By Jonathon Dornbush
Welcome back, “Community.”
Before reviewing “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts,” I would be remiss not to at least mention the last few turbulent months for the folks over at Greendale. It has been a much longer hiatus than any fan, myself included, would have wanted. Yet the show returned in strong form with an episode that, while not one of the series’ trademark themed adventures some may have hoped for, managed to deliver as meta-filled and comedic a half-hour as many of its “normal” episodes have.
“Normal” seemed to be the theme of “Arts,” with Shirley and Andre’s struggling as they prepared for their second marriage with what it means to be normal. Shirley rarely receives the spotlight, and “Arts” afforded Yvette Nicole-Brown the opportunity to show us the many sides of Shirley. One of the funnier moments came from Andre calling Shirley’s “Miss Piggy” voice “sexy,” which does make one wonder how often Shirley has been flirting when she has used this high-pitched tone.
Though as Andre is only occasionally present, the emotional punch of the storyline didn’t hit as hard as some of the show’s other episodes. It did provide Shirley with some nice character progression, as she began to take the first steps toward her dream of owning a food shop. And even if that meant partnering with Pierce, whose other business ventures like an unintentionally racist party guest identifier failed at every turn, she still was making headway on her dreams. With Andre’s character shifts and the rush to shake up their upcoming marriage, however, the proceedings did not hit as hard as I had hoped.
The highlight though was certainly Troy and Abed de-whimsifying themselves for Shirley’s wedding. Realizing they need to be normal to not upset her ceremony, the pair spend 24 hours in the Dreamatorium only to come out opposed to all things they once loved. Of course, their sincere attempts to make small talk and unfunny musings come off as insincere and sarcastic. “Normal” simply does not suit the pair, and a quick appearance from Annie’s Boobs convinces Troy that odd is how they operate best. After some Inspector Spacetime discussion, Abed eventually rejoins him (though at the loss of dancing and socially interacting with a cute girl) in their normally non-normal ways.
This thinly veiled commentary allowed the show to analyze itself – fans often clamor for the show to be at its weirdest. Troy and Abed are only truly themselves when they are at their strangest, and to an extent so is “Community,” though the fantastic season 2 episode “Mixology Certification” does contradict this. Speaking of “Certification,” Jeff and Britta become embarrassingly drunk at yet another milestone event for one of the group members, exploring this time their thoughts on marriage. Both are highly amusing, especially Britta, but one of the best lines came just before they began to drink. When Annie critiqued Jeff’s wedding speech that referenced Webster’s Dictionary, she responded with a particularly funny and biting comment about Jim Belushi.
“Arts” gave most of the ensemble a chance to have a few great moments (including Pierce, who had the tag all to himself as he tried to deal with an unreletning ice cream machine), and was an enjoyable “normal” episode. It may have been a bit anticlimactic for fans hoping for a large-scale story to mark the show’s return. But in the end, “Arts” allowed “Community” to comment on itself, and if the hints of episodes to come are any indication, much as Abed and Troy abandoned all normalcy, the show may soon dive full force into the wacky and weird places we love to see it explore.
Jonathon Dornbush is Arts editor. Email him at email@example.com.