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Not the Community it used to be

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Written by : published Saturday 23rd March 2013

This week's installment of NBC's Community, "Economics of Marine Biology," encapsulate perfectly what is wrong with this fourth year of the series. The A plot, where the Dean (Jim Rash) asks the study group, which ends up being just Annie (Alison Brie), to help him land a rich, lazy whale (The Inbetweeners' Zack Pearlman) as a student, is actually quite a small part of the story. This is bad. Let me tell you why.

Community inhabits a very specific world, namely, Greendale Community College. Greendale has long been a major part of the heart of the show. Only at a place such as this could the wacky, zany adventures that consume our characters happen. It doesn't exactly kowtow to the laws of physics or reality, and its many strange students and teachers, each with their own quirks, make up the ecosystem.

The part of "Economics of Marine Biology" that deals with the whale is about preserving Greendale. The Dean is willing to take away Magnitude's (Luke Youngblood) catch phrase in order to get the new student, and it is because of that that he and Annie realize their mistake and tell the kid he is welcome, but they are not changing for him.

However, this is only one of four stories taking place in the episode, and is pushed into a small segment of the running time. Why not fully commit to this? Why not examine many of the different elements that make Greendale Greendale, instead of just Magnitude? There is a ripe opportunity here to take a nostalgic look at the school and ponder the makeup of the series, which is totally squandered on an amusing, small bit, rather than living up to its full potential.

It's also ridiculous that the new guy decides to attend Greendale. He is already committed before they put him in his place, and then putting him in his place is the reason he attends? This doesn't make sense. Many things in Community don't make sense, so again, there's a way to turn this into something cool, but instead it feels like a predictable, pat ending made even worse if we never see the character again. Which we probably won't.

During this entire thing, Abed (Danny Pudi) splits off to form a fraternity to fight the Dean. This is more evidence of how Abed is losing his touch and going off of the deep end. Normally, either Abed would suck his friends into his scheme, or whatever he is doing will tie into the other stories. Neither of these things happen, reducing Abed's plotline to a couple of sight gags that don't mean anything or go anywhere.

Both of these are examples of Community going off the rails. To be as weird as Community chooses to be, it has to maintain an extremely high level of quality writing and acting. I feel like the performers are doing the best they can with the material they are given, but with stories going off the rails or missing their stops, this year is suffering, which is especially apparent in an episode like this.

One reason I defend the acting is because Joel McHale continues to kill in the role of Jeff this season. The way Jeff ends up hanging out with Pierce (Chevy Chase) in "Economics of Marine Biology" is stretching things a bit much, and the ending is incredibly rote and boring, but the stuff in the middle is genius. McHale really embraces the new depth his character has, and plays the emotional moments with sheer brilliance. When Jeff actually defends Pierce in front of his peers, I admit to welling up just a bit. McHale is definitely this season's MVP thus far.

Lastly, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Troy (Donald Glover) take a Physical Education Education class. It's an OK story, with Shirley's natural disciplinary abilities helping her to soar, whereas Troy, always the athlete but never the coach, flops. A montage where Shirley coaches Troy coaching Kevin (Ken Jeong) works. However, this doesn't fit into the episode, and should have been saved for another time, thus allowing more of the Greendale plot, which desperately needs more.

In all, there are some nice elements that just fail to add up, making this one of the season's weaker installments. After a couple of weeks that gave me hope, "Economics of Marine Biology" brings the series back to the ground, and exposes the fatal flaws plaguing it. Also, after seven episodes, we have yet to have a truly memorable, special week, and past seasons have delivered far more often than that. Halfway through what will likely be the final year, my pessimism about the fate of beloved Community is back.

Community airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

About the author JeromeWetzelTV

JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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