Category: Community

TV This Week for March 20th – 26th

Click here to download TV listings for the week of March 20 - 26 in PDF format

TV listings for the week of March 20 - 26 in PDF format (from

Weekly TV Listings and more can be found at:

This week's TV Movies


While you’re sitting there in your pajamas, sipping your morning coffee and reading this, hundreds of your fellow citizens are running from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica in the “L.A. Marathon.” The least you can do is tune in and cheer them on. (KTLA, 7 a.m.)



“40 Funniest Fails” succeeds in the alliterative-title department, but the “win” stops there. Clips of unwise and tomfool-ish behavior, culled from TV and the Internet, are featured in this special hosted by comedian Julian McCullough and his puppet pal Ralphy. (VH1, 9 p.m.)


“Cheers’“ Kirstie Alley, “Kendra’s’“ Kendra Wilkinson and the “Karate Kid” himself — no, not Jaden Smith but Ralph Macchio — are among the celebrities putting their best feet forward on a new season of the mega-hit “Dancing With the Stars.” (ABC, 8 p.m.)


“Top Chef’s” Marcel Vigneron puts a futuristic spin on the cooking-and-catering show with “Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen.” We can’t wait to see his take on the classic soylent-green casserole; you might say the secret ingredient is … people! (Syfy, 10 p.m.)


The crust? That’s kind of a “staycation.” And the mantle is lovely this time of year, but try booking space this late in the season. So if you really want to get away from it all, take a “Journey to the Earth’s Core” in this new special. (History, 9 p.m.)


Expect nary an F-bomb or N-word — this is TV, after all — when “Community” pays homage to director Quentin Tarantino’s foul-mouthed 1994 crime tale “Pulp Fiction.” With Yvette Nicole Brown and Gillian Jacobs (above, from left). (NBC, 8 p.m.)


Alexandre Dumas’ “The Corsican Brothers” it ain’t … except that it kind of is: Wonder-twin teen stars Cole and Dylan Sprouse of “The Suite Life” and “The Suite Life on Deck” feel each other’s joys and pains in “The Suite Life Movie.” (Disney, 8 p.m.)


Amanda Seyfried is “Chloe,” a call girl who upends the lives of a married couple (Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore) in director Atom Egoyan’s sexy yet silly 2009 thriller, followed by Ms. Seyfried opposite Channing Tatum in Lasse Hallström’s rather more conventional 2010 romantic drama “Dear John.” (Starz, 9 and 10:40 p.m.)

Photo credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC

'Community' recap: Bromance, romance and Shirley's baby daddies

Well, well, well, looks like Greendale’s becoming a three-year college. Congrats, “Community”! Here’s to many more years of anarchic fun.

Now, on to the show, where a multi-ethnic, sort of politically correct baby shower is under way. I say sort of because Pierce (Chevy Chase), the man who never met a culturally offensive phrase he didn’t like, is in attendance. At least he’s subbed “You People” for some of his more jaw-dropping utterances.

Anyway, mom-to-be Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), with her baby daddy candidates -- Chang (Ken Jeong) and Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) -- in tow, is unwrapping gifts. From our culturally sensitive party planner Annie, (Alison Brie) comes an African American doll and a framed letter from the manufacturer promising to expand its selection. Next up is Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed’s (Danny Pudi) gift: a gallon of water, for when Shirley’s child “is a lone scavenger in a nuclear wasteland.” Well, that’s better than the sawed-off shotgun they wanted to get the tyke. And winning the prize for most bizarre gift is Chang: a pizza box containing a cigar cutter, a Maxim magazine and hot sauce (“It’s a theme gift”). Um, I guess it’s the thought that counts. 

Looks like Britta (Gillian Jacobs) came empty-handed. Too interested, I guess, in the hunk in Troy’s history class -- Lukka from the Balkans (Enver Gjokaj) -- to buy a shower gift. Troy and Abed think Lukka’s awesome because “he has an accent, he rolls his own cigarettes and he plays the same video games as us.” Sounds perfect, eh? Britta thinks so too, and just happens to wander by Abed’s room while they’re playing video games. She wrangles a date with Luka, much to Troy and Abed’s disgust. See, she ruins all the cool guys for them, including Jeff “Nipple Play” Winger (Joel McHale). File that under TMI. Fast-forward to the date, where Britta learns to her horror that Lukka misses “clearing his fields and forests of unclean people who stole his country.” Eek!

Continue reading »

'Community' recap: Politics a joke? Well ...

It’s election day at Greendale. Time for a little grandstanding and a whole lot of skewering of the political process –- and if the heart gets in the way, so be it. So get your speeches and dirty tricks ready, Greendalers -- it’s time to play politics.

Seems that the vice president is bringing his “Biden Time Talkin' Bout Teachin' Tour” to Greendale. There’s just one hitch:Greendale doesn’t have a student president. But, hey, no prob-- the veep’s not going to be there for seven hours. Plenty of time to elect a prez, and anyway, it beats studying anthropology or listening to Pierce (Chevy Chase) talk about being in rehab with Tom Sizemore.

