April 5, 2012

Quick Thoughts: COMMUNITY, "Pillows and Blankets"

Community is already pretty good, but it can be phenomenal when it wants to be. "Pillows and Blankets" may not have been the funniest episodes, but it was a great example of why it's considered to be one of the best comedies on television today.

Obviously, one of Community's claims to fame has been its ability to riff and spoof popular culture, and it's tackled action movies, gangster films and sci-fi, but this episode was its first successful attempt at taking on the kind of historical documentaries that were made famous by Ken Burns. In my opinion, this approach was beyond brilliant and made for one of the best episodes of Community ever.

Stylistically, "Pillows and Blankets" was a giant homage to the aforementioned Burns because it used the same techniques that he used in The Civil War, which was appropriate since this episode was about the Blanketsburg/Pillowtown war of 2012. But this was so much more than your standard spoof episode of Community because it focused so much on character development and relationships, and it wasn't just a "hey, we're so clever" attempt which I appreciated. Once again, Troy and Abed were at the center of the conflict and the episode, and sure it was fun these two lead gangs of pillow wielding soldiers, but their friendship was what was really at stake and that's something that the storytelling never forgot which meant we got a good helping of both insanity and heart.

The Troy and Abed bond has been one of the main reasons I've stuck with Community. While I'm not going to say that the show has become bad over the last season and a half, it did lose some of its charm when it insisted that its too cool for "normal" people. That being said, the friendship between these two people has always been the most realistic aspect of an otherwise unreal world. I applauded the fact that Community would actually toy with the idea of breaking these two apart because I felt emotionally connected to characters for the first time in a long time. That being said, I did think that the issue was resolved a little too quickly and in a silly (albeit character appropriate) way.

Troy and Abed were not the only ones getting good character beats this time around because Jeff was allowed to resemble a human being. The fact that he was one of the primary instigators of the entire pillow fight war, but ended up being the peacekeeper because he cared about his friends was a strong moment for not only the character, but for Joel McHale as well. I also loved the fact that he's still somewhat of an egoistical jerk when it was all said and done because he can be a caring friend and still want to promote how great he is to the film crew. He grew up a little, but not enough to be a decent human being, and I'm okay with that.

There were so many other great moments like Annie being a field nurse, Britta being the worst photographer ever, Shirley being uncharacteristically hostile (although it could be argued that she was in character), Pierce as a pillow monster and even the Changlourious Basterds got a laugh out of me. Also, the way "Pillows and Blankets" updated the Burns style be using Facebook, texts and emoticons was brilliant.

Honestly, "Pillows and Blankets" didn't have me bent over in laughter, but it had so many great moments that revolved around character and relationships that I didn't even care. Every comedy doesn't need to be non-stop punchline after punchline like Happy Endings or 30 Rock. Sometimes, the unfunniest episodes of a sitcom are the best, and "Pillows and Blankets" definitely falls in to that category.


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