Wednesday, 3 June 2015

COMMUNITY: school's out... forever?

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Season 6 of Community's over and I loved the finale ("Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television"), which was a hilarious meta-commentary on the show's existence and ability to resist cancellation. For half its lifetime, the show's good luck mantra's been #sixseasonsandamovie, and it's now within touching distance of achieving that once-unlikely aim, but I'm not sure if there's as much hunger for a feature-film.

The season's been good, but I'd rank it as the fifth best of the six. It hasn't felt like essential viewing, either. There was a two-week period where I actually forgot to watch it, which is unprecedented for me. The move from broadcast television (NBC) to the internet (Yahoo!) has revealed Community is actually being watched by untold millions, but the buzz surrounding the show hasn't been as strong this time. I know plenty of people who weren't aware it was back, or had no idea how to watch it on Yahoo Screen. It would be interesting to see if its legal accessibility online had an impact on its popularity as a torrent, particularly because the UK were showing it a day later on Sony TV (and I'm sure that's a marketplace responsible for a great deal of torrenting traffic in the earlier days). I'd also wager that a move to more popular online platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime would've helped matters, too—sorry Yahoo.

But accessibility wasn't the biggest issue this season. After six years, Community isn't the fresh-faced scamp it once was, and the show never quite got over that awful fourth season without producers Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna steering the boat. As the characters themselves often allude to, sitcoms will inevitably fade over time and it doesn't help that Community keeps "hemorrhaging characters" (with the loss of originals like Pierce, Troy, and Shirley). One thing that disappointed me about season 6 was how significant the loss of Troy felt as a double-act with Abed, but mainly how dull the two new characters were...

Keith David's Elroy Patashnik had bags of potential in concept (a middle-aged I.T guru and inventor stuck in a time warp), but it took a long time for the writers to get a grip on him—and there's still work to do. He vanished halfway through the finale and it didn't even matter. Worse, Paget Brewster's Frankie was singularly unfunny and an intentional stick-in-the-mud whose presence killed lots of scenes for me. Shirley wasn't a laugh-riot either, but at least her sunny disposition was amusing counterbalance to the likes of Pierce and Britta. Community didn't need a straight-laced cynic in its study group. It's telling that both David and Brewster were credited as "special guest stars", which suggests even the producers never saw them as direct replacements for the regulars they'd lost.

On the plus side, it was great the Dean (Jim Rash) kept being developed into a creditable character, and the writers found way to implement Chang (Ken Jeong) that felt worthwhile and didn't resort to turning him into a villain again. It helped they weren't afraid to bench him for a week, if his involvement wasn't required in a particular story. Oh, and the paintball episode was another series highlight—although arguably the worst of the Harmon-produced ones.

Ultimately, Community season 6 was a comedy I still enjoyed watching, but there were telltale signs it doesn't warrant the seventh season the characters imagined into existence in the finale. At this point, I'd quite like to see what Dan Harmon can do with another live-action project, or if someone would risk giving him a shot at a movie. Half the show's #sixseasonsandamovie mantra has been fulfilled, so it would be nice if Yahoo bankroll some form of "movie" (even if it's a glorified three-part episode with a bigger budget, exclusive to online). But maybe it would work best if the show honoured its own #andamovie hash-tag by letting things rest for awhile? I don't think I'd be very excited about a Community movie scheduled for 2016 online.. but two or three years down the line, when some of these actors are hopefully bigger stars and we're hungrier for some Abed quips? I'd love to see that.

What did you make of Community season 6? A return to form, or a sign of fatigue? Did you like the new characters, or were they poor substitutes for the ones we've lost? And should a film be made, or would you be okay with the mantra going unfulfilled?