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'Community' recap: One small step for man, one giant leap for Greendale

October 14, 2010 | 11:34 pm

NUP_141554_0270 In a scene similar to one that must have played out in the halls of Washington in 1957 when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, a Man in Black runs down a nondescript hall … to a darkened, nondescript room … where Greendale’s Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) is leading a Very Important Meeting about … the threat of annihilation at the hands of the City College Cosmic Pioneer (CCCP, get it?), an uber-cool space simulator recruitment tool. Foosball’s just not enough anymore. 

To stem the spreading red tide of City College, Pelton’s got a weapon of his own: a couple of cardboard box simulators and the Kentucky Fried Chicken 11 Herbs and Space Experience (product placement AND a commercial ... a little overboard?), a vintage 1980 “spaceship” in need of a trip through the car wash.
Pelton conscripts the gang to clean it as punishment for its winning entry in the Greendale flag contest -- a little number with the motto “E Pluribus Anus” and a design that does not represent the crossroads of ideas. And we’re off.

What follows is a hilarious salute to space films, especially “Apollo 13,” with a sprinkling of “Star Wars” (the original three, not the new ones) and even a dash of  “The Andromeda Strain” thrown in for fun. We have your heroes’ slo-mo walk, your astronaut left behind who saves the day (Abed -– Danny Pudi), your freak-out in an enclosed space (Pierce  -- Chevy Chase), a reluctant captain (Troy –- Donald Glover), your “Earth”-bound geek ready to cobble together a needed piece of equipment out of spare parts (Chang --  Ken Jeong), even a traitor in the midst (Annie -- Alison Brie), feasting your eyes on the “wonders of the cosmos” (in this case, a cow or two in a barren field), a rough launch and re-entry, the anxious crowds on the viewing platform and your return of the conquering Greenstranauts. And even the triumphant planting of Greendale’s new flag on the “moon.”

This is what great TV is made of. You can have your “Big Bang Theory.” Sure, it’s still occasionally funny, but it’s grown too comfortable in that clichéd sitcom recliner. “Community,” on the other hand, is still that snarky, cool  kid at the back of the room. In a night where BBT offered the stunt casting of sci-fi veterans George Takei (“Star Trek”) and Katee Sackhoff (“Battlestar Galactica”) and “Community” an anarchic take on “Basic Rocket Science,” I think we know which one won this intergalactic battle.  

Extra credit: Plastic cups, paper plates, a couple of cardboard boxes and imagination: that’s all you need to fight a battle in space. Abed and Troy: NASA’s new recruiters.

Postscript from last week: Thanks to the eagle-eyed Patty and Theresa for pointing out the very subtle story involving Abed and the pregnant woman. Those sly, sly  “Community” writers.

-- Alison Dingeldein

Photo: The man of the hour: Abed (Danni Pudi). Credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC