Community "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations" Review: The Shawshank Redemption Song

Community S04E05: "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations”


Long-anticipated moments rarely work out as well as we hope they will. In real life and with our favorite television shows, we build up possible futures in our minds, only to be disappointed by what friends, family, or TV showrunners give us in the end. But conversely, holding onto the past and assuming that the future will turn out poorly isn’t a particularly healthy way to live either.

This episode of Community faced those conflicting expectations on multiple levels. For the audience, Jeff finally reuniting with his father was one of, if not the most important character-focused moment the show had left; it’s something we’d been waiting to see for years. And with the mixed reaction to this season’s first four episodes, I have to imagine that Community diehards weren’t expecting much good to come from the Winger family reunion in “Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations.” For Jeff, years and years of pessimism and pain had grown into curiosity, but he wasn’t really expecting a tear-streaked, life-changing reconnection with his father.

Although Jeff’s Thanksgiving dinner with his dad went about exactly as he'd expected it would, I’m happy to report that this episode’s treatment of that event worked very well, resulting in clear, effective, and measured storytelling capped off by one of Joel McHale’s best performances in the show’s run. This season of Community has struggled to get anywhere near the show’s previous comedic highs, often settling for easy, familiar, and broad jokes. However, when episodes have taken a turn toward the more serious and personal like this one did, we've seen glimpses of the Community that we know and love. Sometimes, pessimism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

What I loved so much about this story is the way that it reflected how much Jeff still has to do. We’ve seen our fair share of New Jeff already this season, a man who finally acknowledges and appreciates his affection for the group of misfits who choose to put up with his challenging persona. We know he cares about the group and we know he’s willing to tell them that he does. But that’s not enough. Jeff is substantially damaged and much of that comes from the abandonment issues he suffers because of his father. He might be more comfortable around the group and willing to express real sentiment to them, but he’s not completely comfortable because he’s always afraid they’ll figure out he’s a fraud.

All of that bubbled up to the surface in this episode, even after Jeff first tried to ignore his father altogether and then tricked himself into appreciating the traits they share (mostly being a half-assed con man). But once William (played with the proper amount of charisma and selfishness by James Brolin) tried to take credit for Jeff’s “success” by claiming that running out was what made Jeff the tough, self-sufficient man he is today, it was all over. Unsurprisingly, Jeff initially ran away from confrontation and feeling, because that’s what he always does—or used to do. Eventually, though (at least partially inspired by Britta’s ever-more-effective head-shrinking), Jeff returned to confront his father and reveal the truth that we at home have known for a while: Jeff is a mess. He’s not self-sufficient, he’s the exact opposite.

Jeff's speech to his father was one of my favorite scenes in Community’s history. Say whatever you want about the show’s successes or failures this year, but McHale (and to a lesser extent, Brolin) and the episode’s writers Steve Basilone and Annie Mebane made the important moments count. The detail about Jeff always texting no one and the story about faking the appendicitis were pretty darn perfect, as was the earlier moment where William tried to manipulate his son with a Winger Speech (I guess we now know where those come from). Jeff confronting his father, after more than three decades, will at least help him keep progressing as New Jeff. Does that mean he’s immediately better or some kind of brand-new man? Of course not, but he’s no longer beholden by those long-standing feelings and grudges. He can be a mess with the people who accept him for the mess that he is.

But alas, while Jeff’s troubled reunion with his father worked wonders dramatically, the rest of the episode presented us with Community's new normal of uneven comedy bits and tremendously rushed storytelling. Adam Devine tried his best as Jeff’s half-brother, but there wasn’t much to the character other than yelling (which is becoming too prevalent on the show this season) and reinforcing how terrible of a father William Sr. was. Britta trying to convince Willy Jr. to describe his feelings using dinner rolls worked fine, though the episode probably took the bit a step too far.

Elsewhere, I didn’t really know what to make of Annie, Pierce, Troy, and Abed’s attempts to avoid Shirley’s in-laws at Thanksgiving dinner. The story jumped into the Shawshank riff really, really quickly, without totally establishing any of the parameters; it skipped right to the jail-break. There were some successful moments littered throughout the story, most notably Pierce trying to fake a broken hip, only to sell out the group once he discovered that Shirley’s family thought his physical comedy was funny (“This is my midnight at the Apollo!”). Abed drawing the map of Shirley’s house on his chest was good, too. But overall the plotline felt rushed and underdeveloped. We never saw enough of Shirley’s in-laws to feel the threat they posed to the group (though I’m guessing that’s a result of budgetary restrictions more than anything else) and even the conclusion, despite its good intentions, didn’t pack much of a punch. I enjoyed Abed’s voiceover quite a bit, even if it was very, very reminiscent of what he provided in “Contemporary American Poultry.”

Nevertheless, this episode got the important stuff right. Much like “Paranormal Parentage,” it developed some nicely moving beats for a character facing an important moment. And by the time “Cooperative Escapism” made it to that final scene where Jeff concocted a secondary Thanksgiving feast for, using his words, “the family we chose,” I couldn’t help but think the show actually earned that moment.


STUDY NOTES


– The teaser sequence in the study room felt on-point with the show’s typical rhythms in that space. I kind of love how resigned Jeff is to the fact that the Dean has completely invaded his life, from reading his emails and listening through the walls to seemingly stealing his old Halloween costumes. 

