Tag Archives: Dan Harmon

I Shouldn’t Have To Say This, But Community Should Be Good [Or At Least Better]

It’s one of those weeks where Friday rolls around and I find that I’m writing my fifth post of the week. Granted, two of them were reviews and one of them I co-wrote, but it’s still a lot. One of my favourite things to do to shake up the ol’ grey matter is watch a little TV, so of course I ended up finding myself unable to blog about anything else but the finale to Season 5 of Community.

It’s not working.

Strangely enough, this is the show that’s appeared most on this site [save for 2 Broke Girls, but y’know]. While I began with discussing Season 3’s wonky airing schedule, I very soon turned to providing constructive criticism. Then came two posts where Gordon and I discussed Seasons 4 and 5, respectively, in which I took to defending the show and the directions it was taking [in contrast with his outright vilifying it]. Having just come off of that last episode I’m not sure I can maintain that stance anymore. Continue reading

Advertisements

Culture War Correspondence: Community, Season 5

EVAN: So, dear audience, here we are again. Back in September of last year we wrote an E&GT about the fourth season of Community, albeit an entire month early. Since the trailer for Season 5 hit the internet yesterday, we figured we’d try our hand at this again.

GORDON: Let the record show that I have long been of the opinion that after Community‘s inexplicable tanking shortly after its first season, I became an ardent advocate for the cancellation of the show. While the trailer is intriguing…

…I remain skeptical. Been starburned too many times before. Continue reading

Evan and Gordon Talk: Community, Season 4

GORDON: GOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING VIETNAM!!!! Gordon and Evan here again to delight, entertain, and edify! Today’s topic: the upcoming season of Community– sans creator Dan Harmon.

EVAN: Well, we’re here to talk about the new season in general, but yes. Showrunner/creator Dan Harmon has left us, and the show’s slavishly devoted fans, wondering what Friday evening holds.

GORDON: As much as I’d like to think otherwise- my money’s on the continued spin-out that last season gave us. Your bets?

EVAN: Well, let’s look at what we know- This upcoming season will only have 13 episodes, which, let’s face it, is definitely more in the vein of a beginning sitcom, not one four seasons in.

GORDON: You’re thinking creative reboot?

EVAN: I’m hoping for a creative reboot. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Harmon knows how to write. He has a formula and man, it works.

GORDON: But?

EVAN: But the third season did indeed “spin-out.”

I actually blogged about this about a year ago, and brought up a lot of points we actually talked about. Want to go over it?

GORDON: Sure thing.

EVAN: The points of the post were as follows:

1) Bring Them Back to School
2) Have a Little Class
3) Have Mercy on Ben Chang
4) Where Are We Going?
5) We Should See Other People

If you want to elaborate on them ever so slightly-

GORDON: Alright. While Evan and I do differ slightly on what we’d like to see the show bring back, these ARE the fundamentals here.

The whole reason we first started watching was because we, like the target demographic, were either in college, about to go to college, or just graduated from college and were looking back with fond memories- forgetting the ulcers that Statistics classes gave you.

EVAN: I loathed Stats.

GORDON:  Point is- it’s all about the college- put the characters back in classes, and back on campus.

Chang, of course, was one of the most mesmerizing characters in there; mysterious, inscrutable. The fact that he’s been reduced to a punching-bag who makes cameos every once in a while is just wrong. It’s like using the Venus de Milo as a door-stopper.

And of course, if we could actually see the characters progress, that’d be nice.
Troy, if I recall correctly, was dealing with the loss of his jock status.

EVAN: Way back in Season 1, though. They haven’t touched on his and Annie’s high school statuses in ages.

GORDON: Not at all.

And last but not least, it’d be cool to see some other characters. There’re only so many Starburns jokes out there. Remember that one teacher that Jeff was into?
That gal actually added to the show- she wasn’t some prop to set up jokes.

EVAN: As we talked about, way back, the show requires direction. What happened in Season 3, exactly?

GORDON: …stuff?

EVAN: All the characters started moving out of their dorms and such, and there was this big outward push. Something which, I think it’s fair to say, we didn’t expect to see until Season 4. They started to remove themselves from Greendale, which again we mentioned weakened the show.

GORDON: Exactly what year are these people, anyways? They finished freshman year, but after that I don’t think I ever saw ’em in class again.

EVAN: Heh. Seriously, though, this final thirteen-episode season is their final year. They’re going to be graduating, finally on that thirteenth episode.

GORDON: Really? Dang. It’s a shame so much was just… wasted.

EVAN: How about this: Let’s talk about what they did right in Season 3, and what we hope to see in Season 4. Just because, well, there were some solid episodes in there somewhere.

GORDON: Such as?

EVAN: “Remedial Chaos Theory.” Third episode of the season.

GORDON: I’m gonna have to disagree with you on that one. Solid writing- but not good writing for the show.

EVAN: “Studies in Modern Movement,” seventh, and “Regional Holiday Music,” the episode right before their hiatus.

GORDON: I hated the musical one- but that’s no surprise. And what was “Modern Movement,” again?

EVAN: The one where Annie moves in with Abed and Troy. It ends with a weird medley of Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose” as it pans between every character.

GORDON: I think you’re forgetting what a scatter-brained episode that was. Great individual jokes- but really poorly stitched together.

EVAN: I’m going to have to disagree with you. I’ve rewatched it a few times, and it holds up. It’s pretty good throughout.

GORDON: Well, we’ll have to settle on that.

But even if those all were as good as you recall- that is one freaking shoddy record. Plus, they barely even touched on Greendale Community College. That’s like…  “Hey, that’s a great story about food- but this is a murder mystery show.” It just doesn’t fit.

