When you consider why “Community” is so consistently low-rated, an episode like last night’s puts it all into perspective: It’s a wacky show. That’s not in any way disparaging: It’s an irrefutable fact. This is not a show for the masses. It may be the most esoteric show on television, and certainly on network TV, and its consumption is not designed for pop-culture amateurs. After all, who makes a Skulls homage on a primetime network TV Show?
Dan Harmon does.
That’s why — even when an episode doesn’t completely take succeed — “Community” should be admired for cojones, for not currying favor with the “Two and a Half Men” masses, and for consistently respecting its audience, meager though it may be. Follow Harmon on Twitter and you’ll see that he’s essentially resigned the show to low ratings, and while his attitude is sometimes that of a defeated showrunner, it must also liberating to know that, there’s nothing he can do to really improve the ratings of “Community” at this point. So instead of trying to gain a larger audience, he works to make the existing audience a happy, hard-core one, the kind that will give him a Mitch Hurwitz-like legacy when “Community” is eventually cancelled.
Last night’s episode, “Advanced Gay” provided several highlights, including the return of Inspector SpaceTime, the room-temperature room, and the Skulls homage crossed with Good Will Hunting (who would do that? Dan Harmon, that’s who). Annie, Annie’s Boobs, and Shirley took a step back in this episode (Annie and Annie’s Boobs, in particular, needed a week off), Chang was well utilized — which is to say, not part of the main plot, but an observer with a couple of good lines — and I think most importantly, we began to understand why Pierce is the way he is. I’m not sure what the hell his father was meant to be — some sort of cross between Dean Pelton and Colonel Sanders with Ivory hair — but it helped explain how far Pierce has come in his life, and though he’s still lacks tolerance, it could be a lot worse. After seeing the way that Pierce’s father treated him, I may have felt sympathy for Pierce for the first time since season one. This season’s tumultuous relationship between Pierce and Jeff also took a turn for the better once they found a mutual dislike for Pierce’s father and bonded over their own Daddy issues.
The entire gay subplot successfully straddled that line between hilarious and almost offensive, with Urbana Champaign, the “Gay Bash,” and the “Pride Wipes.” Troy and Abed continued to be one of the best non-romantic couples on television, and while I didn’t really love the air conditioning repair/plumbing subplot — because Troy is worthy of a better profession, damnit — it did lend itself to an outstanding sequence with a Spaceman making Panini and Black Hitler. All in all, it was a solid, though not perfect episode of “Community.”
Community Grade: B+
Easily Chang’s funniest moment of the season.