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COMMUNITY Review: ‘Laws Of Robotics and Party Rights’

I have a friend who, when he was in graduate school, once performed a little experiment. He started the weekend by going to a party filled with people he didn’t know and told them who he was — a PhD student in chemistry. They yawned, as most people do. He then went to another party, and told everyone there he was a theater student. He found some people were a little more interested in his (pretend) career choice. But not many. So he went to a third party and told anyone who would listen that he was an ex-convict who’d just been released from prison. “Oh, my God!” the coeds cried. “What did they get you for?!” By the end of that party he’d met more young ladies than he had in years as a simple science geek… All of which is to say I understand how much people love their bad boys, from Al Capone to Dominic Toretto. And how amidst all the ridiculousness on display in this week’s episode of Community — in which prison inmates enroll as students at Greendale as part of a new rehabilitation effort via “telepresence robots” (an iPad mounted on a mobile monopod) — there’s a core of truth that continues to inform the show even in its sixth season.

“Laws of Robotics and Party Rights” largely focuses on the show’s original bad boy, Jeff, whose world is threatened by the influx of charismatic newcomers, particularly Willy (guest actor Brian Van Holt), who takes his class in an attempt at learning “a thing or two,” only to find Jeff prefers to let Planet Earth “babysit” his class. At this point in the show’s run, Jeff, as some have pointed out online, has already learned what the school means to him, and so should be putting a little more effort into his job than the scoundrel we met in season 1. But I’d argue that we all have relapses from time to time. So Willy inadvertently wakes up the former attorney by giving him a healthy kick in the ass, though what he’d really like to do is send him hurtling down a flight of stairs.

In its new home on Yahoo Screen, Community‘s budget isn’t what it used to be, as reflected in the show’s continued use of preexisting sets, and a limited number of outdoor shots. So the epic parody of season 1’s “A Fistful of Paintballs” or even last year’s “App Development and Condiments” appears no longer possible. But creator Dan Harmon began his career with low-budge comedy shorts like Homeless James Bond, so he’s plenty capable of creating a tempest in a teacup, which he eventually does here when Willy’s down-home charm wins over Greendale’s student body and the Dean himself, who dismiss the increasingly jealous and scarily violent Jeff for two weeks of paid sabbatical. When the Dean decides to recruit Willy for the school’s faculty, Jeff crashes the hilariously overwrought wedding, er, appointment ceremony, and finds himself in a bonafide bot fight. Though Jeff (shirtless, natch) loses the duel, he wins back the Dean’s heart, and order is once more restored. Keith David’s Elroy again comes in handy this week, as he transforms a broom into the robot with which Jeff infiltrates the proceedings.

This week’s more predictable, less amusing B plot deals with the still couch-crashing Britta’s attempts to have a party in the apartment she now shares with Annie and Abed, despite their reluctance due to its occupancy limit. She exploits Abed’s love of filmmaking, however, offering him the chance to capture on screen a world as alien to him as that of any science fiction movie — people partying “like there’s no tomorrow.” Her plan backfires of course when the perfectionist keeps the party going for days in order to get it just right on camera, even bringing in doubles for Jeff and the Dean. I’d have laughed a little harder if I hadn’t felt so sorry for Britta, who, like Jeff, moves beyond mere narcissism here to a world of complete self-destructiveness. Even Annie, who’s often her own worst enemy, acts old enough in comparison to be Britta’s mother.

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Study Notes

— “I have a brain the size of Jupiter. I’m nobody’s fourth Ghostbuster.” Keith David continues to rule.

— “I don’t get anything out of parties. They’re like conventions for every subject too boring to have their own convention. And instead of Joss Whedon the police show up.”

— The pop-back gags schtick is worthwhile just for the throwaway cameo by Troy’s right arm.

— “You’re going to be punished in ways you won’t understand for longer than you think is rational or possible. But then one day, you’ll do something he likes and he’ll stop. And eventually you’ll either adapt or lose your mind.”

— Is Chang officially homeless? Is that why he’s using Abed and Annie’s toilet when they’re at school? Once again there’s an entirely separate sitcom going on with the show’s wild card.

— “Eradicate! Eradicate! Eradicate!” I want a sequel where the teleprescence bots are equipped with ray guns.

Next week: An allegedly racist comedian’s upcoming performance threatens the school’s privacy in “Basic Email Security”.

What did you think of this week’s episodes? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).

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