Thursday TV in Review: The Return of Community and ABC's Missing
Danny Pudi and Donald Glover
Apparently, no one ever told Community to beware the ides of March. (Et tu, Dean Pelton?) The mind reels at how the obsessive Abed (Danny Pudi) would react to March 15 being the date designated by NBC for the return of the never-say-die sitcom — and winner of TV Guide Magazine's 2011 Fan Favorite cover — from a most unwelcome three-month hiatus.
Once again kicking off NBC's stubbornly low-rated comedy lineup (8/7c), this endearingly zany cult comedy wastes no time giving Abed a line of pure meta goodness as he observes the wackiness surrounding Shirley's remarriage — in the study room, naturally. (Turns out her church has strict rules against things like second marriages. And calico cats. And tight jeans. Trust me, it's funnier when Yvette Nicole Brown says it.)
Abed takes the words right out of a fan's mouth as he declares, "It's almost too conceptual to follow, but I love it." Any true Community fan knows how he feels. This adventurous, impossible-to-pigeonhole series returns by declaring "normal" to be the new abnormal, as Abed and his nerd buddy Troy (Donald Glover) attempt to "de-whimsify" themselves out of respect for Shirley: "I can be Normal Man and you can be my trusty sidekick Ordinario." Meanwhile, the ceremony forces cynical soul mates Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) to examine their tortured ambivalence toward the sacred institution, while Pierce (Chevy Chase) exorcises his own current demons by brainstorming a new business venture with the bride-to-be.
"Normal" is a naughty word, and an unnatural state, for the denizens of Greendale Community College. Don't count on it sticking, because Community majors in the wondrously weird. If only it were passing the Nielsen test. (But with NCAA basketball occupying CBS' schedule tonight, this is your best comedy option. Don't let it go to waste.)
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THE BOURNE MATERNITY: That's how I've been referring to ABC's high-concept, low-impact Missing (8/7c), an international action thriller than plays like Alias: The Next Generation. Ashley Judd, looking very fit if dramatically and expressively anemic, stars as Becca Winstone, a long-retired CIA super-agent, widowed in the opening flashback (Game of Thrones' Sean Bean plays her ill-fated agent husband), who goes all Instant Sydney Bristow 10 years later after her son is kidnapped while studying in Europe. Cashing in what must be a lifetime supply of frequent-flyer miles, Becca goes on the hunt for her son, thrashing bad guys Bourne-style and even racing a speedboat Bond-style in one leg of this sleek-looking chase. The gorgeous location footage — one week Rome, the next Paris, by the fourth episode Dubrovnik (never looking better) — will make you want to get up off the couch and travel. The inane drama may have much the same effect.
Surely you've seen the promo by now where Becca barks: "I am not CIA! I am a mother looking for my son!" If that moment compels you to see what happens next, have at it — although the few twists revealed in the first four episodes (of 10 chapters comprising the first season) are pretty heavily telegraphed. If the scene instead makes you snort soda through your nostrils at its preposterous earnestness, you might want to wait for Showtime to bring back Homeland this fall to satisfy your spy-drama needs. (Or pick up the new novel The Expats, which I'm halfway through and enjoying much more than this.)
If the show were as exciting as it is improbable, Missing could qualify as a guilty pleasure. All it's missing are a few crucial ingredients: originality and intelligence.
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