Feb 27, 2014

[TV] Community: Season 4

It's kind of weird when a television network seems to antagonize it's own television show, if you know what I mean. Every now and then a fairly popular program can start to attract some degree of resentment from studio executives, typically because the program isn't quite delivering the kinds of rating that they're hoping for. And so the network starts taking steps to ease the show out, which feels like a passive-aggressive way of dealing with things.

Community is one of those shows with a rabid fan following but hasn't quite seen the big ratings that networks hope for. And over the years, it seems the show has had to survive a number of challenges set in its path including schedule changes, unexpected mid-season breaks and a change of showrunner.

This fourth season marked a weird time for the show as it tried to get on by without its creator (and perhaps its true voice), Dan Harmon. And while it still had its decently funny moments, it just felt a little bit off - like when you enter a room and it takes you a moment to realize that something is missing or out of place.

Synopsis: Community is a US television sitcom created by Dan Harmon for NBC. During this fourth season of the show, Harmon was replaced as showrunner by writers David Guarascio and Moses Port. They also serve as executive producers of the show.

The season seemed to start interestingly enough with "History 101", which had our quirky crew of characters vying to get into a "History of Ice Cream" class as a way to get an easy credit. But in contrast, this also leads Abed (Danny Pudi) to start thinking about the end of their time together at Greendale - a major theme for the entire season. And that certainly makes enough sense - this is their fourth year together at Greendale Community College and their studies need to end eventually.

More interesting episodes include "Conventions of Space and Time", where the gang attends an "Inspector Spacetime convention, "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking", which focuses on Abed's effort to create a documentary to understand Chang's (Ken Jeong) absurd condition of "Changnesia" and of course "Intro to Felt Surrogacy", which has the entire episode acted out using puppets.

But this season had it's odd points like the relationship between Troy (Donald Glover) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs), which never really made sense, and of course Pierce (Chevy Chase) being even more and more annoying. This lack of imagination and true creativity in terms of what to do with the character probably contributed to the mutual decision for Chase to eventually leave the show before finishing things completely - or at least that's my opinion on things.

At its core a lot of the cleverness of the show felt a little forced or at least without overall direction. Whether or not this may have just been our perception as fans of the show since conscious of the fact that Harmon was not involved in the production is also a significant possibility. But let's face it, more of then than not the characters were doing things that could have been funny on the surface, but it somehow did not connect to other episodes well. It's like we had a bunch of one-off jokes that were okay on their own, but not part of a greater whole.

The concern about Pierce had long been brewing. His character was really unpleasant and I don't think any actor could truly enjoy that kind of a role for long. And thus I totally can't blame Chase for deciding to leave the show. Whether or not this was something that the studio initiated and perhaps pressured him into, he really wasn't going anywhere with Pierce. And he's given us so many great comedic ventures in the past and so he could totally afford to drop the show.

Community is already back on-air with Harmon safely reinstated as showrunner. And it's quirky to note how the events of this season have already been dismissed as the results of a year-long gas leak affecting the entire school. As for this fourth season, I'll rate it a decent 3.5 efforts to use past successes (like the darkest timeline from "Remedial Chaos Theory") to keep the show afloat out of a possible 5.

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