Community Season 6, Episode 4 “Queer Studies and Advance Waxing” Review
Better. Good. Not great. But good. An improvement. A step in the right direction. Cake, but no cherry on top.
All of these phrases describe the fourth episode of this oft-foretold sixth season of our beloved “Community.” It was the best episode yet this season, but with a caveat: I’m not sure if it would have even made a dent in the top ranks of past seasons. At least it means the fated season six is starting to head in the right direction.
The runaway leader here, by far, was newcomer to the group Elroy (Keith David), who got some of the best laughs this episode. Sure, both of them came at the expense of Britta (Gillian Jacobs), and both of them took place in that magical zone around the study table, but that’s a strong start for a character the show hasn’t really been able to (or even really tried to) explain his existence in any way. Justify him with laughs. That might just be enough.
Truth be told, I wasn’t a fan of the Britta/Elroy pairing originally, but after their two brief interactions here I’d love to see them paired off again, in some setting that just has Elroy yelling at her and her backing away scared. Bonus points if the yelling is video game related.
Instead, Elroy got to have adventures with his new friend, Abed (Danny Pudi), who the show really does not seem to know what to do with this season. The pair’s little standoff with security was a nice one liner, but again Abed is back into the shadows with a new character. The show also really seemed to miss a chance to connect the baby bird’s mother with Abed’s own mom leaving. I’m shocked that they set that all up and then just whiffed at the chance to take it one step further, which is an opportunity the show in the past never would have passed up.
I keep going back and forth on Chang (Ken Jeong) and Annie’s (Alison Brie) “Karate Kid” spoof. It did give us an excellent guest star in Jason Mantzoukas as Matt Lundergard, who aside from Elroy, was one of the big reasons this episode really worked. He was great. Kudos on that guest star casting.
It was also…interest to see Annie’s (purposeful) horrible acting continue to go on and on while Chang was instead the one getting yelled at. It was a nice little twist and turn-of-the-tables when it turned out that she wasn’t actually brought in because she could act, but the contrary. It was Lundergard’s constant railing on Chang that stole the show and continued to be hilarious, and was probably the best bit the show has done yet this season.
But, the bigger difference here, as compared to similar pop-culture spoofs the show has done in the past, is that while I’ve never seen “Apollo 13” or “The Karate Kid” (you can burn me in effigy later), I feel like most of the bits the show does are funny enough in their own right, which this was, but I don’t think it really needed “The Karate Kid” license to be that way. Once we got past the initial scenes of Chang being verbally assaulted, I’m not sure there was anything to be gained from giving even more screen time here, and those scenes would have been just as funny no matter what the play was that he was working on. The early laughs weren’t derived from the references, which is usually the way “Community” goes, but I felt the longer the play went on the more it was relying on viewer’s having seen the film, and was more a direct parody, and less funny as a result.
This episode already felt a little on the long end (the extra time hasn’t bothered me yet this season, but this one did clock in at over 30 minutes, longer than everything else this season), so sticking with the play all the way to the end just didn’t work in terms of payoff, especially since the show had already dedicated a lot of time setting everything with Annie and Chang already. We already had gotten the largest jokes about seeing Chang get there, there was nothing gained to see the play actually being performed.
The biggest – and most interesting bit – was the Dean’s (Jim Rash) story. After a scuffle with the local Gay Pride Parade, the school board (who pulled in a few good laughs, even though I’ve never been a huge fan of the characters) wanted to promote Pelton to the board…assuming he was gay.
The sexuality of the Dean’s character has long been one of the show’s long jokes, sometimes in the forefront, sometimes more subtle, and has worked to a varying degree of success over the years. It’s never really been crystal clear, and it was creative to see the way the show managed to address his sexuality without ever really managing to address his sexuality. The one thing we are able to glean, at least, is that the Dean is not just gay (that’s only 2/7 of his sexuality), and I think it probably works best that we don’t know what the other 5/7 parts of his inner sex palace are.
The story was really working – the Gay Dean song was a nice bit, even if it did feel a bit unnatural for the show, but it was the resolution that I felt really failed everything the show was building toward. Instead of coming out as what he really was, Pelton came out as a politician, in a press conference that just felt like another giant whiff at the plate this week. It just wasn’t funny, and I can see what the show was going for (somewhat, I guess), but combined with the song it just really felt like the show was out of its territory here. I’m not saying they can’t do the more direct parodies or commentary, but the show needs to sell them. And having Pelton being kicked off the board because people like politicians to be in the closet? That just felt like a shallow attempt (and jab) at the trying to say something about the political process – and gay identity – but not really saying much of anything about either. The song I bought, but not the ending to the whole thing.
Oh! And before I forget, even if it did feel like the show was tackling too many stories and trying to throw too much into one episode, one other thing of note: We got our first shots of Britta bar tending, which I’m now curious if that is going to become a new set piece for the show (and the characters) to gather around giving the whole committee idea seems to be running low on fumes.
Notes & Quotes:
-“Why would a plumber be fighting a monkey?”
-“Gay doesn’t begin to cover it”
-“Cutting women out of sex, it’s genius.”
-“Annie got my part and I got the Asian part.”
-“Need time to fix it? You sound just like you work in IT.”
-“Act better. Thanks.”
-the whole tear speech to Chang
-“Insects have wings.” “I’m sorry!” Britta and Elroy are the best here
-Curious about Jeff and Annie at the end, BUT Jeff had his arm around Britta at the bird funeral, so who knows.
-Oddly enough, we haven’t seen a costume for the Dean yet this season, and this seemed like the episode to bring one out.
-Still having problems with Yahoo Screen and the show coming back from commercial at the wrong cut. It’s not a huge deal, but apparently I’m not the only one. Please get on this Yahoo!