Community: "Competitive Wine Tasting"


It's strange to use the word "middling" to describe an episode of Community featuring guest star Stephen Tobolowsky and the return of Kevin Corrigan (the erstwhile Professor Professorson). I cant' quite put my finger on why, either. All of the jokes landed for me, especially Chang's snarky drop-ins (my favorite use of Chang), Corrigan's self-indulgent monologue about acting, and the wholesale commitment to Fiddla, Please! - one of the greatest tags yet from a show known for great tags.

But the whole didn't quite live up to the sum of its parts. "Competitive Wine Tasting" was a bit unfocused. I liked all three plots, but I'm not sure I liked them all in the same episode. They didn't connect to one another, and squeezing them all together didn't give any of them room to breathe.

Which is too bad, because the ideas behind them are all very strong. Jeff can't accept how that he resents Pierce, and lashes out at him under the guise of friendship. Troy is no longer the big man on campus he was in high school, but that seemingly charmed former life makes it hard for him to relate to the oddballs and outcasts that outnumber him at Greendale. Abed's raw gift for his discipline clashes with the decades of scholastic study and output of his professor.

Any one of these would make for a great A-story in a tighter episode. With them all fighting for space in "Competitive Wine Tasting," we only got to see glimpses of the other study group members flitting through each one (particularly Annie and Shirley, in the Greek chorus role this week). I'd liked to have seen how Jeff, no stranger to challenging authority, weighed in on Abed's pas de deux with Prof. Sheffield (Tobolowsky, satirizing an academic windbag with characteristic awesomeness). I'd liked to have seen Troy's old high school classmate, Annie, help him come to terms with how he's changed - the same way he did for her in "Mixology."

Too much time was spent on a Troy-Britta attraction that felt packed in. While I do buy (and really enjoy) that Britta would be attracted to her friend upon discovering his emotional problems, Troy's whole fib too quickly became about that, rather than about fitting in with the acting circle. And just because he catches a glimpse of her in the leotard? It's not like he hasn't seen her in attractive garb before; she even alludes to their mutual dance class.

On the plus side, I did enjoy the return of a more likably irascible and offensive Pierce, with a bit more nuance and caginess than his cartoon villainy inspires. He and Jeff make a good pair. The latter is terrified that his instinct for emotional distance will carry him down the Hawthorne path, which makes for some interesting interactions as Jeff both connects with and shuns his older friend. ("Basic Genealogy" and "Politics of Human Sexuality" both displayed this well in season one.)

Still, when the worst thing you can say about episode of television is that it had too much good potential, and you wish it had spread it out more, you're talking about a pretty damn good show.

Other notes:
  • "Horseback riding! Waterskiing! Fencing! Those are just a few of the classes we can afford to offer if enough people sign up for Hopscotch."
  • "Ooh, they've got a class on writing jokes!" "Oh, don't take that. I dropped it after the lesson on writing set-ups. The professor is soooo old...."
  • "I'll give you the same advice my father gave me the night I lost my virginity: Just pick one, they all cost the same."
  • "Foosball was full?" "I'm on the wait-list."
  • "Drunk ladies, fancy bathrooms, and a room full of free coats."
  • The return of the 70s Chevy portrait!
  • "That's the first time sexism has made me hungry."
  • "Please take weird haircut, stupid grin, and go sniff another dog's ass."
  • "I can't wait to choose stage names. Which do you think is better: Trevor St. McGoodbody, or David?"
  • "That is an actor's job. That and, you know, pretending to be other people."
  • "He refused to drink pinot noir because he thought it was French for 'black penis.'"
  • "Don't preach to me about romance, Annie. I had a three-way in a hot air balloon."
  • "MY EMOTIONS! MY EMOTIONS!" Again, if we've decided that Donald Glover gets to scream and/or cry every week, I am totally on board.
  • "For homework, drink a glass of cognac in a bathtub."
  • "My heart is mad at my kidneys..."
  • "Trust me, that's not what they call you."
  • Yvette Nicole Brown had some killer stupefied reactions, including "Today's not that day," and "Oprah's not a comedienne."
  • "In China, they put the last name first. They're nuts over there!"
  • "Cornole. Cornhole....Cornhole."
  • "I wasn't so much 'molested,' as I 'made it up.'"
  • "Very impressive, Veronica Mars. You learned how to use Google."
  • "Record scratch app."
  • "That may sound like an easy resolution, but...we're not writers."
  • "It's called Fiddla' Please!"
  • "How about Thai? They're like Chinese Mexicans." "So true."
  • I don't know if there are plans for Tobolowsky to return, but the nature of his character would allow it, and the nature of him being Stephen Tobolowsky basically demands it.

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