The magic is gone, but they’re still waving their wands expecting sparks to fly out. Community returned for a 6th season on Yahoo! Screen; on the bright side it’s free, but it’s also been a huge disappointment.
The first three seasons of Community were amazing- the cast had great chemistry, the story lines were weird and creative, the cinematography and music felt inviting, all the little things were done right and perfected, every episode felt like a hilarious adventure, there was continuity between episodes and meta-jokes, so many jokes that I would need to rewatch to notice them all. During its peak Community was better than Parks and Rec, and I love that show! It felt smarter and more inventive than any other comedy show on TV, how many series have included claymation or cartoon animation spontaneously in episodes? Epic paintball battles? Pillow fort documentaries? Remedial Chaos Theory is still one of the best episodes I’ve seen across any TV show.
Then Season 4 happened without creator Dan Harmon, he was the victim and Sony was the big corporate bully that fired him, and the show suffered without him. When he returned for Season 5 things were better, but main characters Troy and Pierce left the show and their departure hurt. Miraculously Community got renewed again after getting axed; but actors Donald Glover, Chevy Chase, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Jon Oliver all moved on for various reasons and wouldn’t return. There are still four members of the original study group and now Chang and the Dean have slightly expanded roles. There was a lot of foundation to work with here, but so far the 6th season has been worse than the previous low point 4th season.
Many fans seem to be enjoying this season though. IGN and Rotten Tomatoes have given the season positive reviews and many episode discussions on the Community subreddit have been positive as well. I can’t help but feel like there are two types of fans, ones like me upset with what the show has become and judge it at a higher standard, and those that still love it because it brought them so much joy in the past so judge it less harshly. Where some shows overcome obstacles and become better, this one feels like it only manages to get by. Most plots this season seem aimless, there’s no Winger inspirational speech to wrap up episodes anymore because there was nothing to wrap up. The ending segment gags are still solid, something the show has always excelled at, but overall I think everything has been mediocre.
Season 6 episodes run at ~28 minutes, but it feels like the writers don’t know how to fill those 6 additional minutes. There’s a slower pace compared to previous seasons and it makes everything feel dragged out, it also hurts the humor. It’s only in it’s 6th season and the previous two were only 13 episodes long, how does the show feel like it’s been stretched so thin? The show rehashes plotlines from earlier seasons with diminishing results. When the jokes do appear, they feel forced, and while there are still plenty of meta-jokes, they aren’t hitting as strongly because they’re now expected to bring the biggest laughs. “6 seasons and a movie!” Abed jokes to the audience, but now it feels like a grim requirement instead of a hopeful outcome.
Chang’s role may have been expanded this season, but is it too much to ask for Season 1 Chang when he was actually competent? He’s regulated to a crazy person with weird non sequitur jokes that rarely hit. One of the best moments from this season was Chang admitting he “hadn’t been properly utilized” and that wasn’t even funny! It was just meta. I understand Jon Oliver can’t reprise his role because he’s doing wonderful things on Last Week Tonight, but the show has always been able to write some characters better than others. For example, they never really did anything with Shirley’s character, she was always weak. The show seemed to upgrade Jim Rash’s character, too bad the writing and plot isn’t what it used to be. Didn’t he win an Academy Award for his writing? Is he not writing for this show?
The new characters are…meh. The actor’s names don’t even get added to the introduction animation, there are new drawings and these new characters are clearly just as important to the plot, so why aren’t their names listed yet?! Can someone explain this to me? What am I missing here? Do they have to earn it for some reason?
Abed describes the new character Frankie perfectly.
Abed: I can’t determine if you have any specific flaw, quirk, or point of view that makes you a creative addition to the group.
Frankie: I don’t know what that means, but I’m writing it down.
Abed: My umbrella concern is that you, as a character, represent the end of what I used to call our show, which was once an unlikely family of misfit students, and is now a pretty loose knit group of students and teachers, none of whom are taking a class together in a school which, as of your arrival, is becoming increasingly grounded, asking questions like, “How do any of us get our money? When will we get our degrees?” as opposed to questions I consider more important like, “What is real? Is there a god? Where’s that Pierce hologram?”
It’s more meta than funny, and that’s the problem with most of the writing this season. The show making fun of itself can be funny for only so long. Elroy has been okay, but he doesn’t really have a presence, and much like Frankie, he’s just… there. His introduction to the show seemed weaker than Frankie’s as well and again he’s described perfectly in the show.
Abed: Is he the Old Troy? Black Pierce? Purseless Shirley?
