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Is There Any Room in this Pocket for a Little Spare Chang?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 24, 2010 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 24, 2010 |

Community: Dan Harmon pulled off the second-season premiere of “Community,” better than anyone could’ve hoped. He not only managed to negate the soap-opera dynamics at the end of last season, but with a brilliant use of meta, he made the episode about negating the soap opera dynamics of the end of last season. And Abed was allowed to continue conflating the life of his study group with sitcom conventions by making that very conflation, and its perceived staleness (by whom, I don’t know) a part of the narrative. “Community,” which probably knows — especially now that it’s up against “Big Bang Theory” — that it will continued to be an endangered sitcom throughout its second season, is going paint balls out, refusing to give in to the broader style of comedy that’s plagued “The Office,” since it became the highest-rated sitcom on NBC (most assume that “Parks and Rec” will replace “Outsourced” at mid-season, but few consider that “Community” is also on the chopping block).

The episode picked up after the summer break. Instead of being the laughingstock that Britta assumed she’d be after confessing her love for Jeff — and being burned — she’s the hero of the community college. Jeff, in an attempt to regain his own reputation, one-ups Britta by confessing his love for her, until Abed pushes them toward “The Wedding Episode,” at which point, all the secrets are revealed, and Dan Harmon basically resets the group dynamics. Annie, after realizing what a whore Jeff is (again), loses her interest in him, and Jeff and Britta avoid the Ross and Rachel bullshit. And Abed gets more self-contained antics, “like Paintball.” Plus, Troy and Pierce — via the @oldwhitemansays Twitter account — reduce the “Shit My Dad Says,” sitcom idea to the rubble that it is (will it prevent people from watching it? Probably not. But, it’s still a brilliant ploy).

Plus Betty White, who wasn’t relegated to the foul-mouthed Granny; she played it straight as a psycho professor that put Jeff in the hospital. And it looks like Chang — schizophrenic now — will become part of the study group.

Perfect premiere episode. All it was missing was Annie removing her clothes. You have to save something for the finale.

30 Rock: Last night’s “30 Rock,” was good; a nice bit of meta there, too, as both “TGS” and “30 Rock” kicked off their new seasons. For “TGS,” it meant that Jenna was promoted to producer, a position that suited her so well that she had to cut her own position to the dismay of Pete. Meanwhile, Alec — now heavily involved with Avery — had to contend with their adult relationship, which meant testing boundaries and establishing the tenor of their future relationship together. On the other hand, Liz — who has been complaining about being a spinster cat lady for the entire series’ run — has to choose, once again, her own autonomy or grown-up love. It’s weird to see anyone so dismissive of a romantic relationship with Matt Damon, but it worked for the purposes of last night’s episode. I especially liked the simultaneous confession of something personal, and Damon’s revelation (“I was touched by a priest, but it’s OK.”) The only subplot that didn’t work for me last night was Tracy and his imaginary life with Kenneth, who is actually real, and now working for “The Late Show,” which was a pretty great and underscored dig at Jay Leno, if you choose to read it that way (I do). The show still turns on Jack and Liz’s relationship, and that still works beautifully, now into its fifth season.

The Office: That opening dance sequence in last night’s “The Office,” gave me every reason to believe that “The Office” would regroup and find its stride, again. Unfortunately, after its energetic cold open, “The Office,” lumbered back toward the middle ground, capitalizing on sight gags rather than the comedy of discomfort that make the best episodes the best. The new developments? Erin began dating Gabe (“Thank God he’s my boss because I would not have said yes to a first date if I didn’t have to”), to the dismay of Andy, whose anger management skills are put to the test. That relationship was little explored, however. Dwight now owns the building, which gives Jim (and now Pam) another source for prank material, one of which led nicely to a pee corner in the elevator, which wasn’t as funny as the Jim’s key prank that Pam foiled. And Michael hired his nephew, who — as it turns out — is a giant screw up, and despite Michael’s reluctance to discipline him, he ultimately had to resort to a spanking. I think that was supposed to be funny-awkward, but it was mostly awkward. A spanking? You can do better than that, Greg Daniels.

But we’ll always have ‘Nobody But Me’ by the Human Beinz.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.