Feb 08 2013

Well, Is Community Still Good?

Published by at 12:00 pm under Editorials,Television

community new1

Yes, it seems to be.

Perhaps this article doesn’t need to be any longer than that sentence, but as the topic has been discussed around the site since Remy’s last article, I figured I’d chime in with my own thoughts on the matter now that the season premiere of Community has finally aired.

To recap, the situation is this. NBC has jerked Community around for months now, as low ratings give you zero clout on a network schedule. The season has been shortened and shoved to winter, and now they have to do goofy things like air holiday episodes much later or throw in Hunger Games references eight months after they’re relevant.

On top of that, going into this season, instead of axing the entire show, they just killed the showrunner. That would be Dan Harmon, who created the whole damn thing, has now been kicked to the curb, and many are wondering how the show will fare without him, our own Remy included.

On top of THAT, Chevy Chase has finally been fired/quit the show, I can’t tell which even after reading a bunch of articles about it. Something about saying something racist on set? I still can’t figure out if he was booted or just left, but I do know that he’s hated being on the show since its inception and goes out of his way to badmouth it during every interview where it’s brought up. N-word aside, that’s the real asshole move to me.

pierce

McHale’s not joking.

So, how did the show fare in its Harmon-less state? I thought pretty well. Whether it was intentional or not, the first episode did much to foreshadow the fate of the show, in traditional meta-Community format. Abed spent half the episode fantasizing about the show changing into a laugh track sitcom (complete with a recast Pierce). It was an imagined “new direction” for the show that everyone fears will happen without Harmon, and also addresses that this truly might be the last year for the gang. And by all accounts, that’s probably going to be the case.

It reminded me a lot of the last few episodes of Arrested Development where the show knew it was getting canceled and it was actually referring to it in the final episodes. Not many shows break the fourth wall, but Arrested and Community are among them. It’s going to be interesting how this concept plays out over the course of the year.

Many hail Community as a genius show, and it can be. But if we’re really being honest, it’s hit or miss. The gap in quality between good episodes and bad can be quite wide. The show is home to some of the best singular comedic episodes in history, Modern Warfare, Remedial Chaos Theory, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and that one where they all turn into video game sprites I can’t remember the name of. At its worst, it has many episodes that are as forgettable as any from a (gasp) CBS sitcom. This gulf was even on full display in last night’s episode. I though Abed’s fantasies and meta-commentary were fantastic, while the Hunger Deans, Annie’s prank and Britta and Troy’s fountain war were all pretty stupid.

Community

Oh right, this is a thing now.

I’m also of the belief that it’s not the worst thing in the world for high quality shows to call it quits at some point. Four (well, almost four) seasons is pretty damn good for a network show, particularly one that’s never had great ratings. How many more cast or staff members must it shed, and how much will NBC disrespect it before it finally does breathe its last? It doesn’t seem like it will die with dignity at this rate.

But you know, I don’t think that’s the right attitude. With all the absolute shit on TV nowadays, even if a show is only brilliant 20% of the time, it’s still worth fighting so we might get a few more of those classic episodes out of it. If they can produce even a handful of memorable episodes like the ones I’ve mentioned already, we will all be better for it.

And I still think that’s possible even with the departure of Harmon. There were great episodes and terrible ones when he was around, and that will probably continue to be the case after he’s gone. Most of the same writers are there, the cast understands their characters by now. They still have it in them to be as good as they were, and I suspect Harmon may sneak in a few of his own ideas through backchannels, so as not to completely have abandoned his baby. And as for Chevy’s Pierce leaving? Screw Pierce, Pierce sucks, and so does Chevy if he’s too daft to understand the quality of the show he’s on.

I don’t know what the official ratings were for last night’s episode, but short of a miracle, this will be Community’s last season. I just hope they make it count.





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13 responses so far

  • Mark

    NO NO NO, six seasons and a movie dammit!

  • GrandWazoo

    So you pretty much only like the most meta parts of Community is what you’re saying? Every episode you mentioned was one of the stranger episodes. I actually didn’t like Modern Warfare or the one where they turn into video game sprites, but I have enjoyed some of their more down-to-earth episodes. I get that Community does a bunch of new and strange things, but that doesn’t mean that they succeed every time they try something different, which is all the time since their thing is being meta. I really like the show, but sometimes it’s just far too aware of itself.

    • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

      @GrandWazoo

      I think that’s where it shines the most, in those types of episodes. When it’s just a regular “show” it doesn’t do much for me most of the time. But no, not EVERY super meta gimmick episode is good either.

  • Lantaar

    I think it’s still early to decide if the show’s still good, but it was a decent season opener. The season probably won’t be as disappointing as everybody thought is would be. And much to my surprise the Abed stuff felt really dark. The rest, well it was closer to ‘meh’ but I’ll still watch it.

  • Lost Link

    Good article. I agree.

  • Jeremy

    After watching the premiere, it seemed that the writers were trying to do too much and ended up flailing around a bit. Despite that, I enjoyed the episode and am looking forward to see what else they have in store. Also, my understanding is that Sony, not NBC, decided not to bring back Harmon.

