Community – Death or Renewal?

Trying to decide who goes for pizza in the Hugo Award-nominated episode Remedial Chaos Theory. (Source: Screen capture of Remedial Chaos Theory. Copyright 2012 by Sony Pictures Television.)

When watching Community, I am struck by the realization that this show is carrying the torch of Spaced. Both shows delved in to various film-making genres: zombie, horror, science fiction in the case of Spaced; mafia, documentary, western, etc. in the case of Community. While these genre games were fun, both shows are—at their core—about a cast of characters that we grow to love, a cast of characters and their relationships.

This third year of Community saw decreased ratings. The show went on hiatus for a few months, which—with post-modern aplomb—was signaled as the death-knell for television shows according to the character Abed. The show returned in April and finished its season. However, the final three episodes were shown in a single night, something that also sounds mental klaxons. The final episode of season three shows ex-lawyer Jeff choosing to sacrifice re-instatement for his friends; Abed and Troy dismantling their dreamatorium; and various other character arcs coming to a close. In many ways, the end of season three could mark the end of Community.

Except . . . it was renewed for a 13-episode fourth season. And, confirming a spreading internet rumor, the show would return without creator/show-runner Dan Harmon.

According to Harmon’s blog, this was not by his own choice. Harmon was not consulted nor given any say in the change of creative direction. With great professionalism, he emphasizes that the new show-runners are good people that are just doing a job. The real fault lies with Sony Pictures Television. So this leaves me to wonder, should I support new Community? Harmon doesn’t ask fans to boycott the show. His blog merely seeks to address rumors. What is a fan to do?

Here comes the Doctor Who (or, in the case of CommunityInspector Spacetime) angle. Sometimes the quality of a show is not contingent on the original show-runner. Sometimes, the initial vision is not the same as the later vision. While the format of new Doctor Who is similar to that of Hartnell/Lambert-era Doctor Who, the vision of the show is quite different. And, in the history of Doctor Who, a few show-runners (and actors) were forced to leave. Sometimes this led to a lesser product; sometimes it led to a greater one. In the case of Community, I want to support the careers of Joel McHale, Allison Brie, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jim Rash, Ken Jeong, and Chevy Chase (in a bit of a comeback role). But with the departure of so many behind-the-scenes people, I can’t help but wonder what kind of show we will be getting.

I am hoping for the best.

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2 thoughts on “Community – Death or Renewal?

  1. I’ll give it a chance. I’m interested to see what direction they take the show after the season finale, which felt a lot like a series finale. Will they use that episode to launch some significant character development and make major changes to the story line, or will the next season premiere consist entirely of mishaps that set everything back to status quo?

    • I think my biggest concern, which was also a concern going in to season three, is that it would be easy to see the format of Community as a style-parody. While those episodes are popular, they should be infrequent. Non-parody stories are the rests between the notes; they are the stories that give us the character moments that make the parodies more successful.

      It concerns me that a few writers and producers left as well. This doesn’t mean the show will be bad in its fourth year, however. I’m hoping for the best.

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