chang (Ken Jeong), must be on this trip escapes me, and is never discussed in the episode. I assume The Dean joins them because he doesn’t like to be left out and it’s his hand, but why just two or three of them couldn’t go is beyond me. I don’t mind this leap because, as I’ve said, I enjoy the chemistry of the cast, but “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” would be a little better if it offered an explanation.

The details of the situation are revealed in snatches. Abed tries to set up a flashback to three weeks ago to establish the scenario, and later tries to save the day by going back in the flashback and changing things. Neither work. Abed’s delusions used to have real meaning that has slowly been drained away from them over the years as he becomes more and more grounded. In this installment, I think Abed is trying too hard to hang on to the device, as in most of season six he has a decently firm grasp on reality.

Typical parts of everyone’s personalities do come up in this episode, and I love how these things are pointed out and picked apart, a bit of tongue-in-cheek self-referencing that is always welcome. Britta (Gillian Jacobs) uses the word brittad as a verb and then acknowledges it. Jeff (Joel McHale) calls The Dean out on his non-apology apologies. Elroy wants to be helpful, but doesn’t want everyone looking at him too closely, preferring to remain a semi-private person. Jeff tries to act like he knows everything. Annie (Alison Brie) and Frankie (Paget Brewster) show their similarity when they both follow the same method to try to get roadside assistance. Chang shows up only at the end, covered in feathers, and no one has noticed his absence.

I can’t say “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” is one of my favorite episodes, even just within this sixth season. It’s decently fun, but it feels unnecessary and not all that deep. Other episodes have explored character development more fully this year, whereas this one simply points out things we already know about the characters, not changing or deepening anything. It’s funny enough, but because there are only a few episodes left in the season, most likely the series, I do feel like this kind of wastes a half hour.

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

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