A review of last night's "Community" coming up just as soon as there's an astronaut in the corner making paninis...
After two high-concept episodes with similar formats in a row, "Community" gets back to more normal territory with "Advanced Gay" - that is, if your definition of "normal" includes a strange elderly racist caricature who wears an ivory toupee and Troy getting to visit the room from which room temperature is measured. It's "Community" - things are always going to be somewhat askew.
We've known since the pilot that Pierce views Jeff as a young him, and that Jeff in turn is horrified at the idea of growing up to be Pierce. This week, the link was made stronger than ever when Jeff took advantage of Mr. Hawthorne's presence to act out some of his own well-established daddy issues, giving him the heart attack that Pierce himself has faked so many times in the past. I thought most of the pieces of this story worked very well; Chevy Chase may refuse to take himself seriously in public, but "Community" has always gotten good mileage out of taking Pierce seriously, and he was allowed to be (relatively) human here, even as he was oblivious(*), homophobic and then cravenly opportunistic. The story also made good use out of Britta's new path as a pysch major, as she was allowed to be both right and Britta at the same time, not only mispronouncing "oedipal" repeatedly, but not even getting to the end of the chapter and realizing why the sons want to kill their fathers.
(*) As weird as things got later, the teaser was a reminder of just how good "Community" can still be when simply doing "colorful characters hanging out and doing college things" scenes, with the gang enjoying Pierce's unintentional double entendres, and Shirley being horrified on behalf of Bruce Villanch.
The only place where that story faltered, I think, is with Mr. Hawthorne himself, who seemed about three degrees too ridiculous. "Community" obviously has lots of exaggerated characters, both within the study group and without (Pelton's about as absurd as they come, and doesn't even get the occasional humanizing moments that Chang does), but Mr. Hawthorne was such a cartoon that he didn't feel like he belonged in this particular story. (When I first saw the publicity stills of Larry Cedar - Leon from "Deadwood" - in the ivory wig, I assumed he would be appearing in a dream sequence or as another of Pierce's occasional hallucinations.) A lot of his dialogue was funny (his explanation for why Britta didn't meet his racist standards was particularly good), but ultimately it was hard to buy into the emotions that Pierce - yes, even Laser Lotus Pierce - and Jeff were feeling about this guy, with Chevy Chase and Joel McHale being convincing enough to overcome the silly man around whom the story revolved.
Troy's story, following up on the "Good Will Hunting" spoof from season 1's "English as a Second Language," also went to some ridiculous places - particularly the initiation ceremony featuring space paninis and Black Hitler - but had the power of Mr. John Goodman to make even the silliest parts of it seem believable enough within the looser definition of reality that "Community" goes by. Vice Dean Laybourne's been a tremendous addition to the show's larger universe, and his monologue about the noble history of air conditioning was perfectly delivered. We knew Troy wasn't going to choose that path, simply because it would take him away from Abed - and how great was the scene where Danny Pudi briefly played Troy and Donald Glover did Abed? - but I'm glad to see that Troy and Laybourne aren't finished sparring yet, because of how great Goodman has been.
What did everybody else think?
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