Once in a while comes a TV show which makes you immerse in it completely. You obsess over the interesting scenes, memorize dialogues, analyze the relations of the characters. My last true binge-watching took place in high school, when me and my friends did Prison Break marathon. It’s really depressing it was almost 10 years ago. Me being a high school kid that is. Although Prison Break turned out to be a bummer past season two, it doesn’t change the fact that it was a decent entertainment while it lasted. Since then there have been few shows which I was quite hyped about – Suits, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, Sherlock – the list goes on. Yet considering every little thing that makes a great show great, all of these lacked the godly particle. That piece of puzzle which allows you to re-watch the show over and over again and enjoy it completely each time just as if you have never seen it before. A television show which truly rocked my world is no other than Community.
And to think that after watching the first episode (for the first time) I was not convinced about its awesomeness. I must have been incredibly sleepy or drunk, or both. So we get a bunch of unknown actors (save for Chevy Chase) and a not so intriguing setting (based on the synopsis). Few episodes in I was already researching if any more seasons are out or in production.
Community juggles with cultural references, memes and parodies of other shows or even genres. Someone familiar with anime might remember 1999 Excel Saga. In the cartoon, basically every episode was made in different style – that of sci-fi movie, B-action movie, romantic comedy, musical, detective drama etc., all the same pushing the very wacky story forward. Community pulls off the same trick, with the same exhilarating effect. They spoof Glee (‘What the hell are Regionals?!’), Pulp Fiction, Law & Order, The Dark Knight, zombie apocalypse movies (‘Holy crap, Leonard is a zombie!’), Goodfellas (‘As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be in a gangster movie’)… and many more. There is so much to discover that you simply cannot catch everything after one viewing of the show (Beetlejuice anyone).
As much as Dan Harmon, the creator of the show, and the writers did incredible work script-wise, I still consider Community to be character-driven. The interactions between the members of the study group are what makes this program shine. We can also observe their emotional growth as they tackle the absurdities of Greendale. Actually it’s not growth. What’s the other word? It’s more like they’re becoming completely instable and they’re unable to normally function in society. At first I tried to categorize the characters – the same way we evaluate people in real life. So what I came up with was that Abed is the socially-awkward one, Shirley is a religious mother, Troy is a jock, Pierce is a racist old guy, Annie is a bookworm, Britta is the female lead and Jeff is a slacker, a guy who wants to date Britta and get the college degree with as little work as possible. Several episodes in I learn that basically each of these characters is a nut-job, and normal TV programming rules do not apply to them. Britta soon becomes ‘the worst’, Abed and Troy are far more nerdy than The Big Bang Theory folks ever were, and Jeff is a narcissist with an out-of-whack ego.
What adds to the fun is a range of loony supporting characters like dean Pelton, and his cross-dressing shenanigans, Benjamin Chang, a literally insane Spanish teacher and then student, 80-something-year old Leonard and his gang of ‘hipsters’ (they all had hip replacements) who behave like teenagers, Vicky (‘Yellow shirt. Hat. Girl…’), Alex Star-Burns, a drug dealer who has his sideburns shaped like stars and wears a top hat like Slash or Magnitude and his revolutionary catchphrase ‘Pop! Pop!’. This explosive mix is thriving in the contained environment of the college campus. The action rarely goes beyond the school walls.
Dan Harmon’s departure (and some other writers) from the show following the end of season three meant that the things would change around Greendale. I don’t want to gang upon season 4 as most people do, but the story lost direction at that time. Abed’s fantasy sequences from the episode 4×01 seemed promising and there were few laughs here and there but overall it was all going downhill. Community no longer had integrity and cohesion.
Then it became known that Harmon, Dino Stamatopoulos and Chris McKenna would be returning to the show for season five. Of course, everything did not going back to normal as Chevy Chase quit and his character dies (probably if Chevy ever wanted to come back it would still be possible as we can see from Star-Burns’ example), while Donald Glover appeared only in 5 episodes, and apparently wants to focus on his music career instead of acting.
With Troy and Pierce gone, there was something amiss in the 5th installment of Community, and Jonathan Banks as professor Hickey and returning professor Duncan did not fill this void. That’s how I felt at least. I mean, the show is back on the right track, but there are passengers missing on this crazy train. However, compared to season four, Community was definitely out of the woods. Content-wise.
NBC canceled the show in May this year. I imagine the ratings were the most important factor. Yet from what I can see Community has a large cult following, and regularly was well-received by critics. The fans had to go through heaven and hell at the time, as Hulu network was said to be picking up the series, but the talks fell through (‘Crisis alert!’). In the last minute Yahoo! Screen salvaged Community in a heroic fashion. The cast and the showrunners will soon start working on the another chapter of Community and the epic comedy will probably return somewhere in January 2015.
Few thoughts on this development:
• I don’t think Yahoo is in it for profit, most likely there won’t be any
• I love Yahoo now
• NBC can suck it, ratings aren’t as reliable and as important as you think, you twits
Finally, I’d like to say that we need shows like Community, otherwise the world just gets dull for some of us. I mean everyone goes bonkers about Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad these days, and it’s cool. Other group loves the no-brainers like The Big Bang Theory. It’s fine. So why can’t we get a bit more of Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jim Rash, Ken Jeong and co.?