Britta (Gillian Jacobs) gets all left wing and is quickly shot down. Poor Britta, born too late. If she’d been around in the ’60s, she would’ve been at the front of the  pack of college radicals taking over the dean’s office or torching the campus ROTC building.

Annie (Alison Brie), of course, is just brimming with ideas to make Greendale a better place. And surprise, surprise, Jeff (Joel McHale) scoffs at that idealism: “Improving Greendale takes more than ideas, Annie. It takes time, gasoline, matches.” Chalk another one up on Abed’s (Danny Pudi) “Classic ‘Wingers’ ” notches. And did we mention Jeff’s abs? Well, Annie did, so add another notch there. And, what the hell, Troy (Donald Glover), add another notch to the notches. Why not? It’s Greendale.

Over in the cafeteria, Dean Pelton is sporting his “sister’s” Uncle Sam outfit. OMG! Only Jim Rash could pull off this look of hot pants, tall red boots and a cute little hat perched at a rakish angle and held in place with a headband. Across the room, Jeff is dodging Annie’s efforts to get him to pitch in. He’s not the worker bee type. He’s more a “silver-backed gorilla with the claws of a lion, the teeth of a shark and the quiet dignity of a tortoise.” Squabble, squabble, squabble. Tension is in the air, shippers!

OK, here are the rules: Line up by the ice cream machine, state your case, and if you get enough applause, you make the primary. Quick, easy and cheap. And we’ve got a surprise candidate: Mr. Glib himself, who believes politics is all about “ego, popularity and parlor tricks” and is running only to prove Annie wrong. Of course, he’s a natural manure shoveler  -- “I’m just a fella … beer should be cold, boots should be dusty, 9/11 was bad and freedom, well, I think that’s just a little bit better.”  Standing O? You bet.

While Jeff and Annie battle each other, Abed is confronted by two people in black, who demand to know how he knew they were on campus undercover (um, you might try removing the telltale earpieces next time). “We’re not used to being noticed,” Secret Service agent Robin Vohlers (Eliza Coupe) tells Abed. “That sounds a little sad.”

Hate to break this up, Abed, but you’ve got an election to follow with Troy on GCTV. Stay tuned to “Decisiongate: Gateway to Election Road” for all the latest on Annie, Leonard Rodriguez (Richard Erdman), who changed his last name  “trying to court the Hispanic vote”); Alex “Starburns” Osbourne (Dino Stamatopoulos), a “possible drug dealer”; crowd favorite Jeff Winger (“They call him hot wings”); Magnitude (Luke Youngblood), “pop, pop!”; Pierce Hawthorne (Troy: “He’s got night terrors and a rotary phone); Garrett Stevens (Erik Charles Nielsen, “That guy's just a mess. It’s like God spilled a person”); and Vicki (Danielle Kaplowitz).

NUP_142997_0613 While Troy ponders politics, Annie’s informing Jeff that not only will she beat him but she’ll also make him cry, and Abed’s making eyes with Agent Vohlers. Focus, y’all -- it’s time for the candidates’ debate. A little decorum, please. Oh, wait -- this is Greendale, where Pierce goes off on fellow candidate Vicki because she wouldn’t lend him a pencil, and Annie channels Daddy Bush (“Read. My. Lips.”) as she takes on Jeff and unveils her dirty  weapon: his 1997 audition tape for MTV’s “The Real World” with Jeff channeling George Michael. What???? I’d bolt for the supply closet too, which is where Annie finds Jeff. She’s sorry, he’s sorry, but I’m not. That video was priceless. They hug, and are interrupted by Pierce, who’s got some advice that all candidates should heed: “When we seek to destroy others, we often hurt ourselves, because it is the self that wants to be destroyed.” Pierce, poignant? Well, “Vicki finally lent me her pencil.” Ouch! Better get a tetanus shot.

Meanwhile, back at Election Central, it’s the political showdown of the century: Magnitude (“Pop, pop!”) versus Leonard (“Raspberry!). The competition reflects the pointlessness of life. Who’ll win? Does it really matter? This is classic TV. Oh, and in case you were wondering, in a shocking write-in upset, it was “South Park” by a landslide (seven out of 11 votes cast). Just like 10 years ago.

So, as the confetti is swept away on another Greendale election, Jeff and Annie bond over black mold cleanup and Abed makes sure he’ll get another visit from Agent Vohlers. Sweet. Too bad Joe “I had a dream I was regular president” Biden won’t be visiting -– something about an elevated threat level at Greendale. Quick -- somebody alert City College.

Done right, political satire is a joy to behold. Done "Community”-style, it is brilliant. This should be required viewing in every campaign office and poli-sci class across the land. The story, the dialogue (too many great lines to single one out this week), the execution. Fantastic!