– Nice touch by having William Sr. attempt to fake a heart attack, a.k.a. Pull a Hawthorne. The show likes to give Pierce and Jeff that weird desperate-father/unwilling-son dynamic, so it was only fitting for Jeff’s real dad to try the same nonsense that Pierce does all the time.

– Do you think Jeff actually sends all those texts to no one? Does he have a burner phone in a drawer somewhere that’s full of messages that just say “UGH, Pierce?”


What did you think of "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations"?

Comments (94)
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I'll keep it short.. another terrible episode to a once great show.
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So I think it's time to say this. Sadly Community is WORSE off without Dan Harmon. DAMN YOU NBC!!!! It's not as off the wall funny with those side jokes. Those were specially time hilarious edits and now those types of edits seemed forced or copied instead of brilliantly placed when Harmon was in charge. I'm sorry everyone but I tried giving the new guys a chance.
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I really enjoy coming to tv.com to read a review of an episode and to get people's opinions on it. Even more so on some shows because no one else I know is watching it, so I can't talk to my friends about it. I enjoyed the review, but the comments I will have to leave out in future, the mob mentally of negativity here is starting to lessen my enjoyment of the show. No shows are flawless, I appreciate different points of view, but most of the comments on Community are just moaning or who can lament the old episodes the most. If it's so awful without Harmon, here's an idea, stop watching it.
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Actually the first time since the beginning of the season that I felt a little bit of the old Community coming back...
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I actually felt like this was the first episode this season that made me feel like Community was really back. I hope future episodes are able to do what this episode did; it was funny, thoughtful, emotional, and packed with references and jokes that make Community that great show that it is :)
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For once, I have to get this out of my system - and I apologize in advance if I may offend somebody or hurt her/his feelings by not necessarily agreeing with them. Here's the thing: Community did not change all that much, what did indeed change is people's perception of it. And Shawshank Redemption is not exactly a treatise on morals or the concept of freedom, it's the product of an industry that specializes itself on the cheapest of ways to evoke shallow reactions from its target audience which they mistake for actual emotions - and it does so in BOTH novella and motion picture form. I'm sorry, but if Stephen King's body of work is your idea of literary talent, then it's quite ridiculous to bash sitcom writers for not being witty enough. Was the whole Shawshank/Prison Break parody storyline rushed? It definitely was. Did it leave something to be desired? Of course it did. Was it a borderline blasphemous mockery of a valuable piece of culture? Hell no - and five episodes ago, it would have been celebrated by the exact same people for its ridiculousness and the bravado it must have taken for the show's creators to express their admiration and their iconoclastic tendencies at the same time. Here's an idea: if you think the show sucks without Harmon, by all means ignore it. Go out of your way to watch something else. Just don't come here and take your frustrations out on each and every episode for the sake of being so intellectual and critical that you echo the opinion of every other hater while expressing admiration for Danielle Steel-level writing skills. And here's how I lead by example: I'm hating on the haters in this post, so I guess I should take my own advice and ignore them for the rest of the series' run. That's what I shall do then, so I promise that this is the first and last time I ever spoke out about these matters - feel free to hate on this post, I'm happy to say that I will ignore it.
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Meh. I'd have found your post more insightful if you didn't generalize all us "haters" into one group and one way of thinking. I can tell you without much doubt that I'm not hating Community so far because of perception or bias or for the sake of hating, but I suppose your elitist generalization trumps all that.

Since I'm here, I'll get one thing off of my system: based on the comments I read week to week on these Community reviews, there seems to be a difference in comments where a lot of us "haters" actually point out scenes, lines of dialogue, themes, and other reasons why we dislike or hate a particular episode, while many of the defenders of the episodes don't specify anything and just declare: 1) "Haters gon' hate"; 2) "The show is the same but Harmon's firing just makes you perceive that the show is worse"; or 3) "Haters hate because they're hipsters who think hating is cool." It's SO much easier just generalizing and attacking all of us as one group, rather than making some ACTUAL arguments about the episodes, eh?

Many detractors: "I don't like this because of this. This didn't work for me because of that."
Commenters like you: "Haters suck and can't think properly. The show hasn't changed."
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"I know several snobbish reviewers who think his books are trash."

Well, hello there! And I apologize in advance if I may offend you or hurt your feelings, but when a creator/showrunner is fired, and half of the writers and a handful of directors leave with him, it's IMPOSSIBLE for there not to be a significant difference in tone, style, direction and most importantly, WRITING!

Ignorance, it seems, is bliss.
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Let it out.

