Thursday, April 16, 2015

Comm Together

I was thrilled to hear there'd be a sixth season of Community, even if it wouldn't be on NBC.  I was less thrilled to hear it would be on Yahoo screen, since that's not a service I pay for.  But then I went back to thrilled when I heard they were streaming the shows for free.  All you have to do is sit through some commercials, which I used to do for the show anyway.

I've watched the first six episodes, and it's a strange experience.  It's a lot like Community, but not quite.  I'd say Community has now gone through four distinct eras.

1.  The first three seasons, with the full cast and creator Dan Harmon on board. The show changed and grew, but was still centered on the study group seven making their way through Greendale Community College.

2.  Season four, after Dan Harmon was fired. The zombie season.

3.  Season five, where Harmon was rehired, but Chevy Chase and then Donald Glover left, and where the study group had graduated and now were working for Greendale.

4.  Season six, no longer on NBC, where Yvette Nicole Brown has left as well, and two new characters are regulars at the table.

So the study group is long gone, its mission changed, and new characters have taken over.  Indeed, the original engine that started the plot--Jeff Winger trying to get a college degree so he could be a lawyer again--is so long gone that now Winger is a professor at the school.

The new show is fun, but not quite as fun as the original.  It still takes plenty of chances, and plays with the format (fake music videos, promos for other shows, computer animation), but the stance is different.  The study group were underdogs doing their best, now as Greendale guardians there's less tension and the plotline drifts more.  Of those left from the study group, Jess has gone soft, Britta has become completely hopeless, and Abed and Annie are now more experienced which has made them settle down and act a bit more normal.  I like the new actors--Paget Brewster as the no-nonsense Frankie Dart, and Keith David as the grumpy 1990s computer whiz Elroy Patashnik, but they're consultants, not fellow students.

In any case, it's an entirely different chemistry.  Maybe Community could survive losing Chevy Chase's Pierce, or Yvette Nicole Brown's Shirley, but losing both turns their corner of the table into another show.  The biggest loss of all is Donald Glover's Troy, who formed the nucleus with Abed, Annie, Britta and Jeff.

We know from a previous episode the darkest timeline is when Troy leaves.  The show is nowhere near that bad, but it just isn't the same without him.  After the sixth season, if they decide to make that movie, I hope he returns.

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