Extra credit: It's another Abed side adventure involving the Secret Service agent. "Honk twice for yes, once for no." Honk, honk.

 -- Alison Dingeldein

Top photo: Annie (Alison Brie) makes her pitch as an Uncle Sam-costumed Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) looks on. Bottom photo: A shipper moment courtesy of Annie (Brie) and Jeff (Joel McHale) on "Community." Credits: Lewis Jacobs / NBC








Tweeter's Digest: A roundup of the week in TV tweets

Lea Mchale In Tweeter's Digest, we look at the events of the week as seen through the eyes -- or rather, the Twitter feeds -- of TV personalities.

This week, "Glee" stars Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison tweeted from the Grammys, Tyra Banks and Joel McHale offered V-Day advice, "Lost" creator Damon Lindelof and "How I Met Your Mother" creator Carter Bays worried about the Watson computer on "Jeopardy," Stephen Colbert kept an eye on the Spider-Man musical, and reality TV villain Spencer Pratt kept an eye on James Franco. Meanwhile, TV legend Cloris Leachman just tweets ... because she can. 

See these and other celebs tweet after the jump.

Continue reading »

'Community' recap: Don't mess with Pierce


Wow, Pierce. All this because the Greendale gang didn't take you seriously? So, they forgot your birthday, excluded you from a game of Dungeons & Dragons and didn't invite you to the secret trampoline. Is that worth messing with people’s heads?

Yes, if you're Pierce (Chevy Chase). Last time we saw him, he was passed out on a park bench, surrounded by pills on Valentine's Day. Now he's recovering in the hospital: "It was the pills! I saw awful, horrible things. 'Demons,' 'Aliens,' 'Critters 3,' something called Bruce Willis' 'Surrogates'!"

Hmmm, the self-conscious way people are talking, the quick cuts, the jerky camera  ... is this an episode of "The Office," maybe? Nope, no sign of Rainn Wilson. No sign of Chang (Ken Jeong) either. Turns out it's a documentary about Pierce's life, despite Abed's (Danny Pudi) intense boredom with Mr. Hawthorne as a subject. Still, there is the narrative facility of the documentary format to play with, so Abed is game. Pierce wants to put his house in order, make a few bequests because he's dying, and, oh, get it all on tape. Um, sure. Turns out what he really wants is revenge, the colder the better. "Fish in a barrel," indeed.

The rest of the gang gathered in the hospital lounge, discussing Pierce's bequest plans. Troy (Donald Glover) is hoping for a drum kit or a signed photo of LeVar Burton or a million wishes that could be used on a million signed photos of LeVar Burton. Troy, that's weird, even for you.

Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) is the first one summoned to Pierce's well-appointed hospital room, where she receives a CD that he claims contains audio of the rest of the gang talking about her while she's out of the study room. Sweet Shirley is upset -- "Goodbye, forever!" -- and starts obsessing about the CD and her so-called friends.

"Sourface" Britta (Gillian Jacobs) is next. She gets a check for $10,000 with the "pay to the order of" line left blank, to give to her charity of choice -- or herself. Zing! Britta wanders back into the lounge, where a discussion about death is underway. Annie (Alison Brie) feels that people shouldn't die in the same place as People magazines die. Troy, meanwhile, says that he and Abed have an agreement that if one of them dies, the other is going to stage it to look like a suicide caused by the "unjust cancellation" of "Firefly."  "We’re gonna get that show back on the air, buddy."  Oh, if that were only the case.

Back to those mind games … Britta is pondering which charity will get her gift, or maybe not. $10,000? It could pay off parking tickets and credit cards and keep her from getting kicked out of her place in April. Or it could go to charity. Bad, wicked Pierce!

Annie is next, but Jeff cuts in. It's confrontation time, pal! "Pierce, it is starting to seem from observing the others that you're using the social leverage afforded you by your alleged deathbed to exact complicated acts of psychological vengeance on those closest to you." Yep, that about sums it up. Jeff apologizes for the group for not responding quickly enough to Pierce's pill problem. Apology accepted? Not on your life. Instead, Pierce announces he's found Jeff's long-gone father and that he's heading their way.  

Jeff returns to the lounge, where he and Britta engage in a wild and widely veering back-and-forth, taking in closeted dads, Iran, Oingo Boingo and the Green Line in Iraq, ending with “money can't just make people appear." You sure about that? LeVar, you're on. Seems that a visit by LeVar Burton is Pierce's gift to Troy. Outwardly, Troy is frozen in shock, but inside, he's totally freaking out. "I told Pierce a thousand times I never wanted to meet LeVar in person. I just wanted a picture. You can't disappoint a picture!”

Lucky Annie gets a tiara. Cut camera to the lounge, where Jeff is freaking out and Troy is still in shock as Burton tries to connect with him (did he know him from "Star Trek" or "Reading Rainbow"?). Not a word. Inside, though, it's another story, where Freakout No. 2 is underway, this time involving the singing of the "Reading Rainbow" theme song. No, it's not a good day to be a friend of Pierce.

