Sunday, March 02, 2014

Community Outreach

We're over the halfway mark in what is very likely the last season of Community.  More important, we're getting an idea of what it's like without two of the regular characters.

At the very least, it's odd.  The essence of the show has always been the table. Even when an episode left it behind, sooner or later, the study group would return. And we're so used to seeing the shots--Jeff by himself, to his left Britta and Abed, to his right Annie and Shirley, across the table Troy and Pierce.  (Not that there weren't a bunch of other shots in different combinations--they must have had a lot of very late nights.)  Now, Jeff can look straight ahead and one whole side is missing.  What's in their place?  Well, in the latest episode, "Bondage And Beta Male Sexuality," we've got Duncan next to Jeff with Hickey and Chang across the way.  Not really a fair trade.  And they're not even a study group any more, but a committee designed to fix Greendale.  It's not quite the same show.

This latest episode got an A at the A.V. Club, but I don't see it.  Community has often excelled at bringing emotion into a show that tends to be highly fanciful.  You could see it in episodes like "Certified Mixology," "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons," "Remedial Chaos Theory," and "Foosball And Nocturnal Vigilantism," to name a few.  But the point was the show, at its best, wouldn't sacrifice the laughs to get to these moments--they'd suddenly come up in the middle of the comedy.

But "Bondage" was a surprisingly serious half hour.  The main plot was Britta, watched by Jeff and Duncan, returning to her old radical friends to see they've moved on and she's become a figure of fun.  Then there was Abed being imprisoned by Hickey to teach him a lesson.  Finally there was a parody of The Sixth Sense and The Shining where Chang performs a one-man show in front of a ghost audience.  (Annie and Shirley had little to do, and they made a meta joke about it.)  I'm not saying there were no laughs in the episode, but the first two plots were played surprisingly straight, and the third was more bizarre than funny and didn't seem to go anywhere.

For that matter, the previous week's "Analysis Of Cork-Based Networking," where Annie learns how things really work at the college, couldn't compare to something like the first season's "Comparative American Poultry," which managed to show the system at Greendale, have some solid emotion, and still be an hilarious parody of Goodfellas.

Community has been more hit and miss than many other great shows because it takes such big chances. But these last two Troy-less episodes don't augur well (for the show's short future).  I'm not saying not having Troy and Pierce made all the difference lately, but it's easy to imagine they at least could have lightened things up a bit.  The show is still capable of being funny, but it's like an old pitcher who's lost his fastball so has to rely on what he's got left.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hit the nail. The funniest thing is this episode- which I watched twice because I thought I missed something- was Duncan hitting the steering wheel. A fine bit of humor but not really meta-anything. Hmm

5:29 AM, March 02, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At worst it looks like the show is going to have a pleasant if not great fade out. They can talk about six seasons and a movie, but this show was never meant to last longer than four. Really the true Community lasted only three seasons, and Dan Harmon's final episode before he left gave everything a sense of closure. What's going on now isn't exactly zombie Community, but it's not the stuff people will care about in the box set.

11:27 AM, March 02, 2014  

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