Community’s ambition to make every episode an event of sorts frequently has its less-themed episodes struggling for an identity. With last week’s Halloween episode, for instance, there was a clear hook that resulted in a something memorable, but it’s when the show needs to come up with something more organic to the normal school dynamic that Community tends to fall into trouble. Unfortunately, the less wacky episodes are also where the show has to find its emotional resonance. “Advanced Gay,” however, succeeded at for once bridging the show’s wackiness with the seriousness of these characters lives. This was the first episode this season in which the characters didn’t feel like types being maneuvered into jokes, they felt like people.
Despite the episode’s name, “Advanced Gay” is very little about homosexuality and much more about father issues. When Pierce Hawthorne’s family product Hawthorne Wipes becomes a popular fad due to a song by a drag queen, he decides to for once embrace a minority and decides this is a good thing. He wants to throw a party in honor of this, a “gay bash,” and release a line of wipes specifically aimed at the gay community. Then in steps his father to put a stop to things.
Pierce’s father is a wonderful character not just because he’s entertaining in and of himself but because he helps unravel Pierce’s identity in a way we haven’t really seen before. Community has spent most of its time exploring the relationship its cast has to each other, which makes perfect sense. But most of the time these characters aren’t at Greendale, they came from somewhere else and are going to somewhere else, and finally we learn something about why Pierce is the horrible old crank he is. It’s because by his father’s standards he’s absolutely tolerant.
This also plays into Jeff’s own father issues, which we’ve seen glimpses of previously. While initially he’s against Pierce throwing the bash, when he learns it’s been cancelled because of Pierce’s dad he decides to make it happen anyhow in order to spite Pierce. Ultimately, though, this can’t take Pierce away from his relationship with his dad. As long as his dad is around, the pull he has will always be stronger than that of Pierce’s friends. And while on the one hand it’s a deus ex machina for Jeff to “kill off” the old man at the end of the episode, on the other hand the show’s a comedy and having him around all the time would be a real drag.
Most of the episode is concerned with Pierce and where he came from, but the B-plot to “Advanced Gay” was concerned with where Troy will be headed in the future. Last season we learned that he has basically a super power when it comes to fixing appliances. He’s now being recruited by both Greendale’s plumber and the Air Conditioning School. It’s a silly plotline, but one that still works wonderfully because of John Goodman, who has enough gravitas to make anything seem plausible. I mentioned at the beginning of the season that I believe Goodman to be one of the finest living comic actors (in fact, one of the finest comic actors ever), and he certainly showed that off here. In particular he has the ability to merge ridiculous actions into a straight-man sensibility that puts every situation off-balance.
Pierce and Troy both come to similar conclusions, in that they’re not really sure where they’re at now. Pierce fiercely rejects his father at his funeral, but now he needs to figure out what to do if he doesn’t want to become as racist and homophobic as his predecessor. Troy rejects both plumbing and air conditioning because either way he’d need to make a commitment on his future when he still sees himself as a student. At the end of the episode both characters are still transitioning, leaving the season with a lot of space to take their storylines, in a way that again feels much more like reality than a sitcom that features Black Hitler should be able to do.
•I’m happy when Community decided to continue the story of Troy’s super powers. That’s the type of thing that other sitcoms would drop, whereas here it’s become one of his defining traits in the way it should.
•I’m hoping we’ll get the full version of the Hawthorne wipes video, perhaps on the DVD?
•”I only wanted his pants off when I thought he was a lady.”
•”I’m always nice to the gays.”
•How exactly do you use plumbing for evil? You know what, nevermind.
•”Why is there an astronaut in the corner making panninis?”
•”Isn’t that right, black Hitler?”
•”I always assumed your father was dead. You know, mathematically.”
•I will now always think of Jeff as, “the unseasonably tanned.”
•”Ever heard the expression room temperature?” “Of course.” “This is the room.”
•Troy’s totally right about Superman.
•”I’m going to eat spaceman panninis with black hitler and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
•Plumbing and air conditioning “couldn’t be less identical.”
•”Dude just told his dead dad to suck it.”
•”Are you ready to join the elite brotherhood of guys who fix air conditioners?” – Yeah, they should really work on that name.
•”I’m not going to be a plumber, either. Because they have to deal with poop.”
•The Dr. Who parody during the ending credits looked significantly better than many actual episodes of Dr. Who.