Over the past several weeks we've been inundated with news and reports about the NBC sitcom Community doing a special "G.I. Jeff" animated episode in the spirit of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.
Well, I'd say anyone who saw the episode last night would take it one step further... it wasn't just "in the spirit", it was designed to essentially BE a G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero episode. Obviously the folks at Community had to get permission from Hasbro to run with this to the degree that they did (check out a great IGN interview with Dan Harmon for some of those tidbits).
Keep in mind, I have never once even seen 10 minutes of a Community episode, so the actual story behind this one didn't really interest me, I just wanted to see the G.I. Joe ties.
Suffice it to say, I was not the least bit disappointed.
Community didn't treat this as some sort of homage, they actually designed this entire episode to take place within the confines of an actual Sunbow animated episode, complete with toy commercials (featuring some terrific and inspired customs). Every single element of "G.I. Joe" within the episode was awesome, hilarious, and totally nostalgia inducing.
We start off with the same sort of familiar animated opening and jump right into Cobra attacking the Taj Mahal. The episode is hilariously honest as the Joes ask why Cobra would possibly be attacking something with little strategic value and why an American Special Forces team would be defending it in the first place. The battle is great, and culminates when G.I. Jeff, to everyone's shock and dismay, actually kills someone.
Bill Ratner and Michael Bell reprise their roles as Duke and Flint to hilarious success, and Mary MacDonald-Lewis is there as well. We see the obvious Community cast members trying to integrate with the "real" G.I. Joe team even as they are all placed in captivity for daring to actually kill Cobra operatives. They escape, and throughout some more awesome and funny animated events discover that this entire thing is a figment of Jeff's imagination. Jeff, becoming depressed about turning 40 drank a bunch of scotch and chased it with "anti aging" pills, putting him into a crazy dream-like state where he's reliving his childhood in the form of an animated series. We see cameos galore, from Scarlett to Snake Eyes to Destro and Cobra Commander, and see many Community members taking the place of some familiar faces. Anyone who loved the Sunbow series, or even loves to ridicule the Sunbow series, should find plenty of stuff to enjoy, and people who just like the toys can marvel at the fantastic commercials featuring some of our favorite toys, but also some customs which bring the "Community" characters to life.
I'm not much of a "sitcom" kind of guy, either, but there were a few minutes of laugh out loud humor, especially what happens to Lifeline near the end.
I had a smile on my face from beginning to end, and while much of the episode was spent laughing at the absurdity of the old Sunbow series, I think the source material was still treated with respect and I came away shocked at how many familiar elements they included. Even vehicles like the Hurricane and Tomahawk have roles throughout this special animated feature.
If you missed it, hopefully you DVR'ed it. If you didn't, I'm sure it'll be available online via Hulu or NBC.com shortly. If you're even the smallest of G.I. Joe fans you have to check it out. It was pretty much perfect.
Take a peek at the animated intro below.