I don't really care; Harmon or no Harmon, the B-story was rushed, period.
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ADAM FROM WORKAHOLICS IS HIS HALF BROTHER!!!! I HOPE HE POPS UP EVERY NOW AND THEN!. THIS GUY HIS HILARIOUS!
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...because nothing says Thanksgiving like nearly Spring...

before his actual half brother popped up, I kept thinking "holy crap, Jeff's half brother is Richard Castle!"
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I think Community is stepping away from the formula that made the show a succes these last 3 seasons, a formula that used over-the-top, very out there comedic genius but with very little in the way of character development. The latter part is actually one of the criticisms of the show; that the characters were nothing more than pawns in a story as opposed to characters that developed throughout. Think about it. In three years we really haven't gotten to know the characters on any deep basis. For example, we know that Shirley had a drinking problem in the episode where Troy turns 21 but we don't really get to know why she became an alcoholic (save for her divorce) or how she recovered. Likewise, we know very little about troy and britta as well individually or how they became a couple. I think that the direction this season is taking is to develop these characters more deeply. I don't really know if that's in fact necessary. As a long time fan, I liked the mindlessness (and that's a compliment) of Community without too much drama and this is certainly a departure from that forumla. It remains to be seen if this season will provide both the laughs and the character development necessary to propel the show forward the whole season (and possibly for the next).
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No character development? Seriously? You're insane. The study group is easily the most well-developed collection of characters in a comedy today, long before season 4.
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I don't think I am. I've been following the show since season 1 and love it but as far as I'm concerned, the show isn't about the characters, its about the hijinks they get themselves into. And while all the characters are well DEFINED, they haven't really developed all that much over 3 seasons. But that's just me.
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I liked the opening with the Dean in the cowboy costume (man 4th(?) episode its showed up) cant wait until they do a full episode with him invading Jeffs life.
overal it was an ok episode, I liked Jeffs story alot more than the stuff @ shirleys. And I didn't mind his half brother and i wouldnt care if he shows up later in the season. As for Britta and Jeff at the end, Im not too sure what that was about (they seem like theyre just pairing everyone with everyone else this season).
On an unrelated topic does anyone know whose switching places with who in the Freaky Friday episode?
Also another episode without chang.
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Agree with your review: Not perfect, but did feel a bit like the good ol' show... that most of us miss!
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This article was spot on with exactly how I felt about the episode too. How the moments with Shirley, Abed, Pierce, Annie and Troy were a little messy and rushed but not awful; Donald Glover delivers his lines like a champ, "Why did I have to go third?!" But what anyone will remember of this episode was Jeff's (and Joel Mchale's performance) speech to his father and him showing that scar, I don't think that show has ever made me feel like I did in that moment. No, it wasn't a very funny episode but I'm glad there's still someone who will watch and write an article on a show that still deserves people's attention- thank you Cory, great article.
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I DIDN'T HATE IT! .... Oh wait, yes I did.

(This comment is dedicated to PaulaGonzalez and peer pressure. Peer Pressure: Making people do shit since before the birth of Christ.)

"You really you'd this one, huh?"

I know it wasn't intentional, but that throwaway line by Jeff perfectly describes the current state of Community.

Urban Dictionary's definition of Britta-ing: "To mess something up in a very Britta-esque way. Something that is cool or fun, will become lame once somebody Britta's it."

Season 4 has been Britta'd, and Britta'd hard. I hated almost everything about this episode. I hated that I was slightly optimistic after last week's middling affair, only to be served several helpings of hackneyed cliches. I hated that Britta was even remotely relevant in Jeff's meeting with his Dad. I hated Adam DeVine (whom I love on Workaholics) and his petulant man-boy act. I HATED the entire Shawshank/Prison Break parody more than words are able to convey. And I hated myself a little bit for being such a hateful prick.

Firstly, the Shawshank riff. Dear lord, that monstrosity never even got two feet off the ground. It simply didn't work. I attribute this massive misstep to the foundation of the joke. I mean, how awful could a Thanksgiving dinner with Shirley's family really be?

Troy: "What is going on? Why is Thanksgiving so terrible?"
Annie: "I know! The tension, the backbiting, the judgemental comments, this makes Thanksgiving with my family look ... ahh, still pretty bad."

Exactly, Annie. You just described every cliche Thanksgiving dinner in every cliche sitcom. So, why the theatrics of a freaking prison break for something so ordinarily banal? Maybe if we actually saw why Shirley's family was so terrible that the group needed to hide out in the garage, it would have been better. But as it was, they just seemed like crappy friends, which is exactly the conclusion they came to at the end of the episode, rendering the entire plot stupid and meaningless. Shawshank Redemption is one of my favourite movies (I also love the short story), and a parody is *supposed* to elevate the source material, making you feel special for understanding and appreciating the "in" jokes. This episode did the opposite. I almost wished I never saw Shawshank, so I wouldn't know how horribly trite the parody was. And Abed's voiceovers were so conventional and platitudinous, they almost made me cry.

Abed: "One thing was clear to me and the rest of the crew, Bennet lockup was not where we belonged. We belonged in the sun, with the wind in out hair ..."

*SOB* WHO IS THIS STRANGER?!

Abed was, in a sense, Dan Harmon, and without Dan, Community has lost its voice, and more devastatingly, its soul.

One of the only redeeming qualities of "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations" was during the final smack-down Jeff laid on his absentee father. Jeff got closure and experienced some emotional growth, which I thought rung true with his character. It's funny that Community no longer has any idea how to be funny, but has gotten the earnest and emotional moments right. Is that comedic irony, or what? ... Seriously. I don't know.

The other saving grace was Troy. I laughed exactly three times in this episode, and all three times were due to Troy quotes.

Troy: "Yeah, thanks Sharon, I never thought about it that way, Batman is sort of gay."

Annie: "Shirley, we're just ..."
Abed: "About to ..."
Troy: "Eat garbage dip. Why did I have to go third?!"

Shirley: "Those people up there may be rude, they may be pushy, they may have come to some wrong-headed conclusions about Batman and Robin ..."
Troy: "Oh, thank you."

