Community "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing" Review: I'd Hate to Follow MC Dean
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
– 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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