A review of last night's "Community" coming up just as soon as I'm Goldbluming...
The February 5th episode was listed in many services (including whichever one supplies info to my DVR) as "Beginner Pottery," when in fact that episode was "Romantic Expressionism." I don't know if this was just some kind of clerical error, or if "Beginner Pottery" was supposed to air a month and a half ago and got bumped at the last minute, but I suspect the latter. "Beginner Pottery" was the first episode of the show in a while that didn't really work, and networks tend to shuffle the air order (particularly during sweeps) if they're concerned about a given episode.
"Community" is such a delicate balance of tones - self-aware snark mixed with completely sincere emotions - that it's a wonder it works as well as it does as often as it does. In this one, though, the balance felt off: too strange and too pop culture-obsessed even for a school like Greendale and a show that includes Abed. There were parts that were still very funny (Abed admitting voiceover is a crutch, Pierce's anguish at Shirley leaving him to die) and Pierce's pep talk to Jeff worked as a heartfelt moment (as Pierce/Jeff moments so often oddly do), but overall the humor felt too self-conscious. The final moment in the pottery class in particular seemed exactly the wrong note to end on, like someone wanted to throw in one last pop culture mash-up with Rich the ringer's memories of his mother scolding him (which combined bits of a dozen different movies, including "Ordinary People" and "Stand By Me") even if it didn't tonally fit.
I like the characters enough that even an off episode like this one feels worth watching (if anyone still cared about the idea of "the family hour," I'd be amazed that they were allowed to show Alison Brie working a pottery wheel like that), and I like the idea that Greendale is weird enough to have a sailing class in a parking lot (even if "Cougar Town" beat this show to the boat-in-a-parking-lot gag by months). It's just that recent episodes suggested a new show that was starting to make what Bill Simmons calls The Leap, and "Beginner Pottery" - which, again, may have been made much earlier in the season and held - was reminiscent of a rookie still suffering growing pains.
What did everybody else think?