I’ve seen last night’s Community episode, “Physical Education,” four times now — twice as preparation for a Paley Center panel I moderated with the cast and crew and Chevy Chase, once at the panel, and then once more when it actually aired. Even after four viewings, it still left me smiling. As NBC ponders whether or not to enroll Community for a second season (the show has averaged a mediocre 5 million viewers), this was the type of episode it desperately needed to deliver. This became the episode I’d choose when introducing the show to the uninitiated. This was the episode that’ll send “shirtless Joel McHale” soaring up the Google Trends chart.
Yup, “Physical Education” was the complete package. It unleashed a stampede of jokes that managed to illustrate every kind of comedy known to man, from off-colored remarks and verbal misunderstandings to droll pop-culture allusions and simple sight gags. And if the second act lagged a bit, it allowed the show to catch its breath before plunging into the most purely enjoyable conclusion of the season. The “naked billiards match” exemplified what Community‘s humor is all about: presenting a joke and then taking it one surprising step further. So, yeah, you smiled at the use of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” as heard in The Color of Money, but were you expecting to see an actual werewolf sitting there in the background? And yes, I laughed when everyone gasped as a butt-naked Jeff bent down to line up his pool shot, but what clinched the scene was when he decided to also raise his leg onto the table (a visual reference to the Greek painting in Coach Bogner’s office).
It’s not lost on me that one of Community‘s best episodes just happened to follow one of its worst, and some of you PopWatchers are convinced I’m trying to squeeze the show into some kind of preordained cycle. I’m not. But if it takes a “Communication Studies” to give birth to a “Physical Education,” then that’s a cycle I’m willing to endure.
Here’s the crème de la crème out of many eligible moments:
1. Abed quickly saying “13,” a la Rain Man, after Jeff knocks a bag of bagels onto the floor.
2. Pierce, who offers the show’s writers an easy outlet for inappropriate comments, had a number of memorable retorts this episode. First one: “If all Chinese were psychic, you would have started using birth control centuries ago.”
3. Abed: “You’re going to Can’t Buy Me Love me. You know, transform me from zero to hero, geek to chic.”
Troy: “Oh, he wants us to Love Don’t Cost a Thing him. Can’t Buy Me Love was the remake for white audiences.”
(Of course, it’s actually the other way around)
4. I loved the sorry sight that was Greendale’s mirror-less gym.
5. Pierce again: “I can’t think of anything more frightening than a half-Polish, half-Arab virgin in his 30s. One way or the other, that story ends with an explosion.”
6. Troy telling Abed that he should be like Calvin because “his best friend was a tiger, he always went on dope adventures, and if anything stood in his way, he just peed on it,” followed by Pierce asking Troy if he was referring to Calvin Coolidge.
7. Learning that Jeff is 10% Dick Van Dyke, 20% Sam Malone, 40% Zach Braff, and 30% Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry. Naturally, Jeff was most upset about the Zach Braff part.
8. Jeff: “Abed, you’re a god!”
9. Coach Bogner: “Jeff Winger, shouldn’t you be at an Urban Outfitters?”
Jeff: “I’ll go there later if I feel like it.”
10. Jeff to Coach Bogner: “Do you want to talk about clothes like a girl, or use tapered sticks to hit balls around a cushioned table, like a man!”
11. Dean Pelton (finally back after disappearing for the past two episodes) taking numerous photos of Jeff’s body “as evidence.”
12. The credits sequence with Abed and Troy goofing around as Sesame Street‘s Bert and Ernie, respectively, followed by Troy realizing that he’s late for his cousin’s funeral. “I knew there was some reason I couldn’t do this today,” he exclaimed while leaving.
PopWatchers, bring it, what were your favorite moments?