Community: "Celebrity Pharmacology"

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Community tends to swing back and forth between episodes that call upon the ensemble as a whole and those that focus more specifically on one or two characters at a time. It's not an all-or-nothing thing: Group episodes can still have special moments with two characters alone, and more narrowly focused episodes still give the entire group a chance to shine. But for the most part, they'll lean one way or the other. Last night's "Celebrity Pharmacology" was a Pierce-centric episode, which made for a weaker installment than usual. Pierce is a great character when he's allowed to move through the study group like a hurricane of insanity and racism, bouncing off everyone as they go about their lives, but when the focus is all on him, the energy dips. The episode still had some funny moments, and it wasn't actively bad; it was just kind of lazy.

The premise is that Annie and the gang are putting on some drug awareness skits for local middle schoolers, and though Annie says she wants to do a good job (in part because she wishes she'd had drug education as a girl), it's hard to imagine what set of circumstances pressed the group into this. They've done crazy things before, but usually for extra credit or street cred. This just feels ... pointless. No one's really happy to be doing it, but we're never told what made them sign up in the first place. Plus they can apparently leave at any time, as evidenced by the fact that they almost bailed when the show goes off the rails on performance day. So why are they doing it? The script, credited to Hilary Winston, never sets the stakes high enough for us to care. It just coasts.

Pierce gets a few nice moments early on when he cuts Annie a check to cover her rent, but it's just a ploy to manipulate her into giving him more lines in the play. Annie's got her own baggage to deal with, too, since she's recently independent and trying to make it on her own. Weirdly, she never thought of getting a job until now, even though she hated living off whatever she could earn from recycling cans and staying in a crappy apartment above a porn store. Pierce's on-stage blow-up was predictable, as was his and Annie's reconciliation. Nothing too harmless, but certainly nothing exciting.

The B-plot of Jeff accidentally texting Britta's nephew after attempting to text her boyfriend had some cute moments, including Abed's dead-eyed stare as he refused to get sucked into Jeff's mistake. Yet the mix-up felt a little too predictable for Community; I kept expecting a twist along the way, but all we got was the standard goof-up, cover-up, and bribe to keep quiet (in this instance, Jeff got the kid one of Britta's bras). Props for low-level weirdness with the nephew's sexual crush on Britta, I guess. But really, this was the only place to go with it?

The rest of the gang was stuck with filler. Troy and Abed were barely there, and even Chang's presence felt forced, as the script tried to reconcile his attempts to woo Shirley with his willingness to help the gang out at the end. It was nice but somehow unpolished, as if the story never quite got all the kinks worked out.

Scattered thoughts:

• Always good to see the dean continuing his one-man sexual carnival, including his shameless lust for Jeff.

• Abed on the habits of potheads: "I thought it made them just custom paint their vans and solve mysteries."

• Dildopolis!

• "That's my landlord, and if he wanted to rape you, you'd be raped."

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