Community's incredible three-episode streak of comedy reinvention slowed down to a canter last night with "Origins of Vampire Mythology," a non-conceptual episode that was a 'shippers dream. For those who are
not cool enough lucky enough to know what a "shipper" is, let me be the one to introduce you to the concept: 'Shippers are fanatical weirdos who obsess over romantic entanglements between fictional characters from their favorite TV shows, movies, and imaginary lives. They are the idjuts responsible for the co-dependent smashing of two names to form one (Lost's Skaters and Jaters, for example) and such gaudy apparel as "Team Peeta" T-shirts with glitter all over them. They must be stopped!
Friendship and more-than-friendship were at the center of "Origins of Vampire Mythology," as relationship potential between a fawning Annie and a shirtless Jeff, a senile Pierce and a juvenile Chang, and a surprisingly sensitive Troy and a confused Britta served as the beating, longing, throbbing heart of the episode. With a series as fiercely adored as Community, there's always going to be a difference of opinion regarding whether romance belongs on a show like this. Well, it does and it doesn't.
On one level, Community is the anti-sitcom, with severe allergies to typical sitcom tropes. But Community is also eager to explore those tropes and put them through the shredder. The series is also heavy into serializing things this season (how long will Laybourne try to recruit Troy?), and romantic storylines are a tried-and-true backbone of multi-episode storytelling. Lately, Annie's been crushing on Jeff hardcore, and Britta and Troy have shared a couple googly eyed moments. These developments point to the natural progression of friendship between these characters who spend so much time together, but they also stink of the writers running out of ideas. What we have here is recognition that Community is a sitcom, which might be the scariest thing of all. But let's see where this goes before we make any rash judgments.
The series has tackled these kissy-faces before, and the early Jeff and Britta stuff was pretty horrible until halfway through Season 1, somewhere around the Valentine's Day episode when their back-and-forth drunk-dialing became the launching point for their friendship. We learned in Season 2 that they had been hooking up behind the scenes, usually when they were wasted—as they were at Troy's birthday party—and that added a fantastic Community-ish layer to their "romance." Jeff and Annie have also been connected more than once, but I think we can all agree that they're horrible for each other for countless reasons. Troy and Britta have flirted with getting it on during their drama class, and Annie started the series with a huge thing for Troy. But let's face it, Troy only has eyes for Abed.
My take: I'm not really jazzed about romantic relationships on Community. I just think that any bit of hand-holding would destroy the group dynamic that's so strong right now and has been for the last two seasons. External characters coming in as boyfriends/girlfriends are great, but any intra-group relationship would have to be handled very delicately. There's reasonable worry that with "Origins of Vampire Mythology" the show is speeding toward Sitcom City via the Romance Expressway, but I hope those end-of-episode puppy-dog eyes were setting up something that Community can twist in ways it does so well rather than usher in the next Jim and Pam. God I hate Jim and Pam.
Study Group Notes
– Aside from all the babble above, this was a decent episode of Community, but nothing spectacular. It won't make my re-watch list, that's for sure.
– Pierce: "She has the King Arthur of bad taste in men."
– Abed: "I need help reacting to something." One of my favorite Abed lines EVER.
– Do you think there's room for romance on Community?
– How many of you had an insatiable urge to watch Blade after this episode? And we can all agree that Blade II is the superior film, right?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom