|Index||5 reviews in total|
I've made it no secret that in many ways, Community ended last season.
Call me a pessimist, but Dan Harmon's voice is what made Community
blossom to what it was. It wasn't just some showrunner leaving, it was
basically the person who gave birth to it, and because Community has
had that off-the-walls approach for most of its run, it's no secret
that I expected the worst.
Well here's the thing. The show could have always gone two different ways after Harmon left. The first being to going back to being a "regular" sitcom, sort of the way it was during most of its run in Season 1. Sure, for I and many other fans the show didn't become what it was until those last several episodes of S1, but there's still a lot of people out there who liked the show equally, some even more, during it's first section in Season 1. And there's nothing wrong with that. It was fantastic. So this could be the first way that the S4 writers and showrunners could go. Tone it down.
The second option would be for them to just try to keep Community how it was, knowing how risky that could be. Changing it would alienate fans, keeping it the same and it just feeling like a parody of what the show was would alienate people even more. But they went with the second option. Really, one can't hate them for doing this. Perhaps this episode (and the whole season) would ultimately be better off having gone the first option (although this early we still don't know if they do) but they respect the show and they want to hold on to what it's about.
Interestingly enough, I could very well see Dan Harmon having done an episode like this, focusing on Abed and finishing the way it did. I don't think he would have done a Hunger Games parody (and if he did, one not as obvious or pointless just for the sake of being a parody) but the rest of the episode is totally up his alley. But again, it comes down to the execution, and the episode really just feels off. You see the actors trying, and they do elevate it, but right now the show just feels sort of awkward. As a whole it feels really messy, but I did enjoy many singular, specific things in it (the animated babies and the last few minutes all worked extremely well).
Still, it's not like Community never failed when Harmon was on. Quite often a lot of things, many times even in one episode, conflicted with one another because so much worked and so much didn't. That has always been the beauty of the show, its approach to throw things at the wall and see what sticks (only Louie from other comedies has the same ambition). And again, it's hard to dislike this S4 opener because it does exactly that. It's trying hard, and a lot of the emotion comes through (again, the ending worked so well) but the journey there has quite a few missteps.
What worries me is this. Whenever Community seemed to fail, it still always felt like Dan Harmon failing. You still had the excitement to keep seeing how the show would continue and what else it would do. Whether the show succeeded from week to week or not, it always felt like it came from the same DNA. So yes, there have been several weak episodes in Community that are either in this episode's level or perhaps slightly weaker, but unlike those episodes, this does, sadly, feel out of place with the three seasons that came before it. Heck, if this same episode had come out exactly the way it did, still feeling off and awkward, but it was still stamped by Dan Harmon, I wouldn't have liked it any better and perhaps I would probably be dissing it more. But I still would expect Harmon to bounce back. Knowing that Harmon isn't here is a much bigger worry.
So folks, I hope the rest of the season finds a tone that feels right, that even if it DOES feel different, it feels good. Because, frankly, this S4 opener felt very clumsy, even if a lot of things worked in it. My head tells me to give it a C+, but my heart wants to say a B-. Take your pick
Oh, but that Britta/Troy pairing? Yeah, I doubt Harmon would have even let anyone consider seeing them together this early in the season, and introduce us to them in this way (which just felt, again, rushed and clumsy). But hey, maybe I'm wrong. I'm also getting tired of Abed being the show's baby and having to be dealt with in the most delicate manner. This started in S3, so it's not something new. It's just turning him into an insufferable "character/plot device".