No, thank you, Troy, for being the only funny thing in this solitary confinement-like episode. But that's probably because Britta wasn't there to "her" it up. Oh, and you know how I said I hope the writers never feature Tritta again? Well, it seems like they're taking my advice.

Lastly, sorry for being a buzzkill, guys. I'm a little drunk right now, and I tend to get melancholic when I'm drinking (unless I'm pounding Jagerbombs, then I straight-up Hulk-out). Anyway, here's the quote from the ending of Shawshank Redemption, because Abed so badly Britta'd it:

"I find I'm so excited that I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel. A free man at a start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope."

Beautiful. Simply beautiful. *I* hope I can drink the memory of this episode away.
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I don't necessarily disagree with a lot of this, but you're being pretty harsh I think. There have been episodes of Harmon-era Community that did needless riffs or where jokes didn't land. It happens. They're still figuring it out.
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Yeah, I may have been a tad harsh. I'm a bitter drunk.
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You dislike the Shawshank "parody" for all the wrong reasons. Shawshank was good once, but on rewatch it is itself trite overrated crap.

The reason they didn't need to show us Shirley's family is because we have all faked leukemia to get out of seeing our families for the holidays. It's a universal motivation. Any time spent on that would have wasted valuable time and watered down the episode.

The problem here is the idea, not the execution. You can't do an homage because it is trite crap. You can't make fun of it because it is BELOVED trite crap.

The fact is someone in charge needed to toss out the whole story and say "start over". Like, I dunno, maybe a showrunner with strong creative sensibilities.
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Well, I agree with you about that last part.
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Ugh, I finally watched this episode :( And I envy you for being able to laugh at least three times (I did manage a smirk or two because of Troy though, so that's something). Yeah the Shirley Thanksgiving/Shawshank didn't work at all. It was just kind of there, and it just sort of happened, and I kept on asking: WHY? To be honest I was just bored....sigh.
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"Ugh." That sums up the season perfectly.
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Unfortunately :( I really wish it wasn't true. I watched the Oktoberfest episode as well...ughhhhh, not much better.
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oh my your comments have been so negative since this season started
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I know. It kind of sucks. I probably should stop writing about Community.
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idk if you should stop, you never know there might be that one dimond in the rough episode that might be really really good, then you can right positive things again!!
idk if i watch with rose colored glasses but when I watched it I thought it was an ok episode (the stuff a shirleys didnt really work for me it was just kind of there), but then i read your comments and then I start rethinking everything.
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**write positive things again
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Firstly, thanks for the dedication. Secondly, I've never peer-pressured anyone, so this is a huge accomplishment for me. Yay for me! Thirdly, stop stealing my thoughts!
I agree that the show has been Britta'd. Hey, even Britta has been Britta'd. She was like a caricature of herself in this episode. And even though I'm glad they stayed away from Tritta, they had to throw that final exchange between Jeff and Britta, looking at each other with puppy eyes. That felt cheap. And also it felt like they were cheating. In 5 episodes they managed to make Tritta happen, they "married" Jeff and Annie, and now it feels as though they plan to go back to Jeff and Britta. The romantic shenanigans were never one of the reasons that drew me to Community, and the show had previously managed to steer away from them gracefully. And Abed... oh, poor Abed, what have they done to you?
I wish the writers would drop all the homages. So far, I felt they were done half-heartedly. And without a clear purpose.
Even though I enjoyed Joel McHale's acting in the final confrotation between Jeff and his dad, I did find it odd that I was enjoying the drama of the show rather than the comedy. Community had always hit the emotional notes without forgetting to make you smile just when you were about to cry like a baby. And I can't help but compare this father-son confrontation to the one that took place in New Girl. Nick Miller was able to tell his dad how he felt, and it was honest, and it was brutal, but it was still FUNNY. "I've been mad at you for 30 years, dad. I'm not a successful adult. I don't eat vegetables and/or take care of myself. And it's because of you".
Frankly, I don't see how they'd be able to get the show back on track at this point. But I hope they prove me wrong.
P.S.: are you a Stephen King fan? Because if you are, this is getting too eerie. And also, you're quite an articulate drunk.
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"And also, you're quite an articulate drunk."

As a man descended from Scottish scholars, no greater compliment could be given. Thanks!
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The "romantic shenanigans" are one prime example of how Community has been watered down and broadened/dumbed down and butchered.

Romantic relationships were rarely a central focus for Dan Harmon. Jeff and Britta were briefly a thing, but it was never too serious. No declarations of love or anything even remotely close to it. Just two friends, having sex, and then realizing they're completely wrong for each other. Soon after "Modern Warfare" Jeff and Britta went their separate ways and the show never looked back (until now, of course).

Then there was/is Jeff and Annie. I actually think Harmon was trying to build something there. Ever since they kissed at the end of the first season, it seemed to me that Harmon might be playing the long game with their relationship. But the way he went about it was the opposite of cliche. Remember in season three's opening number how Jeff and Annie sang that they were "gonna sleep together"? Well, that never came about. Everybody was just waiting for it to eventually happen, but it never did. Jeff and Annie never progressed beyond sexually charged glances and obvious mutual affection.

