Community "G.I. Jeff" Review: Nostalgia With a Side of Nonsense
If you know anything about Dan Harmon, and this includes his pre-Community Channel 101 days, then you know that he is a crazy person. Like, genuinely deranged. Nutso. It's his cuckoo-clock brain that makes him such a talent and a rare commodity in "the business," the kind of man who fights for his art and gives network executives migraines with his stubbornness and commitment to his vision. But it also produces the creative madness that leads to episodes like "G.I. Jeff," one of the most bizarre outings of a show that routinely redefines bizarre on the network comedy front.
Opinions on "G.I. Jeff" are going to vary wildly, and here's mine: I liked it! Ta-da! But I also don't think it entirely worked. I always wonder how these types of episodes ("Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" and "Intro to Felt Surrogacy" are in the same category) are conceived. Do the writers start by deciding on the gimmick—for lack of a better word—or do they come up with the story first and then choose a gimmick that fits? In this case I hope the gimmick came first, because "G.I. Jeff"'s link to Community's reality was the weakest part of the episode.
Burdened with the fear of turning *gasp* 40, Jeff chugged a ton of scotch and downed a few Korean youth pills, fell into a slumber that required a hospital visit, and then dreamed up an animated world where he and the study group existed inside the G.I. Joe cartoons of the '80s. Compare that setup to, say, "Geotherman Escapism," where the story—Abed's struggle to process Troy's impending exit—clearly preceded the wackiness—a schoolwide game of Hot Lava in the style of Mad Max. I actually found myself hoping that "G.I. Jeff" wouldn't make any attempt to connect to Community's real life; I would've preferred it to have it be an entirely insane, standalone departure from the rest of the series that just said, "Screw it, we're doing G.I. Joe with no explanation!" instead of Jeff tripping balls because he was sad about being on this planet for a fourth decade. I know Community tried to say something about getting older and hanging on to youth, but it felt more like a last-ditch attempt to link the animated world to the real world instead of an organic and emotional explanation for the crazyballs shit we'd just seen.
But while the ending didn't quite work out for me because I am a heartless bastard, the rest of the episode did—even thought it was basically an extended Robot Chicken sketch. Growing up, I always raced home from school (I walked up a hill, dammit!) to watch G.I. Joe and those other crappy cartoons, so the nostalgia hit me and it hit hard. Big ups to whoever did the animation in "G.I. Jeff"; they did a stellar job of reproducing the era's simple sketching, and the in-jokes cracked me up. I loved the gag about the lip-synching errors and conserving the budget by repeating animations, and the running joke about characters not killing each other never got old. And Destro! He died!
And how about those commercial breaks? They were outstanding, devolving from playful interludes into mayhem that Jeff could lucidly control. I don't know if there was a deeper meaning to them, hough. Abed—err, I mean Fourth Wall—talked about the three layers of reality, with the toy commercial layer separating the cartoon layer from the non-cartoon layer, but unless I missed something, it was all just gobbledygook that gave Community an excuse to make some very funny fake '80s ads.
Anyway, that's about all I have to say about "G.I. Jeff," but that doesn't mean it's all I have to SHOW! Let's salute the episode's characters, so they can live on the internet forever and ever!
Well, what did you think of "G.I. Jeff"? Who was your favorite character?
– Leave Smash Mouth alone!
– I liked how Jeff figured out Overkill's ninja trick. "It's the one in the middle, right?" *pew pew pew*
– I waited all episode for an "And knowing is half the battle!" PSA and we got one with the end tag. Phew! I would have lost my mind if we didn't get one of those.
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