'Community' TV Review: This Sitcom Went On For One Season Too Long
A year ago, I thought I would be rolling in tears when Community ended, distraught at the sight of my favorite study group graduating from my beloved Greendale Community College in season four’s finale, “Advanced Introduction to Finality.” I felt like the 8th member of the group, loyally sitting in the always empty spot besides Jeff Winger (Joel Mchale). I was there throughout the paintball adventures, Troy’s (Donald Glover) 21st birthday, and #sixseasonsandamovie. And at no point in time did I ever think of bailing with Jack Black to join Owen Wilson’s infinitely cooler study group. The Greendale Seven was my very own study group on Thursday nights (as it was to countless others) and I wanted to graduate alongside them and hopefully join Jeff at his table for one at Morty’s steakhouse. But “Advanced Introduction to Finality” left me with the same stone-faced disappointment as the rest of season four, officially turning Community into another Indiana Jones, where I only buy the first three [seasons] on DVD, because the fourth one blows.
It finally sunk in at the beginning of last night’s episode that only Jeff would be graduating at the end of Advanced Introduction to Finality. I had been stuck thinking of Jeff's immovable appointment at Morty’s Steakhouse, which was immovable since he had a well-planned schedule to graduate. But I had forgotten that season four of Community played by its own rules and had been operating in a different timeline; the overarching stories and character development from past seasons seemingly had no effect on the post-Dan Harmon series. Even the seasonal story arcs showed little importance in each episode. There was no point in Brie Larson’s character, who appeared to be the girl of Abed’s (Danny Pudi) dreams, as she never showed up again in the season. If Larson wasn’t available to shoot more episodes, wouldn’t it be better to write her part differently? The same questions could be asked about Dean Spreck’s (Jordan Black) purpose in season four as the evil Dean has been on the edge of a cliffhanger throughout the entire season without a resolution.
Without any continuity, each episode of season four (maybe by design) could stand alone, which actually wouldn’t be much of an issue because of the incredibly talented ensemble cast. But each episode gave the impression that it had been written as an exercise to "reward" the fans who helped keep the show alive. And by "reward," I mean how the writers took things we liked in the past and wrote them into oblivion. Every episode became a parody of the show with the constant spoofs, movie and meta-references for the sake of referencing, and the retread jokes that were once so funny. A year ago, I couldn’t even imagine seeing Community, a show that broke down the walls of network comedy with its second to none creativity and innovativeness, turn so insular. Sadly, the show is still stuck in December, the cold-feeling season three, and the Darkest Timeline.
The metaphorical clock in “Regional Holiday Music” didn’t change in "Advanced Introduction to Finality." Jeff’s graduation was too grounded and boring to the new ultra-meta Abed. “I was hoping for more,” he says, spitting in my face (okay that didn’t happen in his timeline, but it sure did in mine). But is “more” actually better? I wanted a grounded graduation complete with Jeff’s realization of all his growth throughout the seasons, which of course would never happen in the current Community. A flashback episode would have been a perfect theme for the finale (or possible series ending), but of course the writers burned through that idea in “Heroic Origins.” What Abed meant with “more” turns out to be a Darkest Timeline invasion complete with paintball and movie references that are simply there to be referenced to. It’s a B-movie plot in a science-fiction movie, which in those terms means that it is completely awful (But hey! The writers got us a science-fiction storyline…) I’m not sure if there were any funny jokes in the episode as it all blurred together in my mind from an ailment I like to call Nadir Fatigue, which is something similar to Parade's Schwimmer Fatigue.
To top it all off, the science-fiction plot turns out to be a dream sequence in Jeff’s head as he struggles with the thought of graduating, which is also seemingly there in order to give us a giant middle finger. I could go on about how stupid dream sequences are, but Christopher Walkens put it best in Seven Psychopaths. Plus, the dream sequence really caters to Abed’s character, since the science-fiction/darkest timeline storyline has served as a function of Abed’s imaginative mind and the dreamatorium. But I guess Abed is Jeff now (not Batman). It’s this kind of sloppy writing that has ruined the show, which is such a shame since Community used to be an integral part of NBC’s Thursday block of high quality, but lowly viewed comedy shows. Now it’s just Parks and Recreation standing tall among the rubble of The Office, 30 Rock and Community. There were no tears as I watched the (hopefully) finale of Community. There was not even a bit of satisfaction since most of the study group didn’t even graduate. I’ve been running the scenarios through my head since last night, and I keep coming back to one thought – I should have been satisfied with just three great seasons of Community.
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