Community Weekly Review: Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing

After five seasons and a cancellation on NBC, "Community" was rescued by Yahoo and season six debuted on its new home at Yahoo Screen on March 17, with new episodes weekly. Ed Carroll shares his thoughts on the latest episode. You can read his reviews of the other episodes in season six by checking out the links at the bottom.

If there's been a consistent theme in each episode of this sixth season of "Community," it's been that while Dan Harmon and his writers don't always know how to advance a plot or reach a satisfying conclusion, but they know how to make us laugh regardless.

In "Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing," we got a surprising half-answer to a question I never thought the show was interested in answering about Dean Pelton, as well as a solid subplot with Chang and Annie that ended up eclipsing the Dean's storyline by the end of the episode. 

Having Annie help Chang audition for a role in a stage adaptation of "The Karate Kid" was an odd choice (though Chang's desire to not be typecast as Mr. Miyagi was definitely believable, as that's been one of the few constants of his character), but did help address the problem "Community" has had re-integrating Chang into the actual plots of episodes, which I mentioned last week.

Jason Mantzoukas had a fun guest role as the director of the play, and Mantzoukas generally owns the foul-mouthed dirtbag role. It was a nice touch to see he wasn't just being his typical character of messed-up insanity and excess (similar to his Rafi character on "The League" or the more toned-down Dennis Feinstein in "Parks and Recreation") but was actually trying to unlock Chang's potential, and seeing that throw Annie for a loop (with a fun Annie Kim cameo!), was a nice twist. It would have been nicer to see some actual growth in that Chang and Annie friendship (if for no other reason but for more random plots), but it didn't look like that would be the case by the end. Part of me was really hoping for a classic Chang blowup during the performance, but alas, not to be.

The other main storyline saw the return of the school board idiots Carl and Richie, who came in peace (but apparently without Richie's mind-reading abilities?), offering Pelton a job on the school board with a pretty big condition: that the Dean come out as openly gay. "Community" has always been both pretty open with the Dean's sexuality being more complicated than simply "straight" or "gay" (and this was repeated throughout the episode by the Dean) and also pretty content to just leave it at that because, well, nobody really seemed to care (which in itself, was part of the joke about the Dean character).

Initially, the Dean taking the job led to some situations that were both hilarious and interesting, chief among them being the scene in Pelton's office with Frankie and Jeff present. Both Frankie and Jeff were helping Craig weigh the pros and cons, and then got completely sidetracked when Frankie began discussing her sexuality. I had really hoped for more scenes between Joel McHale and Jim Rash in this episode, particularly considering the Dean's long-standing crush on Jeff, and thought that aspect could have been mined for some more comedic effect. 

Rash did a great job with this episode. He's always portrayed the Dean with a bit of nuance to keep surprising us, and it was clear from Rash's performance that Pelton was really conflicted as to what to do (having the gay students come up and thank him was a nice touch in this regard). 

Despite Rash's performance, I found the Dean's ultimate decision to come out as a politician slightly underwhelming; I certainly didn't expect the Dean to suddenly define his sexuality (I was honestly surprised to see it addressed in such a head-on fashion by the show), and I understand the reasoning of it (he wants to keep his job and have people like him), but it was another example of "Community" getting a nice build up only to wrap things up quickly and get back close to the status quo. Still, I'd much rather have the Dean be whoever he is than to play some role he wasn't comfortable in just for jokes, but it became clear Harmon had little more to say on the issue when the Chang subplot pretty much took over the episode at the end.

The "C" plot established a friendship between Abed and Elroy (and also saw Elroy becoming "the new IT lady"), and had its laughs, but eventually was absorbed into the Dean storyline, so it was nearly forgotten by the end. Hopefully the seeds of their adventures with a bird nest lead to more down the line in season six.

So far, this was probably the strongest episode of the season, despite the Dean's story running out of steam, with consistent laughs and fun performances from Rash and Ken Jeong. The plots aren't there yet, but they're getting better, and as long as I'm laughing I'm willing to keep coming back.

New episodes of "Community" debut every Tuesday on Yahoo Screen.
Click here for thoughts on episodes one and two.
Click here for thoughts on episode three.
Check back weekly at Everyone Hates Cleveland for more "Community" and television coverage.
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