'Community' - 'Basic Genealogy' Recap
by Jason Hughes, posted Mar 12th 2010 12:39PM
(S01E18) Joel Mchale caught a McPheever this week when Katharine McPhee guest-starred as Amber, a hot chick on campus. The format of 'Community' makes it so easy to drop in guest stars, and yet they didn't just make McPhee simply another student. Instead, we got a "Family Day" event where everybody got to bring in members of their family.
On 'American Idol,' where she came in second to Taylor Hicks, McPhee always touted herself as a singer-actress, so I was looking forward to seeing what skills she would bring to the set. While she wasn't given a very challenging role in Amber, she proved that she could hang with the big boys without sticking out like a sore thumb, so I'll give her kudos for that.
It was a blast seeing Shirley's kids again, as well as Abed's dad. Troy's grandmother, on the other hand ... I don't even know what to say. That mean old relative is a sitcom staple, but still this on went in a very disturbing direction. "I don't understand you, Britta!" Troy shouted to her at one point, and I'm right there with him.
When you see the mean relative in these kinds of shows, they're usually there for one of two reasons. Either it's so the victimized character can learn to finally stand up for themselves like Abed did with his parents earlier this season, or so we can see that underneath that gruff exterior they truly have a heart of gold. On rare occasions, they die so there can be unresolved issues for the main character to explore.
Grandma did none of these things. Instead she had Britta pull her pants down and lie across her lap so she could get beat with a switch. A switch that Britta brought her. At this point, I wasn't sure what Britta was trying to prove by allowing herself to get beat and I'm not sure she did either. She did, however, give Troy and Jeff a shot of her hindside in panties, though whatever "hot" aspects of that there might have been were probably overshadowed by the abuse it was getting.
The situation with Amber was a little more complex as Pierce's ex-stepdaughter from a previous marriage. When it was revealed that he had tricked her into thinking she was coming for a family reunion, I thought she might be simply a victim of his awkward need for affection. I never expected the grifter angle, which was a nice touch.
Jeff, the stand-up guy that he is, still had to sleep with her because she's that hot, but he did restrain himself to doing so only once. All of this was expected, but I was again pleasantly surprised by the intimate moment shared between Jeff and Pierce at the end. Pierce supported that Jeff had slept with her anyway, despite Pierce's earlier protestations, and even seemed to realize he was being grifted.
The only thing that threw off the rhythm of the scene, and really the whole episode, was Jeff bursting into tears so melodramatically at that moment. It just didn't ring true, if such a thing can have meaning on 'Community.' It was either a poor acting job by Jeff, or it was just written a little over the top for the scene. It would have been fair for him to be upset about seeing Slater with another man, but not all of that.
And yet, I wasn't bothered at all about the three different characters who wound up inside a snack vending machine this week. Odd how that works. Shirley's kids came up with a brilliant plan to allow Abed's cousin to jump in the bouncy house, over the protestations of Abed's strict father. When they slipped inside her Burqa to give her a taste of freedom, I thought a testament of Shirley's successes as a parent.
Later winding up in a vending machine proved that they may be just as wild and reckless as ever, but they have great hearts and they care about others. Isn't that more important. For now, they're still rowdy kids, but the foundation has been laid for them to be fantastic adults, which is something Shirley can be proud of.
How Troy and Abed could both get in there is even more of a mystery, though it's just another funny scene to tack onto the long list of hilarious end-scenes this pair has done for the show. I spend half the time I'm watching and enjoying the episode wondering and waiting in anticipation for those few seconds of Troy and Abed at the end. It's like I have two reasons to watch and love 'Community!'
One of the funniest characters that popped up through the episode was Rabbi Chang. His look and title was just as awkward as Senor Chang, and yet he chided our Chang for it. Later, during the unfortunate Pictionary windmill episode, he was perfectly placed to show horror at Pierce's depiction. Little moments like that elevate the comedic game on 'Community' making it one of the strongest ensemble shows on television right now.