Which was fine! Community didn't need couples. The emphasis was placed on the group dynamic and friendship relating to family. And I think Dan Harmon enjoyed messing with our expectations. He parodied fan-made "shipping" videos in "Paradigms of Human Memory" to hilarious effect (I still have the song "Gravity" by Sara Bareilles on my iPod), and spoofed "My Dinner with Andre" when we thought he was going to spoof "Pulp Fiction".

I never knew what to expect going into a new episode of Community, and that was a wonderfully liberating feeling.

NOW

Right off the bat the new writers basically threw up a giant metaphorical banner screaming, "Jannie and Tritta! It's on!" Troy and Britta were in the infancy ... no, scratch that, they were in the pregnancy of their relationship at the end of season three. Then they're holding hands in the season four opener and I was like, "Um, did I miss something?"

So we had Jannie and Tritta, one was more tolerable than the other, but with the new writers, neither one them felt right. It's like they skipped a stage just to appease whatever network hacks were insisting on the comedy to be "more accessible." There was no organic progression and both relationships were rushed to a point beyond recognition.

To make all of that worse, as you wrote, Britta and Jeff were giving each other the "puppy eyes" in this episode, reverting back to realtionship dynamics that have long been extinct. I honestly don't know what the writers are doing with these characters anymore, and unlike when Harmon had the helm, that terrifies me. (I swear to god, if I see a love triangle, I'm gone.)

WOW! That ended up being much longer than I initially intended. But it feels good to be able to vent my frustration. Thanks!

Oh, and thank the gods of comedy for New Girl. It's heartfelt, hilarious and honest And probably the one thing keeping me sane through the trials and tribulations of this new Community. Great catch on the daddy-issues comparison, by the way. New Girl didn't have to sacrifice the funny to score emotionally ...

When IS the next episode of New Girl?

(P.S. I adore Stephen King! I know several snobbish reviewers who say his books are trash, but I think he's one of the greatest writers of our time. He has an uncanny ability of making the supernatural seem natural. Have you ever read The Dark Tower series or 11/23/63?)
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Well, if you need to, vent away, my friend! Your comments are always a good read. Though I feared that your initial reluctance to comment on this episode was due to the fact that you didn't have anything nice to say about it. I *was* right, right?
(P.S.: I'm also a huge fan of Stephen King, I'd say 70% of the books on my library are his. And it always pisses me off how he's always diminished as a writer just because he writes a lot. One of my fondest memories from my University classes is when my Contemporary Literature professor told the class that Stephen King was one of the greatest writers of our times, I was fangirling in my mind because that's exactly how I feel. I haven't read The Dark Tower series YET, but it's definitely in my "to read list". The thing is his books are insanely expensive where I live, especially his best-sellers. I'm currently half-way through "Roadwork", which I'd never read before.)
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Well if you rewatch the show you can see that tech Troy and Brittas relationship started as far back as season . You can see little moments in season 1 , like that epsiode with the dance class. Also in S1 where Jeff and Britta were trying to get Troy and Annie together Troy was able to discribe Britta in extreme detail implying that he was really into her. In Season 2 with the KFC Apollo spoof where they start to get towed Britta falls ontop of troy(i think might be the other way around) and they have a moment there. THere are prob a ton of other example but I cant think of them.SO you could debate whether or not they really only started likilng each other since the end of S3. However, I agree, their relationship did progress really fast over the break.
I think that before they never really wanted to pair off everyone b/c by doing that they could lose fans and make people upset. That was the reason why they never made anything finite.
And it wouldnt make a love triangle it would be a love box, remember in the hlloween episode Annie and Troy had a little moment. SO it would be Jeff/Annie, Troy/Britta, Annie/Troy, Jeff/Britta (and they could also add Annie/Britta cuz they have always kind of hinted towards that too in the past). I hope they dont do that too cuz that would just get messy.
As for New GIrl. Next episode is in two weeks. This tues they arent airing it cuz Fox wants to air a 2hr episode of Hells Kitchen.
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This is still a great show, but it feels, different. The gags pack a slightly less powerful punch. some of the dialog feels forced, like there's someone with a pointy spear behind the curtain poking them in the back, but so far I'm enjoying what is likely this last season with familiar friends.
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well written episode. but they need to start focusing on the comedy
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I think the comedy is just going to be broader from here on out. They're still figuring it out it seems.
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Man, what is with people about this one? The parts of the episode with the gang at Shirley's was passable, sure. But Jeff's story was genuine and wonderfully written, and made up for any other shortcomings in the B-story.
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I loved this episode...more specifically the scene with Jeff telling off his dad...this probably is because of my own personal issues with my father. I have been enjoying this new season without Dan Harmon i know...(shocker) i mean it isn't the greatest but im enjoying it. Even the situation at Shirley's but to me it that story wasn't supposed to have much wait given the weight of the story line of Jeff Winger. It would have been nice to have seen more of Shirley's family including or sons and maybe a return of Malcolm Jamaal Warner.
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I enjoyed this episode and the last one. I'm approaching each new one with a sense of dread, but so far it's getting better.
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Jeff's bit was alright. I also like how we're getting a little bit of "Pilot" Britta back instead of charicatured-rebellious Britta.