  • trashcanman

    That was a surprisingly good season premiere. I had very little confidence in this season, but it seems like the final season of Community will progress quite nicely. It’s rare for me to get a pleasant surprise from the entertainment industry. Also, that first comment just made me realize that in Abed’s fantasy where the Dean loses their records and they have to stay for 3 more years they would have made it six seasons indeed. I’m going to pretend they added a movie reference in there as well to make #6seasonsandamovie Abed’s fantasy reality.

  • DaveyJ

    It’s too early to determine if it’s good, but I liked the first episode of season 4. I liked the way they used Abed’s fear about change and the end of community (end of college and the show). It made sense for the character and also was a good message to the viewer. Abed was always the one with the weird mind and ideas, in this episode it looked the same but it suddenly got normal, as in the fear of Abed directly represents the fear of many viewers.

  • Rob J

    Few opinions of my own : (*Also spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t watch the episode yet obviously!)

    Personally I felt it was an enjoyable episode but at the end of the day I think like most people I was just happy to have a new Community episode to watch regardless of its quality when compared to the other seasons.

    There were some excellent moments with the dean saving the episode in a lot of places where it could have failed and he was instrumental in making sure that the Hunger Games plot didn’t fall flat on it’s face. I look forward to how his new apartment works out for Jeff and I feel it could be a new avenue that leads to some real comedy gold.

    Jim Rash is also writing an episode this season and I am holding out hope it could be one of the real Community classics that the show is remembered by fans like the episodes you mentioned in your post. Changnesia sounds like another potentially awesome plot line.

    There were some notable changes in production and I am interested to see if they are carried over for the rest of the season. While the script was fairly typical Community fair and the actors all performed as per usual, The lighting was noticeably different and brighter, the biggest change seems to be the faster cuts which I feel did the episode no favours especially when they were cramming 4-5 plot lines this episode, it all felt like just a little too much for the season opener. I feel if the Hunger Games plot had been kept and significantly improved on and they maybe just choose run one other side plot it would have really helped the episode.

    While I liked Abed’s meta-metaness as always, it was weird to see him have a freakout especially since after the last season finale and several of the episodes before that relied on or used this device and it seems like he was over the worst of it in the season 3 finale but all of a sudden it’s like, “Nope weird Abed is being unhealthy weird again!”

    Annie’s personality was completely off, she was being a dick to Jeff for helping his friends get into the class because he was doing it for selfish reasons but really she should have been nicer and appreciated that he was working really hard to help everyone.

    Greendale babies generated no laughs from me and was an overproduced waste of time that could have been better used on other things. Maybe I just didn’t appreciate it but I felt it was the shows worst once-off format change.

    There were welcome appearances from background characters like Leonard, Fat Niell and Annie Kim but Magnitude was notably absent.

    Fred Willard as happy place Pierce was pretty funny, with Chevy definitely gone it would be crazy Abed levels of meta if they permanently replaced him with Willard who would fill the void of Pierce’s old guy humour. Also it would go full circle on the Abed being a Indian magic 8-ball plot line.

    Overall I did enjoy the episode despite these criticisms but I wouldn’t be ready to judge season 4 based on the quality of this one episode. After the all the laughter was over when I took the time to consider what I had just watched, I think Pierce who overall had very few lines to say of which none were particularly funny best managed to sum up the episode with the line “What the hell just happened!”

  • Josh E

    Thank you for being the only person on the internet I’ve come across that I agree with. Most people worship Community like it’s the best show ever but I think that is not the case. While it is one of the best shows in some episodes, I feel that overall it IS hit or miss. I think Remedial Chaos Theory is one of the best episodes ever, but most of season three was a drag for me.

    Season 1 felt a little sitcomy to me and was just OK. Season 2 was when they started not to care about ratings and delivered the best episodes in history. I think season 3, they started to get a little too self aware about the show and some of the episodes were mediocre. I mean, we know Abed is weird and Jeff and Anne might get together. Move on already!

    I think season 4 is step in a new and fresh direction. The premiere reflected on the Community of old and proceeded forward with vigor. I’m excited to where this all takes us.

  • Mr. B

    Was Chevy’s exit from the show known at this point?

    I imagine scenes of Abed’s imaginary world with a different Pierce might seem like a bit of s slap in the face to an actor.

  • DaveyJ

    @Mr. B I don’t think so, I checked when the news was first being reported and it was 21 november, more than a month (I believe) after season 4 should have started. So I think they didn’t know.

    (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/21/chevy-chase-leaving-community_n_2173969.html)

  • GrandWazoo

    @Mr B

    No, Chevy Chase didn’t quit until near the end of filming for season 4. The article I read said they only had to film the last four or so episodes without him. Since they have been giving him a smaller role on the show anyway, it shouldn’t really affect it too much.

    Apparently he quit because he didn’t like how racist Pierce was as a character and he felt that his role on the show was too pigeonholed. I did hear that his tirade when he finally had enough was loaded with racism as Chevy tried to yell about what made him angry about the show. I don’t think he was actually being racist while saying that stuff.

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