Word came down from the Dean’s office yesterday that NBC’s Thursday night comedy Community has been expelled from the network’s midseason lineup. The show hasn’t been officially cancelled, and we’re told it will return at an undetermined date, but the outlook is looking grim considering the show’s poor ratings.
Community’s cast and crew responded to the news with inside jokes. Creator Dan Harmon tweeted “Streets Ahold!” to which Alison Brie responded, “Troy and Abed in the … summer?” Joel McHale continued by tweeting “Horsebot 3000 Nooooo!”
If these little quips make you laugh, then you may be one of the fans saddened by Community’s potential demise. If not, then you’re unlikely to miss the show’s brand of humor.
On last night’s podcast, Johnny and Nick went toe-to-toe over Community’s fate. One thing we agreed on is that the show changed during its three seasons. Read on for our thoughts on what Community did right or wrong.
Johnny’s Take – The 3 Things Community Did Wrong
1. They tried too hard to recreate the paintball episode.
After the huge buzz about “Modern Warfare” at the end of Season One, the entire show suddenly turned into a never-ending parody of bad TV and movies. Instead of broadening the stories and characters, they just kept trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was the infamous paintball episode. The worst of these was the silly “Basic Rocket Science” episode at the beginning of season two when the gang gets trapped inside a KFC-sponsored flight simulator as a spoof of space movies like Apollo 13. They stopped trying to innovate and just kept trying to duplicate.
2. They brought in Betty White.
Seriously, what the hell? Maybe it makes sense that a flash-in-the-pan show like Community would bring in a flash-in-the-pan like Betty White during the height of her Facebook popularity, but I just found it annoying. Betty White guest starred as Professor June Bauer, a character predictably designed to clash with the “sweet old lady” she usually plays. I don’t know why they felt the need to stoop to this level of audience pandering, but the minute they did it spelled the beginning of the end.
3. They stopped developing the characters.
The more Community focused on parodying sitcom and movie conventions week after week, the less interesting the characters became. Now in Season Three, Jeff, Britta and the rest of the study group are little more than cardboard cutouts. The characters don’t exist as individuals, rather they are one seven-headed sitcom cliche regurgitating the same gags week in and week out. The same character quirks are repeated for the same laughs. All that changes is the setting, depending on which movie or sitcom convention they are parodying. It’s fun in theory, but the parade of inside jokes wears thin without any character development, and it discourages new viewers. It’s no wonder the show’s viewership has dropped – there’s no reason to tune in just to watch the same stagnant characters make the same stagnant jokes.
Nick’s Take – The 3 Things Community Did Right
1. Drop the mopey love-drama garbage
When Community began, the creators tried to pencil it as a loose fit community college comedy. Jokes were based on everyday tropes, people lived somewhat normal lives, we were supposed to really feel bad about protagonist Jeff having to go to college to make up for his lack of accreditation, and people here had relationships. Not just relationships, but “friendships” and “love triangles”. Does Jeff love Britta? Does he love Annie? What about that Spanish teacher he’s having such a controversial ‘friends-with-benefits-ship’ with. What’s with Britta and that Von dude? Do we care? No. Not only did this take up a ton of screen time, it also wasn’t very compelling. Thankfully, they dropped it. I think Johnny, in a post dated November 2nd, 2009 said:
True to my promise, I gave up on the show during the first five minutes of the Halloween episode when McHale asked Britta if she “really” still wanted to be “friends.”
I agree Johnny, that is pretty disgusting.
2. Unleashing the comic potential of the show’s comics
So you have this quasi-mopey, quasi-relationship-based “comedy” and you cast a ton of comedians. Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong fall in line and we get… not much. I disagree with Johnny’s assertation that the show has spent the past two seasons trying to capture that “Paintball Episode” glory, I think that’s when they realized that the show doesn’t need to cut so close to the cloth when it comes to community college material. Everyone started getting wackier, the plots kinda went wherever, and while it didn’t always work (Johnny mentioned “Basic Rocket Science”, which gets no disagreement here) I think it’s definitely opened the window on what the show was capable of. But what does Johnny think of the first season?
Chevy Chase is being wasted right now. I almost think he needs to be way more offensive. Like, over the top offensive. […] McHale needs to be doing something else with his time. Running scams, trolling for chicks, seeking an angle of some kind. Everything he does is Britta-related and that’s a waste. If she makes a comment about wanting to be friends again next week, I’m probably going to give up on this show.
Hmmm, Johnny. So just as soon as they do start breaking out of their molds and become the characters they could be, they become caricatures? I guess Community just can’t win.
3. Turning it into a Troy and Abed show every week
Did we really care that Troy was a former football all-star? Do we really care about Abed’s disappointed father? No, not even slightly. The show’s early A-to-B plotlines, in which Troy would try out for football again and Abed would start a course to document his life and produce a documentary about his parents, were quickly forgotten. Thank God. It was in their hairline wacky schemes that somehow got ‘snuck in’ early on that eventually became the format for the show later on. It’s not even that the show is focused on them, but that they’re basically allowed to do whatever they want and the expanded rules of the show’s universe allows it. Just look at the masthead image above, a promo shot for the first season. Everyone looks uptight and joyless, completely free of personality or spunk. Is that what Johnny wants out of this show? Hell no, we won’t go! Johnny, what do you think about it?
I think N is completely correct here. In fact, I give up on this silly argument. I was wrong all along.
Okay, so maybe he didn’t say that, but I know I’m in the right here.
Be sure to check out the podcast for a more in-depth discussion (read: argument) between Nick and Johnny about Community.