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TV Matters: Community, Mad Men

By Matt Ern Columnist

 

Community - "Basic Human Anatomy"

Grade: A-

This was perhaps my favorite episode this season featuring a very “Community” conceit: Troy and Abed switched bodies, like in “Freaky Friday.”  So Abed (with Troy supposedly in his body) goes on Britta and Troy’s anniversary date while Troy (with Abed in his body) enlists Jeff’s help in finding the “Freaky Friday” DVD that he believes to be the trigger for switching back. Danny Pudi and Donald Glover seem like they’re having a great time playing each other and the gag is pretty funny right off the bat. Things get serious on Abed and Britta’s date when it becomes apparent that they’re only doing the body-swap routine as a way for Troy to work through the fact that he wants to break up with Britta. Troy and Britta’s relationship has existed in the background all season. It’s a true testament to their friendship that Abed would go on the date for him and then hint to Britta (while still playing the character of Troy trapped in Abed’s body) that he doesn’t think Troy is happy.  Eventually Jeff has a similar conversation with Troy, and convinces Troy to drop the body-swap bit and admit to Britta that he wants to break up.  Troy is understandably worried that ending things with her will hurt their friendship, but Jeff points out that he can best be there for her as a friend. In the B-story, Shirley and Annie enlist the Dean’s help in finding out how Leonard could be the front-runner for valedictorian.  The story resolves itself pretty neatly, but is really driven by the fact that the Dean has attempted a similar body-swap with Jeff (Jeff refuses to play along with it).  The fact that Jeff and the Dean don’t really switch bodies establishes that we’re not to believe Troy and Abed actually did either, which helps the episode set up the emotional payoff at the end. It’s a fun episode for a show that has been too wrapped up in high-concept bits lately. Sometimes a good old-fashioned fake “Freaky Friday” body swap is all you need for some laughs and major character development.

 

Mad Men- "The Flood"

Grade: A-

“Mad Men” is a show that by its very nature is closely tied to history. In the past the show examined presidential elections, the Kennedy assassination, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now the time has come to address the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The announcement of Dr. King’s death comes early in the episode, and each character’s response to it is unique, but somewhat selfish. Roger muses on the fact that he always assumed King’s great ability for public speaking would have saved him, which makes sense given Roger’s own slick personality. Don drinks and passes off the responsibility of watching his kids to Megan and then takes Bobby to the movies. And Henry gets inspired to further his political ambitions and run for a seat in the Senate. Harry can only think of the money the agency is losing when clients pull their ads due to preempting news announcements.  Maybe for the first time, Pete seems a hero when he calls Harry out for callous, racist thinking. “It’s a shameful, shameful day!” Pete yells, the most vocal character about how troubling the assassination is. He points out to Harry that King was a husband and father of four children and that there are more important things at stake than losing revenue. In fact, almost everyone at SCDP and Peggy’s new agency showed up for work without an idea of how to handle the situation. “The Flood” does a good job capturing the chaos that was generated in the aftermath of such a tragedy.  One of the show’s greatest strengths is it’s ability to take historical events and both honestly and realistically address them, as well as use them to illuminate new aspects of their characters. Because Don is drinking, freaking out about Sylvia, he ends up opening up to Megan about how he felt nothing for his children initially, but then eventually found the emotions he had been faking for years.

 

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