EVAN: And for those who might argue that-

GORDON: Let’s not do this, dude. The Community fans, they’re rabid, “ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD” kind of people.

EVAN: Looking forward to that gif.

GORDON: I don’t think I’ve seen this much undeserved adoration since Taylor Swift started her campaign to destroy feminism.

EVAN: Whoa, I love “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

GORDON: Every time you play that song, a feminist gets cancer.

EVAN: It’ll be your turn eventually.

Anyway. In terms of Community, there’s no better place to gauge the show’s popularity than my favourite [heh- Canadians spell weird, -G] place for TV reviews, the AV Club. The lowest grade the show got last season was a B.

GORDON: Which shows what lousy reviewers they have for that show (that’s right, come get me). Look- the show’s bad. It’s been bad for a while now, and the occasional bit of unrelated humor isn’t enough to redeem it. Back when the show supposedly got axed, I was happy. For once- just once- I saw it happen to a series that (I thought) deserved it.

EVAN: Speaking of which, I need to remind you that 2 Broke Girls is the nation’s top-rated comedy.

GORDON: AAAARGH! It’s so wrong!

[takes a moment to compose himself]

Ok, we’ll do this- what would you want to see in the upcoming season?

EVAN: I would like to see . . . huh. That’s a good question.

 I’d like to see a kickin’ [that’s what the cool kids are saying thse days] prof for History 101, their final class together. I want to see closure as they graduate and are forced to move on with their lives. I mean, man, we graduated like what, four months ago? People have to move on. Even if it does suck.

GORDON: With the debacle of the past couple seasons, simple truth of the matter is that what made the characters compelling in the first place can’t be resurrected- if the show’s gonna go out with a bang, new motives need to be brought in.

Specifically- I want Chang to get his job back. And I want Tina Fey as the history prof.

EVAN: Ooh. Impossible, but good.

GORDON: Well- perfect world, here.

EVAN: I think Troy actually working towards a career is good. I mean, his whole air con repairman thing from last season; he knows where he could be headed. Jeff wants to become a lawyer again. What about everyone else?

GORDON: Shirley and her financial independence.

EVAN:  There’s a lot of potential here as far as what they want, where they want to go.

GORDON: I was actually surprised that her story was the only one that really lasted.

Abed? Poor guy doesn’t have much left in him.

EVAN: Abed could- I don’t know. Write for TV?

GORDON: Become a film prof?

EVAN: It’s hard to tell, considering the manchildren him and Troy have been reduced to.

GORDON: True dat.

EVAN: Ohhhhhh, that one episode where the TV prof got told. I remember, that’s a good point.

GORDON: And as we like ending on high notes that’ll be it for us here at the CWR.

EVAN: We talked a little about what we liked about Community in the past, and what we hope to see in the future, and in spite of anything we said we’ll be watching “History 101” alongside all of you in two more days.

GORDON: As usual, be sure to vote for next week’s discussion topic below.

EVAN: And thanks for reading.

EDIT: We were way off with this, and apparently the first episode lands Friday, October 19th. Our bad.

How Community Could Be Better

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.

Closing Points

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.

An Observation, Not Defence, of Community

If you consider yourself someone who is quite partial to NBC’s Community, then the following is probably not news to you. Earlier this week the network released their midseason schedule, revealing that the sitcom had been pulled.

For all of the Community-enthusiasts that hadn’t heard, this does not mean that the show is cancelled. thefutoncritic, on Twitter, reported that all 22 episodes of the 3rd season will still be shot and aired. What it does mean, however, is that the returning 30 Rock will own the 8:00 Thursday timeslot at the beginning of next year, with no indication of when Community will be shown.

The question I pose to you, then, is why? Community is one of the hottest new sitcoms out there, with a following that I can only describe as borderline fanatical, so why is it being taken off the air?

I mean, just look at these good lookin’ kids!

There are a variety of reasons, each of which raise its own sets of questions.

The most important, from what I could tell, was ratings. Community‘s first season was ranked #97 in the ’09-’10 Broadcast Primetime Show Average Viewership with 5 million viewers. It dropped 18 places its second season, down to #115, losing half a million views in the process. Suffice to say, the show is not doing well.

The A.V. Club’s Todd VanDerWerff shines some light on the issue by explaining that:

“Community, unlike, say, Parks And Recreation, is in a format that seems to be deliberately polarizing. If you can’t get on its particular wavelength, it’s going to seem a little cold and clinical to you, and the fact that its fanbase can be a little … relentless certainly doesn’t help matters.”

Basically, it’s a show that not everyone can get into. I’ve certainly talked to a fair amount of people who have tried to get into it and reported back that they just couldn’t. This is a phenomenon I can only explain by comparing the show to the study group itself. Being a part of it is fantastic, something that every member can attest to. Trying to become a part of it, however, is a truly daunting challenge [one that character Ben Chang has not yet completed].

Another comparison [apparently the last one wasn’t the only one] can be made between Community and the film Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Both are loved and have large fanbases, yet one is floundering in rating and the other made only a little over half its budget. These are both works that clearly have a set audience, so maybe therein lies the problem.

Their audiences are too small. Yes, there are thousands of TV watchers who adore [worship] Dan Harmon and his show. A quick perusal of any episode’s review on The A.V. Club’s TV Club is evidence of this. These are fans who are so ardently loyal that they harangue the comments section of The Big Bang Theory (though to be fair, TBBT is not a good show). There are people who are all about this show but maybe there are not enough of them.

Perhaps in this case what Community really needs is a shift from quality to quantity in regards to its fans. If the show drops any lower in ratings you can be sure we won’t be watching the study group graduate from Greendale.