|A review of tonight's "Community" coming up just as soon as I honor the pinky swear of a degenerate...|
When I reviewed "Pillows and Blankets" a few weeks ago, I noted that "the best 'Community' parody episodes tend to remember that they're an episode of 'Community' first and a parody of something second." "Basic Lupine Urology" turns out to be an exception to that rule. There's no real character arc to speak of — there's a half-hearted attempt to do one of those plots where Jeff drags Annie down to his level, but it's so routine as to be easily ignored — but the transplanting of the classic "Law & Order" formula to the halls of Greendale is so perfectly done that it carried the episode.
Your mileage will obviously vary depending on how much affection you have for the late "L&O" mothership. I used to watch a ton of it in the old days, and clearly writer Megan Ganz and director Rob Schrab have spent a lot of time studying the show to so perfectly capture all of its rhythms and tropes: the way the victim is always found by two strangers in mid-conversation, the way every police interview is conducted with someone who's too busy working to stop while they chat (the atmosphere of the Fat Neil scene in the administrative office, where everyone seemed overheated and overworked, was perfect) and how every "L&O" scene is as short as possible(*), all the way through to the familiar post-trial bull session where Adam Schiff would inevitably get a call about some tragic post-script to their case, here with the death of Starburns in a meth lab explosion.(**)
(*) Two excellent examples of using this brevity for the sake of a joke: 1)Britta is offering to use her psych knowledge to help with the case, but we cut away in mid-sentence because it's an offer not worth acknowledging; 2)We jump in on the Magnitude interview with Abed repeating what Magnitude told him so Magnitude only has to say "Pop pop!" (Though interestingly, Magnitude does yell, "Hey, that's mine!" when Jeff starts dropping the yams.)
(**) Rest in peace, Alex Osbourne. Curious if anyone felt the off-camera death ruined the mood, or if it was okay given the context of the spoof.
The regulars (save Pierce and Britta, who were marginalized) fit seamlessly into their new roles: Troy and Abed as the detectives (at one point switching between good and bad cop), Shirley as Lt. Van Buren, Jeff as Jack McCoy and Annie as the attractive deputy DA of your choosing, Professor Kane as the judge (Michael Kenneth Williams guested three different times on "Law & Order," after all), etc., to the point where it felt perfectly natural that when Leslie Hendrix — helpful coroner Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers from the "L&O" franchise — turned up to dissect the yam, it felt perfectly natural to see her alongside Troy and Abed.
There were also plenty of good jokes inserted within the parody, like Annie and Lt. Colonel Archwood saying biased things about witnesses ("a Holocaust-denying 9/11 pedophile") to influence the jury even as they know they'll be stricken, or Dean Pelton's uniform fetish coming out. The episode even worked in a couple of small meta jokes unrelated to "Law & Order," with Troy wearing a Spider-Man tie in several scenes, and Pelton practically having an orgasm after Kane said, Omar-style, "A man's gotta have a code."
So, no, this was not in any way deep. We didn't learn anything new about our regular characters, and though one of the recurring ones got killed off, that was also in service of the joke. But sometimes, if the parody is done with enough thought and love and care, that can work, too.