Then it's Annie’s turn to confront Pierce, and Britta finally proves to Shirley that there's nothing on that CD worth getting worked up about. Keep on playing those mind games, Pierce. Then it's on to Jeff, who warns Pierce that he better not pull any "Ferris Bueller," "Parent Trap," "Three's Company," "F/X" or "F/X2: The Deadly Art of Illusion" crap. "I will beat you, and there will be nothing madcap or wacky about it." Uh-oh, better call off the fake dad, Pierce. Jeff storms out to meet his "dad," but it's just Pierce, faking his voice, and Jeff lets him have it. Pierce finally admits the root of all his recent nastiness -- they treat him like he's some kind of a joke. Um, see the joke, be the joke. 

Annie gives Pierce a worthy piece of advice, telling him that she doesn't want to be the kind of person who picks favorites, because it means she'll die alone. Word to the wise, Mr. Hawthorne.

An ending? Who needs an ending when Abed's at the controls? "If a documentary is just as messy as real life, you can always wrap it up with a series of random shots which, when cut together over a random voice-over, suggest a profound thematic connection." 

Extra credit: And we're back in Greendale's library, somehow, where LeVar Burton and a still shocked Troy are having a meal, complete with "Troy and Abed in the Morning" mugs. How does one get one of those? Anyway, Burton starts singing the "Reading Rainbow" song and Troy runs wailing from the room. "More fish for Kunta."

Fantastic episode, folks. The Pierce problem finally comes to a head. Well, maybe. Hopefully, everything will be back to what passes for normal at Greendale next week. Kudos to the cast and crew and guest star LeVar Burton. Oh, and best line of the night? So many to choose from, but I think this was my favorite: "Can you imagine bouncing a check to Kunta Kinte?"

-- Alison Dingeldein

Photo: Pierce (Chevy Chase) is confronted by Jeff (Joel McHale) on "Community." Credit: Jordin Althaus / NBC

'Community' recap: Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about hearts, romance and “I love you,” right? Well, not at Greendale, where Cupid seems to be MIA. On this Feb. 14 (OK, Feb. 10, but that’s only because of NBC scheduling), friendships are sorely tested.

Let’s start with Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi), a match made in nerdy heaven if there ever was. They’ve both fallen for Greendale librarian Mariah (Maite Schwartz). I’m sure it has nothing to do with her low-cut top and glasses. No, not at all. They finally introduce themselves --  M: “Are you the guys who keep staring at me and intermittently yelling out ‘Books!’?” T: “The very same.”  -- and ask her to the Valentine’s Day dance. “This is the cutest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

OK, they’re set. Now it’s on to group therapy … I mean a gathering of the study group in the library. Britta (Gillian Jacobs) oh, so nonchalantly waltzes in and brags about her new friend Page (Brit Marling), who is “A friend of Ellen,” as Annie (Alison Brie) puts it. A crabby Pierce, meanwhile, is popping painkillers like candy. He’s confronted and storms out. Annie and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) suggest an intervention, and they appeal to Jeff (Joel McHale) for help.  He’s having none of it, and then starts a fight about the Barenaked Ladies. BNL is just the surface, of course. Really, it’s all about Jeff not wanting to be the center of this solar system of misfits.

Jeff is then buttonholed by resident Brit Ian Duncan (John Oliver), who wants to come over and watch Man United play Liverpool on Jeff’s big screen (“God gave you a British friend and a massive TV for a reason.”). Gravedigger’s biscuits, indeed.

Meanwhile, Annie finds out that Page is straight, and that she’s only hanging out with Britta because she thinks Britta is a lesbian. Of course, Britta is doing the same thing. Page and Britta decide to do a little consciousness-raising at Greendale and go to the dance together. Perhaps it’s Puck in the house, and not Cupid after all. And then there’s Mr. Mood Swing Pierce, who’s orbiting outer space. No little green men, though -- just the Tiny Man You See When You Take Enough Pills (a “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”-size Andy Dick) in the water fountain, who informs Pierce that he’s not sharing him with the group. Will he “Be Mine,” or not? Stay tuned, kids.

Night falls and the action moves to Jeff’s strangely bland living room, where Duncan’s proudly wearing red and white (Is he supposed to be from Merseyside? He doesn’t sound like it). Ding, dong, it’s Chang (Ken Jeong) at the door, who’s traded in his usual guayabera for an outfit in Liverpool FC’s colors too and who promptly destroys Jeff’s lamp with some nunchuks. Nice going. Further testing the Winger welcome mat, Chang calls up Star-Burns (Dino Stamatopoulos) and pals for a “Wingding at Wingers.”

