There’s an episode of Arrested Development’s third season that surely ranks among the greatest half-hours ever produced for television. Okay, that doesn’t really narrow that down because that applies to quite a few of Mitch Hurwitz’s dearly departed/soon-to-be-resurrected series. But I’m thinking of the episode “S.O.B.,” in which the Bluths stage an elaborate fundraiser to rescue their financial fortunes. In fact, the title even stands for “Save Our Bluths.” It’s such an incredible episode because the fundraiser becomes a highly-meta, last-ditch attempt to convince Fox to believe in that show: all-star guests; the last moments would be taped Live (!); and someone would…die.
I bring this up not only because Community is the clear heir to Arrested Development, because of both its artistry and cultish appeal, but because last night’s installment, “Contemporary Impressionists,” seemed like its “S.O.B.” Maybe some of it was lost in Community’s desire to make fun of the über-vanity inherent in contemporary Bar Mitzvah culture, but, oh, it was there. It had an all-star guest cast (Ryan Seacrest, Jamie Lee Curtis, both Michael Jacksons, Fat Brando, French Stewart playing a faux French Stewart). It had Jeff losing his shirt. It had Abed finally meeting his evil twin. And a kiss between a two very unexpected castmembers. Even an unintentional nod to the way NBC Britta’ed their lineup for three months, since this was the start of a “new semester.”
Chronologically speaking, I suppose this was to have been Community’s first episode after “Regional Holiday Music,” since everyone was discussing their activities over the break. Shirley was excited because at her church’s Christmas pageant Andre was Joseph, Baby Ben was Baby Jesus, Jordan was one of the wise men, and guess who was in charge of casting? Pierce had finally digitized his VHS tapes to region-specific CED video discs. Those are going to be around for awhile. Britta was just too intro-to-human-psych’ed to think of anything other than their midterm exam project: diagnosing a fellow student. Which she’s kind of been doing all along anyway. Jeff had been to a psychiatrist who doesn’t look like Elizabeth Shue, talked about his dad (which means, if Andre and Shirley’s wedding takes place after this in the chronology, he still has some daddy issues to work out), punched some pillows, and was put on anti-anxiety meds. Britta was horrified because she knew his self-doubt was the one and only thing preventing his ego from being unleashed in its true, monstrous form.
And Abed must have spent the holidays running from the law, because into the study group barged a U.S. Marshal ready to take him into custody. Abed put his hands over his head and shouted, “I didn’t kill my wife!” Given the ever labyrinthine rabbit holes this show is willing to go down I really wouldn’t have been surprised had Abed been revealed to have once had a Mrs. Nadir. But it turns out, he discovered a celebrity impersonation service over the break and has been using it to act out his favorite scenes in movies. Which means that that marshal in question was the worst-ever Tommy Lee Jones impersonator. Dude, if you’re going to be Tommy Lee Jones you first need to get the Texas drawl down. Then the palpable whiff of “I don’t want to be here, and I’m totally just doing it for the money.” Which this impersonator should have been able to relate to. Say the real Tommy Lee Jones were approached for a guest spot on Community playing a faux version of himself, like Mr. Stewart. I guarantee you it would go something like this….
NEXT: A hypothetical conversation with Tommy Lee Jones.