But the Shirley Thanksgiving bit? :yawn:

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I'm finding it realllly difficult to get through these episodes. They're just not that good, they seem flat to me and I don't find myself laughing, like at all. Also were these supposed to air last year or something?
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Yeah, it also doesn't help a show when the episodes are aired out of season, so that's not fair for them. Maybe if we were watching them in the spirit of the holidays it would feel differently. I feel we just need to get past the first half of the season, what viewers feel they should've already been shown, and it might not feel like we're just trying to rush and get through something.
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Sort of? They were originally going to air in the fall on Fridays, if you might recall.
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I guess I am in the minority here but I really enjoyed the episode
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I enjoyed Jeff and Brittas storyline, the stuff @ shirleys kind of fell flat for me (but there were some great lines). But it definately wasnt a bad episode. I dont think your in the minority I think that the people who see the negative things are prob more vocal here. On other forums and stuff ive read other people liking it too
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You guys are like little balls of sunshine ... Wait, what pills are you taking?
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don't worry, I enjoyed this episode
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I liked the important parts!
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A little bit of my soul died while watching this episode. I've been trying to stay optimistic about this season, but finally, unavoidably, I have to ask: Where is Community and what have you done with it??? It's like my friend has been abducted by aliens and returned distinctly off. It's a shell of it's former self, or maybe a mutant facsimile created by said abducting aliens after some thorough probing of the original.

Where are the funnies? And WHY all the forced over-sentimentality?? I rolled my eyes much more than I giggled during this episode. I suppose that's a little hypocritical of me since I was looking forward to New Jeff and the dad episode, but I guess I thought it'd be...more Community-esque? Less cheesy? I love Adam DeVine of Workaholics but even he couldn't eke too many laughs out of the material. The Shawshank thing was already done and done better in Contemporary American Poultry. Shirley's Thanksgiving plot reaaallly didn't go anywhere. Sigh. I'll probably keep watching, but my heart ain't in it anymore. Kinda like the show.
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I don't think the sentiment was forced. The strongest part of the episode--and the season--for me.
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I liked it. It wasn't perfect, but it was above par for the season. I liked Brolin as his Dad. wonder how many other fatherless TV characters he is going to end up being their dad. Adam Devine was needed. Without he and Britta there for outside commentary and funny it would have been too serious for what we have come to know as Community. The speeches were good, the growth was fine. I liked it. Now lets get back to the funny. I would like it if Willy starts to show up here and there just because he wants to be closer to Jeff and see how Jeff will react to that.

The stuff at Shirley's I thought was funny. It reminded of Contemporary American Poultry, albeit to a lesser extent. But sometimes all you need is Abed's observations It is was among so many other things was missing from last weeks German Invasion. It was more in line with the process that they do when they make one of their more memorable episodes, it just wasn't up there yet. I still have faith that they will bring it all together. But I think any of the new writers and the runner of the show if they get picked up for next season, needs to sit down a weekend and watch some of there better episodes.
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Adam Devine was ok. He won me over with "he's the schwarzenegger, i'm the devito, i get it"
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That line was solid.
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I know what I'm NOT thankful for... this episode! Zing! *insert laugh track here*

Anyway, ummm... this episode... uhhh... exists? Look, I didn't find it horrible. It was just... boring? Sure, boring. I thought everything at Shirley's thanksgiving dinner was terrible, but boringly terrible, not disgustingly so. Maybe it hurt more because The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies -- I know, real original right? The #1 rated IMDB movie is my favorite movie? I'm so not cool -- but as I've said about previous episodes, this one AGAIN had another wasted concept. I know this episode made no attempt at being a concept episode and I have absolutely no problems with that... but ultimately, I don't think they did much of anything with the "we're in prison" theme. Abed did a little Shawshank voiceover akin to the Goodfellas voiceover... at some point carved a hole in the wall... then referenced Prison Break and drew the "prison" on his body. While they sound cool enough when I type it down, it didn't reflect anything worthwhile on screen.

Jeff's interactions with his dad was really the only thing remotely worthwhile in this episode, but even that wasn't great. It felt a little forced, but I can accept it. Adam Devine's role wasn't funny at all... oh, NBC, you and your want for broad (dumbed down) humor.