Back at Greendale, Mariah the librarian is wooed with the “Saw” franchise and premium movie channels (Abed) and slick dance moves (Troy). The slick moves win out and soon the awkward couple is on the dance floor, while Pierce is in his own little world and Britta and Page are giving Greendalers “something to really talk about.”  How do you top that? Try a little lip lock, where it comes out that neither is actually a lesbian. Well, that’s one shallow friendship down the drain. Britta and Annie, on the other hand … shippers, avert your eyes; fan-fiction writers, ready, set, go!

It also looks like the bromance survives Mariah -- our favorite nerd boys wind up in a sweet Valentine’s Day hug after Troy dumps the librarian for calling Abed weird. Will these two ever find girlfriends? “There’s someone out there for us.” Awwww.

Sweetness is not what’s happening at Jeff’s apartment, however, where the party’s out of control and Chang is doing laundry in Jeff’s dishwasher and wearing Jeff’s underwear (OK, that’s beyond creepy). Turns out Chang’s wife found out about Shirley and kicked him out for good. And he’s still got nowhere to go after Jeff gives him the boot too. Quickly followed by the rest of the party. A puzzled Jeff asks Duncan, “What is it about me that broken people flock to me? Is it my height? Do huddled masses mistake me for the Statue of Liberty?” Great writing there.

Our reluctant hero figures he’ll have 39 messages waiting from a certain six people when he turns his phone back on, but is surprised (humbled?) to find none. Guess they don’t need him after all. So he rescues Chang from the dumpster and calls the six who mean the world to him to apologize: “Caring about a person can be scary. Caring about six people can be a horrifying, embarrassing nightmare, at least for me. I love you guys.” I knew it! Under that glib exterior lies a guy with a heart. And he’s going to need it with Pierce. Pierce, oh, Pierce, what have you done to yourself?

Extra credit: This week, it’s a Valentine’s Day test. Can a blindfolded Abed guess the sayings on candy hearts? Of course he can … until … 

-- Alison Dingeldein

Photo: Danny Pudi, left, Maite Schwartz and Donald Glover on "Community." Credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC.

Tweeters' Digest: The week in TV tweets

In between the self-promotion (watch my show!), the responses to fans (thanks for watching my show!) and the revelations of personal minutiae (I'm going to the gym before I watch my show!), famous people take to Twitter to comment on the news of the world.

With Rob Lowe and Anderson Cooper on the revolution in Egypt, Donald Glover and Adrian Grenier anticipating the SuperBowl and Damon Lindelof still defending the final episode of "Lost," here are some highlights of the week — after the jump — as captured in tweets from actors, show runners, TV anchors and reality stars.

— Joy Press

Photo: Rob Lowe. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times.

Continue reading »

'Community' recap: Dungeons & Dragons and Pierce, oh my!

Once upon a time, there was an NBC show called “Community.” Its writers loved to weave pop culture into the fabric of one eccentric community college called Greendale. Nothing was too high or too low for this crew. Zombies, space movies and even Dungeons & Dragons.So gather close that you might hearken the story of Fat Neil (Charley Koontz), who was “born stout of heart but large of bone,” and the best game of D&D ever. 

But first, a major confession -- this recapper knows zilch about Dungeons & Dragons, so whether what follows is true to form or off base is way beyond my ken. Either way, feel free to comment below. Now back to the story of Fat Neil. From an early age, Neil was picked on because of his weight. Only outlets of fantasy afforded him some escape from this darkness. Once the nightmare otherwise known as high school was over, he thought Greendale would be a new beginning. Faced with the same ol’, same ol’, only college style, he’s contemplating “an escape of which we dare not speak.” Jeff the Liar, son of William the Barely Known (Joel McHale), and Annie, the Day Planner, herself a “recovering head case” (Alison Brie), recognize the signs and try to do something about it.

A confab is called where it is decided to invite Neil to a game of D&D designed by Abed. Pierce the Insensitive (Chevy Chase) will not be invited. But since Chang (Ken Jeong) is conveniently in the room at the time, he’s included in the Most Important Game of D&D Ever, where they might “save a life and change the balance between good and Pierce.”

Cue the fantasy-themed opening credits, complete with a medieval-y spin on the “Community” theme. Huzzah!

Continue reading »

'Community' recap: Chevy Chase in the spotlight

Community 213pic Giant bees, drug references and Chevy Chase -– it’s like the ’70s all over again. All we need is the rest of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players and we’d have the makings of a classic “Saturday Night Live” skit, although not nearly as funny in this case. Maybe you had to be there.

Anyway, Annie (Alison Brie) gathers the Greendale gang for an anti-drug play. The dress rehearsal buzz starts with the suitably striped Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) trading dialogue. Enter Pierce (Chase), dressed as a giant marijuana leaf, demanding lines, any lines. You see, in the ’50s, he was “the Gerber baby of moist towelettes” and he wants his part here beefed up. Into the midst of this “Community” chaos bursts Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) in his own bee costume. Does he want to join the Greendale Anti-Drug Players? Not at all -- he’s headed for the airport Ramada. Why? One can only imagine.

