A review of last night's "Community" coming up just as soon as I drag you kicking and screaming into 1997...
There are certain actors from "Community" who seem to have little in common with their characters. Donald Glover is smart, Danny Pudi's warm and outgoing, Yvette Nicole Brown doesn't talk like Miss Piggy, etc.
Then there's Chevy Chase.
It's not that Chevy is exactly like Pierce. But if you've read the behind-the-scenes "SNL" books, or seen him be interviewed, or, especially, seen him at public events with the rest of the "Community" cast, you get a sense that Chevy is a guy who marches to his own drummer, who will do anything to get attention and/or a laugh (remember: he became famous on "SNL" for falling down a lot) and who is in the "Community" cast but not of the "Community" cast. Chevy was home sick when the rest of the cast and Dan Harmon came to press tour a couple of weeks ago, and the difference in the group dynamic without him there was striking. When Chevy's on a panel with the others, he'll interrupt frequently to go for a joke; without him, the group was a more relaxed, well-oiled machine.
And knowing what I know about Chevy Chase over the years, "Celebrity Pharmacology 212" felt very meta to me. Not meta in the way the show's detractors often cite (at no point did Abed compare any of the storylines to an episode of "It's a Living"), but the subtler kind of meta that happens on TV shows after a while when certain characters begin to take on more and more traits of the actors who play them.
Pierce is a tough character for the show. He's much older than everyone else and doesn't share a frame of reference with the others, and most of the time his presence is just tolerated because he was there at the start. (In that way, he's the Randy Jackson of "Community.") There were times in the first season where he demonstrated a better nature that made you understand why the group put up with him the rest of the time, like when he helped Shirley with her brownie presentation. It's been a while, though, and I briefly thought his scene at Annie's apartment was going to turn out to be another. Instead, it was just Pierce trying to buy himself some more lines/attention, and it wasn't until we watched Pierce watching the outtakes of the Hawthorne Wipes commercial that the episode actually displayed some sympathy for him. And for the most part after that, it was back to Pierce ruining everyone else's work for the sake of his ego, with even his moment with Annie at the end feeling more obligatory than earned.
Still, if Pierce was a colossal jerk in this one, it still made for a lot of funny moments as he turned the anti-drug play into an incredibly pro-drug play. And if Pierce wasn't really redeemed, his behavior gave the writers an opportunity to redeem Chang a bit in Shirley's eyes. I'm still not sure I like the idea of her being pregnant from a sexual encounter neither remembers - particularly since we know that the two of them had an honest moment of intimacy during the zombie attack, whereas to Shirley it must feel like date rape - but if the writers are telling this story, they need to make Chang more human in the process, and this was a good step in that direction.
And what the episode revealed about Annie seems like fertile territory going forward, and also a nice way to push her character into adulthood. As I recall, Troy commented on the bad neighborhood she lived in back in the bar episode, and I like that Annie is now living on her own, having to provide for herself, blase about her surroundings ("That's my landlord, and if he wanted to rape you, you'd be raped") and having to occasionally feud with the management at Dildopolis downstairs. Regardless of whether the show ever tries a Jeff/Annie relationship, Annie needs to start seeming more like an adult, and now she very much does.
Finally, Jeff inadvertently sexting with Britta's nephew was a pretty stock sitcom plot, but I liked it for two reasons. First, they pushed it so far in an inappropriate direction (the emoti-penis) that it rose above the familiarity. And second, the scene where Jeff was panicking and Abed just sat there silently, refusing to help, was really funny. Joel McHale doesn't get to play desperation often, but he does it well, and Danny Pudi made a great silent foil.
What did everybody else think?
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