Cue gasps of disbelief, wide-eyed incredulity, readers swooning in their seats. You read that right, this is a post that has the audacity to imply that there are aspects of the show Community that could be improved.
Before I begin, I sincerely hope that there are at least a few die-hard fans reading this. I realize that the show not being slotted for next year definitely has you in more sensitive a state than you normally would be, especially when shows of lesser quality (we’re all looking at you, Big Bang Theory) continue to stay on the air. I believe, however, that just because Community is a good show does not mean that it couldn’t be better (Dan Harmon forgive me).
A friend and I have been discussing the present season (which we are enjoying), and the news that NBC has announced about the show’s future has gotten us talking about what could make a good show even better. The list is as follows:
1) Bring Them Back to School
Let me be the first to say that I loved “Remedial Chaos Theory,” the episode with the seven alternate timelines. That being said, it also served as the third season’s segue to bring the study group out of Greendale.
Since then the episodes have been, at most, only loosely set at the college. “Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps” had them telling tales à la The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror, the episode taking place more in their stories than in the study room they were actually in. “Advanced Gay” did a better job with Troy in the cafeteria and later in the bathroom with Jerry, the plumber, as well as having Pierce’s “Gay Bash” take place in the auditorium. “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” is the Dean’s story, so while it took place in the college, it wasn’t ultimately about the group.
Of the nine episodes I’ve seen so far (being posted this morning, I haven’t yet seen tonight’s) a third of them take place largely outside of Greendale. Of the other six, there’s surprisingly little time devoted to actual schoolwork, which leads me to my next point:
2) Have a Little Class
As a college student I may have a slight bias towards the show to begin with. The show taking place in a college, and having its cast deal with assignments and projects and so on creates a lot of relatability which I’ve really appreciated in the past. “Remedial Chaos Theory” may have been my favourite episode, but by taking the study group out of the college it lost of of that familiarity I had with their lives.
Season 1 of Community is notable for Spanish 101, and the mystery and inscrutability of its Chinese professor, Señor Chang. Season 2 brought in Betty White as the Anthropology 101 professor (name on the show not included since no one remembers/cares). Both seasons had the characters being active within their respective classes well the halfway mark.
Season 3 didn’t beat around the bush and got right to it with “Biology 101,” introducing Michael K. Williams as Professor Marshall Kane. His being an ex-convict makes him a teacher who don’t take none, and it means Biology is a big contrast to classes the group has taken in the past.
Also, he’s really, really funny.
Ever since “Competitive Ecology,” the second episode of the season, we haven’t seen him, or his class again. If Community wants to introduce a new character (and one that has so much potential) it would be great to see them appear past the first two episodes.
3) Have Mercy on Ben Chang
For the majority of season 2 Community floundered with what exactly to do with Ben, no longer “señor,” Chang. He had sex with Shirley, squatted at Jeff’s apartment for a little while, and eventually began living at the college. Oh, and he was trying so, so hard to join the study group.
This season has him acting as a college security guard and, well, that’s about it. “Geography of Global Conflict” and “Competitive Ecology” are where we see him own his role as security enforcer, but after the second and third seasons he’s been making courtesy appearances at most.
I don’t know whether the show has gotten to the point where they can’t afford Ken Jeong any more, since he was in a few movies this year and maybe his pay rate rose a little. The fact is that he went from “What’s the show doing with him?” to “Where is he?” this season, and I think most Community members think back and miss the time when he was in a position of power above the group, and the ways he abused that power.
4) Where Are We Going?
Season 1 was about Jeff. He was the ex-lawyer and the tenuous glue of the group and we all knew him and Britta were going to shack up eventually. Season 2 had a pregnant Shirley and a strangely Bond-villainous Pierce.
Season 3, thus far, is about them moving out (and, consequently, on). Troy and Abed’s apartment has taken up two solid episodes (and a half) of this season, and while we all knew that if Community passed Season 4 that would be it for Greendale, I personally didn’t think this transition period would be so quick in coming. Dan Harmon has plans for the show post-college, but he’s moving his characters out a little too quickly. It would be nice if they could slow down a little, and explore the dark recesses of their campus before escaping into the real world.
Beyond that, I’m not really sure what this season is going for. There hasn’t really been a focus on any one character (though Troy’s plot between the forces of plumbing and air conditioner repair is riveting, to say the least). I love that the study group spends time together both in and out of campus, but we’re lacking that conflict that seemed pretty apparent in the past couple of seasons.
5) We Should See Other People
There’s a bit of overlap here with my first and second points, but here goes. The show has given us characters like Fat Neil, Vicky, Quendra, Leonard, Britta’s boyfriend with the tiny nipples, and, of course, Starburns. While they’ve been relegated to the backseat of the show for the most part, they’re a familiar cast in their own right and always a treat when given a bit of screentime.
The study group is what’s endeared us to Community, but their supporting cast is what’s added that extra dose of absurdity to their world, adding that surrealism that’s so characteristic of the show.
Community is a fantastic show, and easily one of my favourites on TV, NBC or otherwise. My worry is that the show is moving too quickly out of the college when there’s so much, still, that could be done. I’m as afraid of it not getting to its fourth season as anyone, but I don’t think that means it should be treating this season like its last.
Keep calm and carry on, is what I’d tell the writers. We’re all in it for the long haul, even if most of America isn’t. Give us the Season 3 you’d planned and live in the moment. I’d rather the perfect third season than one that steps around awkwardly, unsure if and when it’s getting pulled off the air.