Chang (Ken Jeong) wanders through with a mixtape for Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) -- “I hope you like Johnny Gill” --  after all, he may or may not be the father of her unborn child. Shirley wants to forget that their Halloween hookup ever happened and pretends he’s invisible. And not because he’s Chinese, but because he’s crazy. Good call there, Shirley.

Britta (Gillian Jacobs), meanwhile, has been getting text messages from a guy, but she is so 20th century and not into the whole flirting-by-text scene. She unwisely leaves her cellphone within easy reach of her favorite verbal sparring partner, Jeff (Joel McHale), who pretends he’s Britta and starts replying to a guy named Marcus. It being Jeff, the messages are on the risqué side. As are Marcus’ replies. Uh, oh.

Pierce catches Annie digging soda cans out of the Greendale trash, follows her to the recycler and then to her tiny apartment, a “monument to self-reliance” that is located above a “marital aids store.” Turns out her mom cut her off when she went through rehab and she’s short on rent money. The well-heeled Pierce whips out his checkbook and Annie accepts. Bad move, Annie. Pierce is soon rewriting the whole play, and what can Annie do but let him?

And then we’re on to the main event, with the Greendale Ready for Prime Time Players spreading their drug-free message to a bunch of bored middle-schoolers armed with baseballs and hopped up on Charleston Chews from the college candy machines. Among them is Britta’s young nephew Marcus. Oops! Cool Cat Jeff tries to fix things with Marcus, even texting him as he’s lying “dead” in a coffin, as Abed and Troy buzz "Taps." By the way, the best line of the night goes to Dean Pelton: “Well, that answers my question. Jeff Winger is sexy, even in a coffin.”

Could things get any wackier? Let’s ask Pierce, who’s added sparklers and a rainbow wig to his marijuana get-up and taken over the show, much to the delight of the kids, who are soon yelling, “I love you, Drugs!” and “We want Drugs!” Backstage, the gang discovers that Pierce bought his way in and that Annie sold out her message. So Annie fires Pierce and the gang fires Annie.

Drama or no drama, the show must go on -– and it’s Chang to the rescue with an over-the-top anti-drug message. But the kids aren’t buying it and quickly turn on him. Somehow, Dean Pelton puts a good spin on all this anarchy, congratulating Annie on her chemical-dependency program. Oh, and is there any way he can have the bee costumes? Then it’s apologies all around and Jeff buys Marcus’ silence. By the way, has anybody seen Britta’s bra?

Extra credit: It’s 2 a.m. and Annie’s trying to get some shut-eye. But that’s impossible when you live above Dildopolis and the night-owl deals are being broadcast on a loudspeaker. Cinnamon biscotti, anyone?

As episodes go, this one was so-so. It was a nice nod to Chase’s past on “SNL” and it had some good bits, but overall it left me flat. Maybe if I were more of a fan of Chase -– he was my least favorite in his era on “SNL” and he's my least favorite on “Community” -- I’d feel different. What do you think? 

-- Alison Dingeldein

Photo: Donald Glover, left, Chevy Chase and Danny Pudi on "Community." Credit: Chris Haston / NBC

'Community' recap: The times they are a-Chang-ing


And we’re back. It’s the start of the spring semester at Greendale and the spring season in TV land. Time to catch up with everybody -- what did you do over that long break of holiday specials and reruns?

Looks like Pierce (Chevy Chase) finally ditched the leg casts and the fancy wheelchair, Troy (Donald Glover) discovered laserdiscs, and Jeff (Joel McHale) worked on a back muscle sure to drive the women wild during tank-top season. But the big news belongs to two of the women in the group (then there's that bombshell Troy accidentally drops to Pierce about Shirley. More on that later).

Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) has gotten back together with her two-timing ex, Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner, in a sweater that would make Cliff Huxtable proud). And she's pregnant. Annie (Alison Brie), meanwhile, being the overachiever that she is, joined a campus volunteer group during break and picked up trash. She found a finger and a certain somebody who makes her talk in her "I love butterflies voice" while being coy about his identity. Could he be affiliated with Greendale? Abed (Danny Pudi) and company do their best to find out, but it's time to Chang the subject. Oops! Look who’s eavesdropping from atop a bookshelf in the library, still demanding a spot in the study group. 

On to anthro class. Still no sign of June Bauer (Betty White), so looks like it'll be professor Duncan (John Oliver) for another semester. Only now it's Sober Duncan instead of Drunk Duncan, because of certain problems that not even Viagra could cure. So, prepare for more dioramas and actual teaching. Perhaps their new classmate Rich (Greg Cromer) can help them study. In addition to being a doctor, a guide-dog volunteer and handy in the kitchen, he knows his way around anthropology  -- and, as it turns out, Annie's heart.