Part of me wishes that the show focused more on the main characters that remained instead of adding new ones. Parks and Rec beefed up Jerry and Donna’s roles in later seasons after Ann and Chris left, I wish this show would have done the same as well. It may not be fair to compare the new characters to those they’re replacing, but I will, and they fall short, especially considering how strong Pierce and Troy were. Maybe if they were given more time to develop, and I know both actors are funny, but there’s just no substance. I don’t care about them at all.
I’m recklessly speculating here, but Dan Harmon doesn’t strike me as the kind of writer to be stuck on one thing. Maybe he’s being drained by his other TV show Rick and Morty because the magic Community once had is gone. It almost feels like some sort of Misery scenario playing out with Yahoo! holding the crew hostage and forcing them to produce another season for a Yahoo! Screen service that will probably never take off. But maybe I’m giving too much credit to Dan Harmon and crew. Even with Harmon back and having free reign the show is still mediocre. I can picture a George Lucas scenario for the Star Wars prequels here, where no one is telling Harmon that what he’s producing isn’t funny anymore. There are clearly still open wounds from his first dismissal. How I Met Your Mother had very unpopular final seasons among fans, but this is somehow worse. At least How I Met Your Mother had a resolution, at least it was working towards something, even if it was disappointing. The real problem with that show was that it aired too long. That’s not the problem here though, here it’s just worse.
Harmon has a Tumblr blog, so fans feel like they have a personal connection with him. I feel like his popularity is at least part of the reason why the show remains popular with the fans, despite it’s drop in quality. Part of the reason people were so down on the fourth season was because he was so popular with fans, I felt that way too.
I never thought I would say this…but I wish Community never came back. The characters at Greendale should have graduated 3 years ago and this show should have ended 3 years ago as well. I find myself asking “Is this the best they can do?” And I’m not saying the show sucks, but I know the answer is no, this isn’t the best they can do. And I know many people would agree with me. Half the characters are different, there’s no way the show could ever be the same, but even with the “genius” creator back the magic hasn’t returned. It’s a different show and it’s disappointing. It feels like I’m the outside looking in on a massive inside joke, but I can’t see the emperor’s new clothes. I would give the show a 4/10, watch if you have nothing better to do.
Is there a prophetic hidden message smacking the audience right in the face with the theme song? A self fulfilling prophecy of sorts.
Give me the hope
To run out of steam
They gave me hope with additional seasons, and then it ran out of steam when they couldn’t come up with good episodes.
We could be roped up, tied up, dead in a year.
This describes how they feel writing for a show that was on the cusp of being cancelled every year.
The cast members have been dropping like flies! They’re fading away from the series because the show is becoming worse. The lyrics to this song are really depressing, weird that it’s being used for the theme song for such a light hearted comedy.
Spoilers/Thoughts on Some Episodes So Far
Grifting 101 was a parody on con games, specifically the movie The Sting, but the “conflict” was solved so unoriginally. Britta double crosses the new professor? That’s it?
Laws of Robotics & Party Rights had a funny concept of prisoners coming to school via iPads on segways, but nothing really materialized from it. More than half the time it feels like the scripts were rushed or half finished concepts.
Basic Crisis Room Decorum had the the crisis revolve around Greendale giving a degree to a dog… The show wanted to be more grounded this season, but I think that’s just an excuse to be less creative. There’s no tension, there’s no stakes, it’s not even funny. Maybe I don’t have a heart.
Basic Email Security parody on Sony hacks ended on such an odd note. This was the 3rd installment of the group member’s secret gossip coming out and everyone reacting nasty to one another, but didn’t work this time.
Britta has a fake boyfriend and together they sell Honda merchandise to the dean and others? This whole sub plot felt so weird and out of place. It never really developed humor at any point.
Frankie – “Why did you guys like Troy so much?”
Jeff – “Because he played the steel drums.”
Turns to the
“Don’t worry, that’ll pay off later.”
She’s going to be playing steel drums later… This may have killed as a subtle joke, but it’s over played and highlighted to the point where it’s the funniest part of the episode…that’s not a good thing because it wasn’t that funny.
Elroy forgot the word drawbridge…it wasn’t funny clever or I can relate to that funny, it was just dumb sitcom humor and it felt forced and drawn out…it was also the best joke of the episode somehow.
Meeting Britta’s parents was almost as bad as meeting Jeff’s father, some things are better left a mystery. The relationship was already clearly defined, meeting them didn’t add much.
Ham Gurl! This just really bugged me for some arbitrary reason.
A big issue I have with this season is the lack of humor.