The ongoing one-sided feud "Community" has going with "Glee" has popped up a few times throughout the show's two-plus seasons, starting with an off-handed reference by Joel McHale's Jeff in Season 1, escalating to a mocking encounter with Greendale's own glee club in the first paintball episode and then striking gold with Season 2's "Paradigms of Human Memory" ("We won, like, 70 awards!").
The "Glee" mocking came to a head with Thursday's episode, "Regional Holiday Music", which started out as one of the best that "Community" has done, but thanks to a weak third act, settled for being merely good as "Community" heads into its hiatus.
The episode started out with Greendale's glee club -- on the verge of both Regionals and the school's holiday pageant -- getting shut down, thanks to a call to ASCAP by Jeff (and I love that recently the show has remembered that Jeff not only used to be a lawyer, but a really good one. His legal skills played a key role in "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" and got the ball rolling Thursday). That of course led to Dean Pelton and the glee club director Mr. Radisson (call him "Mr. Rad") recruiting the study group to replace the glee club again, with a series of musical performances.
The episode itself was filled with lots of in-jokes and references that only people who are familiar with both "Community" and "Glee" would get. For example, the shortening of Mr. Radisson's name to Mr. Rad isn't just dorky, it mimics how everyone on "Glee" calls Mr. Schuester "Mr. Schu". The constant references to "regionals" (and Pierce's confusion over what exactly that meant) mocked the importance "Glee" places on the show choir competition structure. And Annie's "sexy baby Santa" dance took on both Lea Michele's weird sexuality on "Glee" and Annie's own tendency to overdo it on the "school girl" thing. Not to mention the musical cues and the appearance of the study room (complete with silent, bearded piano player).
The first two acts of the show, as one-by-one the study group decided to join the glee club, were great. The musical numbers, tailored to each character, struck just the right balance between purely entertaining and mockingly sarcastic, and there were plenty of moments where the show hit on exactly the right comedic notes. But the third act felt rushed and very un-"Community" like. Yes, not many shows would go as dark as having it turn out that the glee club director was behind the bus crash that killed the last glee club (previously referenced in Season 2), but "Community" has done darker, and better. The group's sudden jumping to Britta's defense was weird too; she's been called "the worst" by plenty of people outside the group in the past, with no intervention whatsoever. It wasn't bad, per se, it's just that after two acts, I felt like this was shaping up to be one of the best episodes ever, and it ended up falling short of that status.
Plus, most of the best lines from the episode came from the early parts. Let's take a look:
Annie: I'll be at the movies with my bubbie.
Troy: You're not taking both of them?
Annie: Well, one's dead.
[ahhh, the simple comedy of confusing a Yiddish word for grandmother with a female body part]
Troy (about Mr. Rad): This guy's like human froyo.
Britta: It was almost like being on ecstasy, only instead of having pointless conversations and dancing like idiots... wait, it was EXACTLY like being on ecstasy.
Jeff: Not liking glee club doesn't make us bullies, and implying that is reverse bullying.
Abed: Good point. Sing about it?
Study group: No!
Troy: Santa fought at Woodstock and Vietnam/and smoked a ton of acid and burned his bra.
Jeff: Annie, you too? This is beneath you. You're an intelligent woman. Also, you're Jewish!
Jeff: Look, eventually you hit a point of diminishing returns on the sexiness.
Annie (in sexy baby voice): What's a dimininin nnnnnnnn?
Mr. Rad: If we win regionals, it's straight on to sectionals. Then a week later is semis, then semi-regionals, then regional semis then national... lower zone semis!
[sometimes I feel like this is the actual competition schedule on "Glee"]
Jeff: It's been a dark semester. I basically killed a guy. And I kind of attacked you guys with a fire axe. I'm thinking about seeing a new shrink.
Britta (excited): What?
Also, since I haven't done a Gleecap in awhile (and I'm kind of starting to hate that show), let's grade all the songs on "Community"!
Mr. Rad and Abed - "Glee" - B
Taran Killam totally sold the Mr. Schu impression, and I loved how Abed went from skeptical to totally sold by the end of the performance.
Troy and Abed - "Christmas Spy" - A+
I saw this as a preview of the episode a couple days ago, and nearly fell out of my chair laughing. I'm still not entirely sold on Donald Glover as a real rapper, but damn if this wasn't hilarious.
Troy and Abed - "Baby Boomer Santa" - B+
The weird interpretation of musical stylings and history from Troy and Abed was... well, weird, but it worked. And Pierce really captured the sound of "over-the-hill, possibly drunk, old rocker" when he joined in at the end.
Annie - "Teach Me About Christmas" - B
This started out super awesome, but as it dragged on, as Jeff pointed out, it kind of went off the rails in the second verse.
Shirley and kids choir - "Happy Birthday Jesus" - B+
God, I really wish there'd been more of Shirley in this, but the lyrics during the kids part were great.
Study Group f/ Britta - "Christmas Time" - C
I know Britta's part was intentionally bad, but didn't we already do the weird Britta singing and dancing thing in "Geography of Global Conflict"?