This news sends Jeff reeling. Could this be the end of our little group as we know it? Let's throw a mixer and find out, with tropical Skittles, cigarettes and mouthwash for refreshments. Will it be Dr. Rich, Chang (Ken Jeong) or Jeff's pick Quendra ("I spell it with a QU") who joins the group? Rich arrives with enough kettle corn ("I make it in my garage") to buy his way into heaven. Chang gets wind of the party and wants into the group. "Time to chang your view." Insert slow-clap.

A jealous Jeff makes a case for Chang, using his slick, going-in-for-the-kill closing-statement moves on the group. He must be one hell of a lawyer. Anyway, the tie-breaking vote comes down to Shirley, who was swayed by all that skillful Jeff talk. This is too much for Pierce, who spills the beans about Chang's and Shirley's little tango at the Halloween party that nobody remembers. Shirley is horrified. Andre is stunned. Chang finally has answers to the photos on his cellphone. Oh dear, oh dear.

All roads lead to Jeff at Greendale, and he's soon being confronted by Annie over his jealousy of Dr. Rich (shipper alert!) and informed that she's going to ask out Dr. Do No Wrong. Out she goes and in comes Britta (Gillian Jacobs), who demands that Jeff do something about Andre. The two have a man-to-man, and Andre admits that he messed up in the past and that he’s going to stick around and raise the baby. Aw, Theo, you've grown up.

But back to the advancing plot. Jeff finds out that Rich turned Annie down (too young) and gets all John Cusack in the rain. He'll say anything to woo ... Dr. Rich (oh, those wicked writers!) to teach him how to be perfect, so he "can abuse it." And we're back.

Let's see ... we had plenty of character advancement and the usual pop cultural nods, including a sartorial salute to "The Cosby Show."  Not bad, but it was reminiscent of the first week of a new semester, when you're just easing into the material. Here's hoping next week's class will be livelier. 

Extra credit: "Troy and Abed in the Morning," with a special guest star: Dr. Rich and his kettle corn. Rich, also being an overachiever and perfect in every way, carved his kettle corn stirring spoon from an oak tree in his backyard, and made a rocking horse for his nephew out of the leftovers. Of course he did. Annie, you're better off with Jeff. Trust me. Even a Jeff who tries to inject a little reality into Troy's and Abeds world. 

-- Alison Dingeldein

Photo: Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), left, is questioned by Troy (Donald Glover) on "Community." Credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC

'Community' recap: Merry Christmas, Abed


Gather ’round the big-screen TV, kids, have I got a Christmas story for you: About an NBC show that created a heartwarming holiday classic with a touch of bittersweet irony and enough sly nods to keep pop-culture junkies happy. Hey, it wouldn’t be “Community” otherwise.

It’s the last day of the semester, and the gang’s gathered in the cafeteria for some holiday cheer. Did I mention that we’re in stop-motion animation land? Only Abed (Danny Pudi) can see it, however. The rest are worried about him. Perhaps a little song and dance (What is this? “Glee”?) featuring Abed and the opening credits will help. Or not. One tasering later, Abed comes to, surrounded by his friends and Professor Duncan (John Oliver), who’s ready to help, especially if it’s publishable in reputable journals.

It turns out that Abed is looking for the meaning of Christmas. But first, another number -- the “Sad, Quick Christmas Song” -– and the appearance of the acid-tongued Snow Chang (Ken Jeong). Ah, Chang, we’ve missed you these last few episodes.

Professor Duncan, who claims to be a wizard (and bears a striking resemblance to another wizard), offers to put Abed into a state of Christmas-nosis and take him on a magic journey to Winter Wonderland. Before you can wave your magic wand, they’re in Christmas Outer Space, headed for Planet Abed (“The most Christmasy planet in the universe  -- its atmosphere is 7% cinnamon”).  Once there, Abed transforms them into Christmas versions of themselves: Jeff in the Box (Joel McHale), Troy Soldier (Donald Glover), Britta-bot (Gillian Jacobs), Teddy Pierce (Chevy Chase), Baller-Annie (Alison Brie) and Baby Doll Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) -- “Baby what? What the hell?” My sentiments exactly.

Another song and they’re off to the Cave of Frozen Memories, via Gumdrop Road and Carol Canyon (where the poinsettias’ rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” sounds like a Chipmunks 45 sped up to 78 rpm). And as per usual, Chang is in the background, sort of  tagging along, but not really part of the group.

A mouthy Baby Doll Shirley gets ejected by a remote-control Christmas pterodactyl (batteries not included). Jeff is next -- consumed by sarcasm-loving humbugs. By the time they’re done, all that’s left is a Tim Burton-like set of bones.  With hair.  Then it’s on to the cave, where Duncan has a holiday-related meltdown, Britta gets ejected for tricking Abed into the therapy session, and the rest take the ramp down to the Pine Tree Station. Then it’s all aboard the polar express past Menorah Mountain and Jehovah’s Witness Bay and memories of Christmas past. Turns out that Abed’s mom is Polish, loves Christmas and visits every Dec. 9, when the two of them watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. Perhaps it’s all in Abed’s head after all. Duncan pops by with some more holiday cheer, Abed turns him into a warlock and Troy gets off the best line of the night -- “Who taught you therapy? Michael Jackson’s dad?”

