Community is one of those rare comedy shows that actually makes me laugh out loud on occasion rather than the smirk or gentle bemusement I generally feel towards comedies. The series is in its second season which, given viewing figures, probably means there’s just one more season before cancellation. This will be a huge shame although does have some saving graces: cancellation can ensure a series becomes a classic rather than suffering the inevitable decline in quality. Very few sitcoms can avoid the issue that characters need to become progressively more wacky to continue getting laughs before inevitably descending to a jumping the shark moment.
I’m beginning to feel that Pierce has reached this point in Community and can no longer see any possible way for his character to be redeemed. Pierce’s character was always grumpy and prejudice but he wasn’t a bad person, just older than the rest of the characters in the group and from a different time. His actions in Season 2 though have been getting progressively more disturbed. Pierce tried to sabotage Shirley’s entire life for some tasty snacks, sabotaged a drug education programme for small children and bullied someone who was feeling suicidal because of a perceived wrong committed by completely different people. However, last episode revealed that Pierce had been overdosing on strong painkillers throughout this period. His actions were pretty evil, but they weren’t really him.
So problem solved? Well not quite, the rest of the episode whilst hilarious (explanabrag is in my vocabulary forever now) centred on the storyline that a completely drug-free Pierce enacted revenge on all his “friends” using their personality flaws he knows about from his “friendship” (a.k.a. abusing the friendship). These weren’t harmless pranks, it was messing with crucial relationships for some characters like Jeff’s relationship with his father. In real-life there’s no way any of the rest of the characters in Community would continue to be friends with Pierce. For many other comedies this wouldn’t represent a problem: just press the character re-set button at the end of the episode and everything will be forgiven and A-OK. Community doesn’t have this option though since it prides itself on continuity. Even concept episodes such as the entire community college are turned into zombies is canon.
It’ll be fascinating to see if Dan Harmon and the other writers of Community can save Pierce as a character. How can the rest of the study group, and most importantly the viewer, possibly forgive him? I’m not even convinced he could seek forgiveness through good deeds since this would be out of character for Pierce in a huge way. Perhaps Chevy Chase is being written out of Community for the end of this season?