Ultimately, the episode just wasn't particularly funny, interesting, thoughtful, or creative. Even if you can't hit all four, sometimes one is enough... especially for sitcoms, funny is usually the one necessity, while the rest comes and goes... but I can only speak for myself and say that I didn't laugh once. I smirked at Pierce's "Jeff's at a point in his life where he needs a strong father figure to come out to" line, but the rest was kind of *shrugs*
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I agree this one was better, not great though.
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I did like Jeff’s confrontation of his father, and there were a few small moments that I did laugh at. Because of that, this episode was better than the first 3 episodes of the season. However, I still didn’t think it was that great. Like you said, the part at Shirley’s house wasn’t that good, although it was actually the part that gave me the most laughs (ie. Troy asking why he had to go last after he revealed what they were planning, Shirley’s relatives wanting to get away from “that crazy, old white guy,” and Shirley saying that Pierce put on a white face over a black face). Whereas the part with Jeff and his father seemed flat until the turning point where his father says that Jeff might have been better off without him being there for Jeff, and again, Jeff’s confrontation at the end. So far, if I had to rank the episodes, I’d say 4 >> 5 > 2 > 3 > 1. Episode 4 has been the only passable one IMO. I honestly don’t need the show to be the same quality as the Dan Harmon seasons (although I’d obviously love it if it was), but I do need it to be good, which it honestly hasn’t been. And I don’t just mean that in terms of Community-level greatness, I mean in general quality as well. There have been 5 episodes so far this season, with 13 episodes total. That’s a little over 1/3 of the season. And honestly, the only two reasons I’m sticking with it is that it is Community, my (previously) favorite comedy show currently airing, and while the episodes haven’t been that good so far, I can see the potential of it at least becoming decent, like it did in episode 4. However, as much as I hate to say it, if things don’t shape up soon, I may have to drop it entirely. Some people may say it’s too soon to just drop it, when I’ve enjoyed it so much for so long, and I can kind of see where they’re coming from, but I think that 1/3 of a season, soon to be 1/2, should be a good indicator of the quality of the season.
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I had to type this message a second time, because for some reason it didn't seem to post the first time. Because of this, I forgot to mention one this: On top of Jeff's story seeming flat outside of the ending, it was also brought down by Britta being the most annoying that she's ever been on the series, and also by Jeff's brother, who somehow was even more annoying than Britta.
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I thought it was a good episode. We got to explore Jeff's life more and feel more compassionate about his dickish behavior. I actually liked the Shawshank riff Abed was playing and how it evolved into a Prison Break with the map of Shirley's house on his stomach. It was simple and enjoyable in its humor. And I like that.
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I have to say I did not like this episode and felt that everything was forced and not very funny...
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Yeah, the comedy isn't great. But the more dramatic stuff is better.
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Awesome episode and as much as people keeping saying Community is a goner, this and last episode say different. Keep it up Community.
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Such a great episode. That Winger speech from Joel has to be top 3 all time. Give that man a Emmy. I think it tied last weeks episode for best so far. i loved the Shawkshank and Prison Break throw in's there. The only thing i was dissapointed with Adam Devine character. Thats all he did was yell. I think they just said lets throw some crazy in from him.
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The confrontational scene between Jeff and his father really broke my heart. Joel McHale did such a wonderful job and the writers should be giving themselves a pat on the back. Well done, guys!
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Everyone keeps comparing this community to the community of yore, when Dan Harmon was still at the helm, and that's the first mistake. This will never be Dan Harmon's Community. The sooner we all realize that and lower our expectations considerably, the show will be much easier to enjoy for what it is-an homage to history's best meta/pop culture reference/homage producing comedy.

With that being said- It seems that the show runners are finally getting their footing and figuring out what works for them. The human moments were great in tonight's episode, however I wish they didn't waste the biggest moments of the series while they were still figuring things out. Hopefully the Die Hard Christmas special will be another leap in the right direction.
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Yeah, and if I lower my expectations enough, I'll also be able to enjoy Honey Boo Boo, Whitney, Beauty and the Best, Viva Laughlin, and The Marriage Ref (fortunately, the last three are now off the air). Sorry, I really don't think I'm a snob, but the "lower your standards" argument kind of sucks.
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However, I will say that I have lowered my expectations a bit regarding Community. I really am not comparing this to old Community anymore. Maybe that just means your argument isn't directed to someone like me, but you did start off your argument with "Everybody..." so I'll chime in.

I'm watching THIS Community because I still hold hope that it is or will be better than most other comedies out there. But I still found this episode quite... boring. Nothing made me laugh. Nothing made me think. Jeff's interactions with his dad might be the only good quality of this episode, but I don't think it was great or anything.
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You don't LOVE Beauty and the Beast?! Wtf?!
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This better have been a good episode - it was their November sweeps episode. The Jeff stuff, with the exception of "Cousin Oliver" was pretty good but the Shirley stuff didn't work at all. So, they show Chevy Chase pratfalls off camera. That which he made his career on. Maybe Chevy Chase wasn't the dick in the room?
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I've never seen The Shawshank Redemption, and I think that served me well in this case. I thought that story line was pretty good. I felt bad for Shirley, but admired her commitment to family, no matter what. When Pierce was doing pratfalls off screen I could only think of Chevy's Gerald Ford impressions. Classic Chevy. And Donald Glover can make me laugh anytime.

I loved the scenes with Jeff & his father. I'm glad he was finally able to tell him how he really feels. And Abed's voice over let us know that Jeff was better after that. Good for him.
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This was definitely Community's "serious" episode if you can call it that. I actually liked Jeff's stupid half brother. Just ridiculous and that's what I like, haha. I wish we could have seen Pierce with White Face on Black Face. That was a quick hilarious line. Yeah, it's too bad we didn't see all that table stuff at Shirley's. I've never understood Chang's existent after Season 1 and looks like next week there's a lot on this Changnesia.
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Meh.
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I'm with you, buddy.
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This was actually the first episode I really liked this season. I liked the stuff with Jeff and his dad. I remember in season 1, Britta looked through Jeff's phone and the people in it didn't have names, just vague descriptions. I think that's who Jeff's texting. People who don't mean much to him and vice versa. There was great character stuff and Britta being there for him. It was even funny.

I also felt that the Shirley stuff was unintentionally meta. Abed kept trying to recreate some kind of Prison Break/Shawshank scenario and it just didn't play with the crowd he was with. Sort of like how the bits have been for the audience this season when it seems like the show is trying too hard to be like its old self. I found it funny and all the elements together combined to make the show feel a bit more like it's old self to me.
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I'm really looking forward to Abed's Die Hard Christmas.
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That's meta. Cleveland show already did a Christmas Die Hard episode.
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Yep the thanksgiving break story was the worst thing Community has ever done and I wept inside. There was some nice realism to the Jeff story but on the whole I felt it didn't succeed. It's hard to explain why. It just felt lukewarm, and lacking shape and completely failed to integrate any comedy into the story and of course the brother character was terrible.

I'm getting desperate now. I think all I can wish for is one top-notch quality episode in the season. That would be one redeeming feature for a season that currently seems destined to have none.
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Part of the reason it didn't work is that it's not Thanksgiving. You're 4 months removed from the type of family tension they were working from.
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I dunno, it's not too hard to get back into the Thanksgiving mindset. It's like a Vietnam vet's flashbacks, man. They're always there. I think it didn't work because it wasn't funny. And Shirley's Thanksgiving just... did not work.
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Good, I needed one more thing to bitch about before I went to sleep, and here's the comments for another utter screwjob of a Community episode.

Everything about Jeff's storyline felt incredibly forced and dishonest. Britta showing up and being on the scene - bullshit. Adam "Workaholics" DeVine as his brother - miscast. Jeff being a dishrag pretending to be a man - only thanks to Greendale itself. The big moment between father and son - contrived and pretentious, like a computer generating Jeff speeches went haywire and started writing Hallmark cards. And the amount of self-honesty Jeff was able to see and articulate with such stark clarity, that felt like writers knowing a character so well that they forget the character shouldn't know himself as well as they do. The annoying part is that I did like the moments here, but they weren't connected to anything, they didn't really attach to each other except in setting and actors.

And what really does Britta have to do with any of it? She's a total failure, she's essentially wrong about everything she says, and yet the episode by the end is smug about her being there as if she was useful.

Then there was the faceplant that was Thanksgiving at Shirley's, basically a B-plot bottle episode, and more smiles and expressive faces from Abed, more dumb coincidences from the situation, and a painfully obvious reveal of Shirley's true motives. But guess what: you want your friends to act as a buffer in your home? Don't treat them like shit the minute they get there. Pierce was actually funny in this episode, and then they bury it in stupid antics and bad ideas. And the dean, what a pathetic one-dimensional role they've left him with.

This was an awkward attempt to get back on the show's footing, but between being a gimmick episode (holiday!) and a huge miss on the B-plot (Shirley's house!) and some very forced elements with Jeff (James Brolin, you ARE the father!), I felt like this was another weak entry in the series and came up to around the same middling area as last week's "holy shit, we actually do go to school still!"

I'm not entirely surprised that you found more to like, Cory, but I do feel like you got sucked into the manipulative claptrap of the A-plot too heavily. As for texting, no, I think Jeff is texting girls and bros, but they're hollow relationships that leave him feeling empty.
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"And what really does Britta have to do with any of it? She's a total failure, she's essentially wrong about everything she says, and yet the episode by the end is smug about her being there as if she was useful."

Haha! I figure Britta was just supposed to be the comedic element (along with Adam Devine's character) to Jeff and his dad's serious characters and story, but neither she nor the half-brother brought much of that to the table either.

I think Jeff's dad kind of reflected your comment when he said to Britta: "...since you're here... for some reason."
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Remember when everybody noticed how the photography and camera staging seemed off and really different? This is the first Season 4 episode that felt like it was shot the way the previous three seasons were.

They still need to work on Abed, though, and I don't know if it can be done. That character was Harmon's heart and soul; no one else can get into his head.
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The budget has been slashed over the past two years. We're noticing it now because Dan Harmon actually put his own money into the show to keep it looking the same in S2/S3. That money is now obv. gone.
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"When (Dan Harmon) created a TV character who relates to the world through television, Harmon didn’t realize that he was, in a sense, inserting himself into his show. Ever since he recognized this, writing in Abed’s voice has gotten much easier; all Harmon has to do, he says, is 'open up my memory.' And he has learned to understand himself a bit better, including why—like Abed—he sometimes unintentionally hurts those around him." - Brian Rafferty (Wired Magazine).

Heart and soul, indeed. Smiley-Abed will forever be an empty husk.
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No review of your own this time?
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No, I'm not going to write one ... It's just too damn depressing ... No, okay? It's not gonna happen! ...

FINE! You've twisted my arm! Just give me two hours and three beers and it'll be posted. I hope your happy!
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I just wanted to check whether you're stealing my thoughts and presenting them more eloquently than I ever could or not. And now I really want to see what you come up with after three beers and a Community-induced state of depression.
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Good review. I agree on most points; I liked the confrontation between Jeff and his Dad, and thought the Shawshank riff fell pretty flat. I thought Adam Levine was hilarious, though.

It's odd; the Jeff half of this episode was better than anything else this season so far, but the Shawshank half was worse. So I guess overall this balanced out to an average episode for the season; a season I've actually quite enjoyed so far, especially the most recent episode, with the Germans.

Keep up the reviews, man. Don't let Tim come back. He's a hater.
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I love Tim. But, you might be happy to know that I'll be doing these the rest of the season.
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You sure you want to go with Adam Levine?
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Whoops. That might have been better, actually. I like Tim too, and his Walking Dead reviews, but his Community reviews are depressing now.
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