Abed puts the engine into Bjork overdrive. Nice touch, that. Next stop: Santa’s Workshop, which turns out to be abandoned, with just a few sad little toys left. Oh, and one beautifully wrapped present tagged “Meaning of Christmas.” It’s like a matryoshka doll: box after box and finally … the first season of “Lost” on DVD.  OK, you’ve lost me there. I’ll have to take Abed’s word for it: “It’s a metaphor. It represents lack of payoff.” Whatever.

Turns out the whole thing’s a mechanism for Abed to escape a  Christmas card from his mom. You see, this year, she’s not coming. She has a new family and a new life.

Poor Abed. Sad, alone and encased in ice. But not for long. His friends return and are soon singing (Shirley’s got a fantastic voice!) and pelting Wizard Duncan with their magic Christmas weapons. Especially loved Pierce’s candy-cane machine gun. With all that love in song -- including a little duet between Annie and Jeff (shipper alert!) -- Abed begins to thaw. The remote-control pterodactyl makes an explosive return and Abed realizes the true meaning of Christmas: It’s “the idea that Christmas has meaning. And it can mean whatever we want. For me, it used to mean being with my mom. Now it means being with you guys. Thanks, ‘Lost.’ ” Awww.

Extra credit: “Troy and Abed in stop-motion.”

A tip of the Santa cap to Dino “Star-Burns” Stamatopoulos & Dan Harmon, who wrote the episode, and the animators. And the cast and crew. What a  fantastic gift for “Community” fans.


How 'Community' stole Christmas: Behind the scenes of the big holiday episode

How 'Community' got great

-- Alison Dingeldein

Photo: "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" on "Community." Credit: NBC

How 'Community' stole Christmas: Behind the scenes of the big holiday episode

Community holiday group 2 NUP_142681_0001
It’s a Christmas miracle! On a very special “Community” that airs Thursday and will no doubt get big props from animation fans, kids, stoners, and, well, pretty much everyone else, the Greendale gang gets sucked into a winter wonderland that’s reminiscent of classic Rankin/Bass holiday fare like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Titled “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” the episode follows Abed’s search for the meaning of Christmas, using stop-motion animation to transform the show’s characters into toys: In the photo above, you’ll find Ballerannie, far left, Professor Duncan (who appears to be pulling off the Dumbledore look pretty well), Baby Doll Shirley, Britta-Bot, Troy Solider, Jeff-in-the-Box, Teddy Bear Pierce and Abed. (Chang also appears as Snowchang, a way more catty version of Frosty.)

“We were really inspired by recent stop-motion pictures like ‘Coraline’ and ‘Fantastic Mr Fox,’ ” explains James Fino, who animated the episode with his partner Joe Russo and their company 23D Films, along with a few animators who worked on “Coraline.” “We wanted to take it away from being toy-like and make these characters look like actual art sculptures.”

Russo explains that 23D Films came to the project through Russo’s longtime friend Dino Stamatopoulos, who has a recurring role as Star Burns on “Community.” “We both worked on ‘Mr. Show’ years and years ago,” Russo explains, “and Dino has his own stop-motion show, ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole,’ so he was excited about the idea.”

Because they wanted to use as little CG as possible, Fino and Russo went through the painstaking process of creating each piece by hand, including the individual snowflakes.

Since Abed’s quest for the meaning of Christmas is partly inspired by the TV show “Lost” (you’ll have to wait and see why), the duo also spent long hours peppering the episode with “Easter eggs,” or blink-and-you’ll-miss-them background scenes filled with in-jokes and pop culture references. “We have a special dinosaur who makes an appearance,” Fino says. “He’s a throwback to the Ray Harryhausen style.”

In the spirit of the Rankin/Bass specials, each of the cast members also sings a song. Abed reprises his own anthem, “Sad Christmas Song” throughout the episode. “It’s funny because they knew they wanted to have a sad Christmas song somewhere in there, so [“Community” creator] Dan [Harmon] just temped in the words ‘Sad Christmas Song,’ and Dan Pudi, who plays Abed, sang them,” Russo says. “But Dan Pudi did such a funny job with it that it stayed.”

Despite some good jokes, Russo insists that the episode isn't meant to be ironic. “The show is really  funny, but it’s also meant to be heartwarming,” he says. “I think Dan Harmon wanted to make this an episode that people come back to year after year in the same way that they did with the Rankin/Bass cartoons. The goal is to make people remember what makes this such a great time of year.”

See for yourself in the sneak peek below:


 -- Melissa Maerz


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: