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Community: G.I. Jeff Review
Community has a well-known legacy of devoting entire episodes to parody pop culture. While in the past they’ve done things like turning the entire cast into sock-puppets and claymation characters, this week’s episode took things to a whole new level by doing a full-blown crossover with the G.I Joe kids cartoon from the 1980s.
The general framing of the episode centers on Jeff, who accidentally finds himself comatose after downing a handful of pills and a fifth of scotch. He is consequently trapped in a world of childhood illusions and army men. Within this passionately cartoonified world, the plot follows G. I. Jeff, who breaks the rules of the show by killing supervillain Destro and finds himself a fugitive from both G.I. Joe and Cobra (who later hilariously merge to form G.I. Joebra). From there, things take an even more meta turn with Jeff and the Joe-ified study group infiltrating a secret base known as Greendale and ultimately trying to escape back to the real world. Structurally the episode is a bit of a mess, but it’s a fun kind of mess and there was definitely a lot of enjoyment to be had at seeing the Joe-ified versions of the regular cast – of which I think Abed’s Fourth Wall (“Imaginary Britta is right! And only Imaginary Britta”) and Duncan’s Xim Xam stood out as my favorites (although Britta’s Buzzkill had some pretty good lines too).
One of my concerns with the episode was that a lot the humor would be very specific to G.I. Joe, but as someone who doesn’t really have that much attachment to that particular 80s cartoon – I still found it pretty funny. There was a lot of breadth to the humor in the episode with there being just many jokes about G.I. Joe as there were about 80s action cartoons in general. From Britta’s jabs at the absurdity of the basic premise (“We’re all just dressed like serial killers and strippers!”) to Abed’s later remarks about the frequent cheap animation and poor lip syncing, the humor and writing in this episode was on-the-ball and hilarious to behold.
It was also fun to see the show directly incorporate some of the weird conceits these sorts of shows relied upon into their plot such as the ineffectiveness of gunfire (“We’ve been shooting at each other and missing for 20 years!”) and the show’s vaguely disguised status as a toy commercial (“Oh so we can afford to create a new model of weaponized vehicle every week but we basically get minimum wage to risk our lives!”). Getting Hasbro onside for this episode of Community was a move that really paid off and gave this episode that little bit of extra “commitment to the bit” that I liked a lot.
For all of this episodes lighthearted and meta-humor, it did take a bit of a serious turn towards the end. While I’m not saying that Community can’t do serious plots, this aspect of the episode maybe wasn’t warranted and definitely wasn’t dealt with as elegantly as episodes like Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas or Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was. It just felt a little out-of-character for Jeff to do something so self-destructive as down some pills and scotch, even with the rationale that the show gave.
If you missed last week’s episode you can check out our review of ‘Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ here and keep checking the rest of Leviathyn’s Entertainment section for more Community reviews as the season goes on.