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.
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.
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.