Feb 27, 2014

Thom Bitches About Community: Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality

Left to right: Danny Pudi and Gillian Jacobs
In the ashes of a failed column comes the reformed birth of Thom Bitches About Community: a weekly look at the beloved Dan Harmon sitcom that chooses to push boundaries and throw a meta cocktail into the face of every sitcom currently out there. With the return of the show's creator after a rocky, disastrous season four, we take a look at the show and try and capture what exactly makes the show worth checking out all these years later. Keep an eye out for it every Thursday night following the episode unless otherwise specified.
I am officially unsure of what to think of Abed (Danny Pudi) on Community anymore. With Troy, he had a perfect partner to throw jokes off of. He had his own world in which he went on adventures and was somewhat endearing. In this episode, the plot twist that advances the story for Abed is probably one of the most asinine concepts imaginable. It also highlights just exactly why Abed minus Troy is a world that is not worth going forward with.
While the gang is going to a theater show, Abed decides to dress up as an old Kick Puncher character to attend the reboot. This is a simple enough premise, though immediately it felt like it was writing him out of the episode in order to not create tension for the other characters. This is fine until the moment when Abed crosses paths with Hickey (Jonathan Banks), who is busy drawing pictures of ducks. While the final act of them teaming up over a movie idea is sweet, the route there is grating and depletes the purpose. When Abed inadvertently decides to ruin Hickey's work by blowing foam onto his desk, it feels like the official moment where Abed's existence was brought into question.
Why do we need Abed anymore? He is the delightful, deadpan pop culture referencing guy. Without any significance to main story lines, there isn't any reason to have him. He ends up critiquing Hickey the whole time on his art. That is fine, but the route there of blowing foam onto his desk makes the whole exercise deserving. Hickey deserves to be mad at the kid and make him pay. Abed is not sympathetic anymore because what he did served no purpose. As he stands there in his Kick Puncher outfit, he has essentially become a useless character. 
The only one worse really is Chang (Ken Jeong), who has a way better story than Abed this week. His story is about trying to figure out who at the theater is a ghost. It is baffling and simple, but it does lead to a delightful reference to The Shining at the end. It mostly exists to play off of his manic energy, which somehow feels focused and well used here. Even if Chang doesn't ever feel like he deserves to be in the episodes, he does occasionally bring some charm that made him go from that supporting character to a regular.
Then you get to the core of the episode and the one that really gives the episode some merit. We see Duncan (John Oliver) go on a date with Britta (Gillian Jacobs) after she meets up with some theater kids that agree with her beliefs. It is great to see this happen, as it has been teased all along. With Duncan's obsession with being awkward and British, it does make him one of the best parts of the episode, especially as he uses British comedy to try and allure Britta during their car ride. The sparing but more frequent use of him has been a delightful addition to the season and hopefully will replace the bum spots that Abed is quickly opening up.
It is also nice to know that the tension between Duncan and Britta is pretty much that. They don't care enough about each other to want to date, so they end up realizing that they are better off being separate. By the end, Duncan ends up talking to Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) with more enthusiasm, and that only leads to far greater jokes. The use of Britta in this episode allows us to better understand her while giving Duncan's ridiculous motives a conclusive ending.
I will admit that maybe I am starting to burn out on the show for different reasons. Where season four saw me quit because the stories sucked, this time it feels like the cast has morphed too much to my liking. It could just be that after a few weeks off due to the Olympics, I have lost a groove and habit of watching the show, but the Abed subplot really does bother me something fierce. The show has been fine since Troy has left, but seeing as Abed was one of my signature favorites, it is hard for me to see him reduced to the weirdo with his own stories about wanting to belong. It doesn't work for me, especially when it involves inadvertently blowing foam on somebody's desk.
I will try to keep going for the rest of the season with these, but I don't want it to just turn into a nostalgic look at the cracks of the recent episodes. As a whole, this episode was adequate and provided plenty of solid laughs, specifically from Duncan. The show still has merit and is in far better shape than season four ever lead on. It is just that the show I loved is not quite the show at hand at the moment. 

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