Community: Season 3, Episode 6
Community is a show with a memory, even for the absurd. This is a standard I have for all modern television I really let into my heart (I let most shows produced before 1990 off the hook because continuity was kind of new back then), but I really appreciate when a show keeps past events in mind and allows them to affect its future. This is obviously necessary to create a serialized narrative like the best shows on TV currently tend to aim for, and Jeff's father issues played into this aspect of the episode perfectly, but its the little things that make being a continuity geek like me happy. That Community remembered the fact that they did a silly Good Will Hunting parody that had Troy being a plumbing savant and brought that back so fluidly this evening is the type of touch that makes this show a pure blast to watch when it is operating at its higher levels.
The A-plot tonight had Pierce becoming a gay icon because of the versatility of Hawthorne Wipes and dealing with the return of his oppressive (and oppressively racist) father who wants to shut down the new campaign that is marketing the product to the gay community. This leads Jeff to confront his own father issues through Pierce, pushing to free Pierce from the clutches of his old man like he wishes he could do for himself. This plotline was far from perfect: for one thing, the episode didn't take nearly as much advantage of the "Pierce Hawthorne: Gay Icon" storyline as it should have. Additionally, the emotional punch this episode should have packed just didn't land at all, perhaps because it lapsed into absurdity one too many times. There was good stuff here, like continuation of the ridiculous joke that Pierce's parents are still alive so late in his life (though now both are gone. RIP Mama Hawthorne, and go to hell Papa Hawthorne), the ivory toupee his father wears and the fact that Jeff actually KILLED Pierce's dad (something I really hope the show brings back for comedic fodder in the future), yet an episode dealing with the crippling effect bad fathers can have on their sons that featured Jeff lashing out at a proxy for his own father and Pierce confronting the death of his should have landed emotionally much more than "Advanced Gay" did.
That B-plot, though, was just solid gold, one of the best examples of Community's ability to be just blatantly absurd in recent memory. John Goodman returned as Vice Dean Laybourne tonight and continued to be absolutely perfect in the role, mining every single line for maximum comedic effect and just blowing me away the whole time. Goodman is one of the most able comedic actors out there when he puts that foot forward, and this show is really giving him a chance to shine. Troy gets seduced back into the world of plumbing and finds himself enjoying it before a battle for his soul commences when Laybourne tries to recruit him into the air conditioning school, the most elite society in the world of Greendale Community College. Just typing that sentence had me giggling, yet this subplot was chock full of pitch-perfect oddities like Black Hitler, an astronaut cooking paninis, someone pooping in a sink and Troy and Abed's recreation of their favorite Dr. Who-esque program. I was excited when John Goodman's character came on the scene, but now that he is involved in a quest to corrupt our young Troy into the secretive life of an air-conditioning repairman...well, I literally cannot wait to see what the show has in store here.
I'm really enjoying the new structural gambit Community is trying out this season, playing with more traditional stories in the A-plot (though there is still plenty of weirdness there) and letting its tendency towards absurdism and genre riffs percolate in subplots. I think this is a smart way for the show to structure itself as it makes a play for more viewers, using the main plots as a sort of gateway drug into Community's weirder side, and if "Advanced Gay" didn't land emotionally for me the way it should have, and the way the best episodes of this show do, it did juggle a whole lot of weirdness very well.
A lot of the early episodes this season have felt like set up ("Biology 101" gave us the new central class, "Competitive Ecology" put Chang as head of security, and now "Advanced Gay" shows us what Vice Dean Laybourne will be doing within the masterplot of this season) for what is to come, which is all well and good so long as the show is ready to pull out all the stops and blow us away. All of the pieces it has thrown out so far inspire great confidence in me that this season will be one for the ages. If we can deal with some of Jeff's issues, watch as the group members select their majors (and possibly grow further apart or closer together as a result), follow Laybourne's efforts to corrupt Troy into actually taking responsibility for his life and tie it all together, this will be a damn fine season of Community. And if not, well, this show is still pretty damn hilarious.
-"At your cervix!"
-"In the wipes business, we call them towelheads."
-"Hawthorne Pride Wipes! They may cost more, but they're gayer..."
-"People earning respect with money is the American way, Jeff..."
-"Good. Now come with me to the second floor. Someone pooped in the sink."
-"Why is there an astronaut in the corner making paninis?" "We don't want you telling anyone about this, and if so, we don't want them believing you. Isn't that right, Black Hitler?"
-"He's like the Abed of racism."
-"have you heard the expression 'room temperature'? This is THE room."
-"Are you Superman?" "No." "Would you tell me if you were?" "I'd tell everyone! I never understood why he cared who knew!"
-"I'm eating spaceman paninis with Black Hitler, and there's nothing you can do about it!"
-"I like football, but I don't..." I loved Troy and Abed's impressions of each other, and that both lapsed into impressions of Harrison Ford.
-"So Oedipal." "You are the worst."
-"The question isn't 'how old are we', but rather, 'when old are we'?"