Community "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing" Review: I'd Hate to Follow MC Dean

By Tim Surette

Mar 14, 2014

Community S05E09: "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing"

Let's all pause, rewind, and record our thoughts on this sitcommy episode of Community. "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing" stood out for its jokes rather than cohesion or character moments, with a few gags in particular that should be quoted as often as possible at all future CommuniCons. Most notably, "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing" shall heretofore be known as the episode in which Dean Pelton spit hot fire with a freestyle rap that shook hip-hop to its core. 

I mean come on, how was the rest of the episode supposed to compare to that? Let's quickly summarize why this was one of the funniest moments of the season: 

  • Dean was dressed as a PayDay bar. A PayDay bar. The RC Cola of candy bars. 
  • The beatmaster. That guy is all business. 
  • Dean's flow was impeccable. He began in Mr. Rogers' neighborhood, took a detour to Chuck D, and then the ghost of DMX possessed him with the type of raw anger that can only grow from a life on the mean streets.
  • He dropped the mic not out of braggadocio, but from the shock of being overtaken by the spirit of troubled black youth. 
  • Any rap that starts off with, "Well I'm [something] and I'm here to say..." is amazing. 
  • Dean was dressed as a PayDay bar. 

Jim Rash should get so many high-fives for his work on Community that his hands swell to the size of catcher's mitts. He's up for any challenge, and he's one of those rare actors who elevates the material he's given rather than the other way around. Jim Rash, if you're reading this, I love you.

The other standout moment "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing" was the VCR game "Pile of Bullets," a ludicrous throwback to how antiquated technology was once used as a vehicle for interactive games. Even as an impressionable little squirt growing up, I remember thinking those things were stupid when companies tried to push them on us, and Community apparently did too. Fast-forward to the red screen? PUH-LEASE. Nothing completely destroys the flow of a game like picking up a remote and searching for a red screen for five minutes. And the rules of "Pile of Bullets" made New Girl's absurd "True American" or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's insane "CharDee MacDennis" look like Tic-Tac-Toe. Yet Abed and Annie played it with such gusto that it only added to the episode's nonsense, and Vince Gilligan's performance as the VCR cowboy was impressive for a man making his acting debut as a low-resolution image on a TV screen.  

Aside from those two elements, Abed's rain apology, and Britta's "EVERYBODY," the rest of the episode was fairly standard stuff. I don't particularly like it when Community divides its cast into small groups that set out on separate sitcom adventures, and both of this week's storylines suffered because "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing" did exactly that. Most of the textbook plot fell flat for me as it echoed complicated criminal heists gone wrong but didn't have the energy to fully parody them, leaving the story in that big in-between area that's neither subtle nor over-the-top. 

Annie and Abed using "Pile of Bullets" to choose their new roommate—Annie's oafy brother or Abed's girlfriend Rachel—worked better, despite the hacky premise, because it acknowledged a major problem that Community is currently dealing with: the absence of Troy Barnes. I don't know if any of you will agree, but to me, Abed's effectiveness has been greatly reduced without his partner in space and time; in fact, his strongest moments in the wake of Bon Troyage have all been rooted in missing Troy. Abed and the show might be trying to fill that hole with Rachel (Brie Larson), which, like all rebound relationships, is just duct tape on a bigger problem. I don't notice Troy's absence as much when the gang is all together or involved in the same story (like they were in last week's MeowMeowBeenz adventure), but when the group is split into smaller factions, it sticks out a bit more.

"VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing" was a perfect embodiment of Season 5 so far. Great start, then hot and cold the rest of the way. Despite a few hilarious moments, this one was middle-of-the-pack for me.


– Controversial opinion alert! I'm not that into Rachel. Maybe it's because I don't have the same attachment to Brie Larson that many other people do, but I think it's because she doesn't seem like an individual character to me. She's just the girlfriend character. Anyway, send your hatemail and pro-Brie propaganda to

– In contrast, I did like Annie's brother Anthony and hope he shows up again. 

– But in both cases, NEITHER should even be considered for a roommate! C'mon Annie and Abed, don't you know what kind of trouble that will cause? No family, no significant others in a roommate situation EVER. 

– Dungeons and Dragons next week! WHO IS EXCITED?!?!!

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  • numberonecubsfa Apr 25, 2014

    I laughed SO hard at the Dean's bit. I watched it three times.

  • ILoveTVandDDsBB Mar 20, 2014

    Dean was dope on the mic!!!

  • SokkaAppa Mar 15, 2014

    I'm going to have to borrow abed's rain apology! Well hopefully I don't need to but just incase!

  • rebel_devil Mar 15, 2014

    I personally hate it when a "comedy" rap starts with, "Well, my name is/I am [something] and I'm here to say...".

  • RHansthabeth Mar 15, 2014

    1.Vince Gilligan,creator of Breaking Bad acted as Annies brother.
    2.Shirley went all Heisenberg on the rest of the gang which may/may not have anything to do with 1.

  • edoblaauw9 Mar 15, 2014

    No, he acted as the vcr game narrator, the guy who acted as the brother was Spencer

  • Romano338 Mar 15, 2014

    What a disappointing season this is... the 2 stories in this episode were useless, uninteresting and not funny. Annie's brother is too far and doesn't fit, Abed is completely uninteresting without Troy. The book story, it was so lame and boring.

  • ToddMurray Mar 14, 2014

    This comment has been removed.

  • edoblaauw9 Mar 16, 2014

    That's not meta

  • dodge_hickey Mar 14, 2014

    The Dean's rap, Abed's speech at the end both made this a great episode.

  • LucyBarker Mar 14, 2014

    Could someone tell me if they're shooting this entire season intentionally in a darker tone? I mean literally darker, not story-wise... it just has this gloomy feel to it that the previous seasons didn't have, and I wonder what's up with that. Is it just my computer, or is it like that to everyone else?

  • ZeroCals Mar 15, 2014

    I mentioned this exact same thing in the series opener. It feels like there's less lighting or something.

    You're definitely not alone on this.

  • QuestionMarq Mar 15, 2014

    I personally think its just the nature of the season. Troy's gone. Pierce is gone, Harmon is back but probably pretty disenfranchised with NBC, and too much of the group dynamic has changed.

    And it's also possible Harmon is experimenting with darker tones because he's so seasoned with filming. Look at Rick and Morty. That series got pretty dark. Despite that though, I think it gives the show a different kind of maturity. Everyone of the characters have seen themselves become their own villain.

  • Georgie81 Mar 14, 2014


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