So, Community. A wildly erratic show, even at the best of times, it ranged from heartwarming television genius to, frankly, crap. (Even setting aside the abysmal fourth season. Which never happened, you hear me? Never!) The problem was, even during the heart-warmingest of heart-warming episodes, the show always evinced a cold, analytical, cerebral core.
Community was seldom about what was ostensibly going on onscreen, but rather about the medium of television and movies itself. If functioned less a coherent series than a series of one-offs commenting on whichever TV show or movie they decided to highlight this week, now Law and Order, now 1970’s dystopian sci-fi, now GI Joe.
It was as if Dan Harmon (the creator) was a Vulcan mortician, dispassionately dissecting genre after genre, laying bare its tropes and foibles. The best of these were when Harmon used the separate elements to tell great stories. The worse came across as Harmon lecturing the audience about every minute element of the genre in question, as if the episode were a twenty-two-minute college-level TV Tropes lecture.
At its best, it melded meta-humor and meta-commentary with genuine character-based humor and drama (as in the “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”, a paean to stop-motion Rankin/Bass Christmas specials), at its worst it bogged down into mere referentialism. “Oh yeah, that’s like what they do on that other show.”
(Season four was even worse. It wasn’t even referentialism but self-referentialism, a parody of the show’s satirization of various genres.)
This isn’t to say I disliked the show. On the contrary, I loved nearly all of it. One week a zombie apocalypse would wrack the college, the next the guys would find a magical and peaceful garden built around a trampoline. I could hang with that kind of random weirdness (as this blog clearly shows). But the rapidly changing premises, genres, and even character traits and relationships were disorienting. Most viewers found them off-putting and so tuned out.
Still, by a series of odd events too baroque to describe as miraculous, the show managed to stagger through five seasons before being canceled by NBC, only to be resurrected by Yahoo Screen! for it’s oft-referenced sixth (and presumably final) season. (“Six seasons and a movie!”) Yesterday Yahoo Screen! posted a trailer for Season Six, entitled “Community: Age of Yahoo“.
As it’s sort-of based on some parts of the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer (though not closely), the trailer at least evinces the core of the Community vibe. The addition of Keith David (famed for They Live and numerous video games, including Saints Row IV) and Paget Brewster (late of Criminal Minds) is promising, and hopefully enough to compensate for the loss of nearly half the original “group” (Pierce, Troy, and now Shirley).
In any case, as they’re made by Dan Harmon, I’ll be checking out each episode as soon as I can. I just hope they’re more “Basic Lupine Urology” and less, well, less Season Four.
Here’s to the sixth season, and a possible movie. Hell, after getting this far, I wouldn’t count Harmon out.