One positive thing out of all of this is that there will always be an excuse people can give for why Community "jumped the shark" so to speak (if indeed it does, too early to tell) after it's 3rd season, and that's because the always-prominent creator, showrunner and many of the original writers and producers left. Many shows just start sucking even with their original creative team, and this way we can always say Harmon's Community never actually jumped the shark (unless you're one of the several people who already think it did in either its 2nd or 3rd season)
Reviewing this episode without taking a moment to discuss the
circumstances around season 4 (the Dan Harmon((less)) season) of
Community would be like ignoring the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the
room. As anyone will point out, plenty of successful shows have
transitioned between showrunners. After watching History 101, the
premiere to season 4, I have mixed feelings on whether Community will
survive. I want it to. I've been a Harmon fan for years and I wish him
continued future success in film and on television. Community was his
The episode opens with the study group beginning their senior year. Jeff is only one history credit from graduating. The only history class available is The History of Ice Cream. The class is overbooked so students who want a seat in the classroom have to go through the Hungers Deans for red balls with Dean Pelton's unique (and impossible to forge as he explains) bite marks. The group, disillusioned with Jeff's eagerness to graduate, disperse and leave him to fight for all seven balls.
Yes, this is the premise for the episode. But it's also the first chance Community has to win back and grow its audience. History 101 delivers on some goals and not so much on others. I'm a little worried after viewing the first episode that the mythology and relationships on the show are simplified now. I've replayed parts of it and don't find the jokes to have the same staying power of the first three seasons.
I do think that History 101 did a valuable thing. With Abed's TV and the dance with the Dean, it showed us the new showrunners are willing to take some risks. You can't take the weird out of Community. It's that quirkiness which sets the show apart. I'm not sure they can sustain it, but I hope we all won't feel by mid-season that they gave up and tried to turn it into it the next 30 Rock or The Office. Community has its identity already.
As I stated at the beginning of this review, Community was Harmon's baby. It's hard to envision anyone else successfully raising it. But I'm willing to have my mind changed. The cast is as strong as ever. The chemistry is there. I hope the writing and the work behind the scenes is able to take it over the top.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As an avid follower of Community who has followed the gang through all
of their capers from The Mystery of the Broken Yam to The Pop & Lock
The wait is over. The 4th season is out at long last. So are we blown away by a brilliant parody of the Hunger Games like those we've been treated to before, like Law and Order and Pulp Fiction.
This unfortunately is not what we receive. The Hunger Games is ripe for parody and entertaining links. Instead the plot of the Dean pitting the students against one another to win the prize of a place in "The History Of Ice Cream" in a Battle Royale situation.
Instead of an action-packed "paintball episodes" we see a rushed parody where Jeff somehow wins the contest within 5 uneventful minutes. Meanwhile Abed retreats from the world into his mind due to his fear of change. This was not done in a 6 different timelines or Christmas Claymation, aka the classic Community we know and love, way.
Instead it seems to make us worry and feel concern for Abed's mental wellbeing.
Long story short, Community has none of it's irresistible charm that all the previous episodes contained. Dean Pelton's excessive homosexuality, Troy and Britta rushed together into a relationship with no chemistry and Annie and Shirley pulling a prank.
These plots and changes dilute and tarnish the characters Harmon and others have spent 3 series building up.
I pray that the series doesn't continue down this road.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's a real shame that this episode didn't turn out well. It had a load
of great ideas, but it just didn't work, or at least it didn't feel
right at all. I mean on paper I can see how some of the gags would seem
perfect, for example the jab at TV shows with canned laughter, but
really it came across as 'hokey' (in the Dean's own words), and it felt
more like it was aping Community than actually being Community.
Not to mention the characters felt a million miles away. I think in hindsight a table episode where the characters had much more pure interaction would've been much better, simply because it felt all over the place and there was little character development in the expected areas. Combined with different music, weird camera angles, and generally using different locations in the school for shooting, it felt very off.
However, I'm aware that this is almost a new show, nearly all of the writers got replaced along with the creator, and so I would only expect the new writers to have different styles, etc. With that in mind, this episode could've been much worse. Britta and Troy getting together was amusing and didn't feel too forced, and brought out interactions between them we've never been able to see before. Here's hoping that this new season will improve as it goes on though, especially with the onset of Changnesia that is approaching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Finally Community returns minus Dan Harmon which seems quite
interesting. The study group all return from Summer with a studio
audience laughing at all the jokes they are making, this is actually
Abed TV, as he is nervous to return to his first day of his last year
in community college. They are all seniors and wanting to take history
together. Dean comes in telling them all to fight for their places they
must fight in a hunger games style for red balls. Jeff took more
classes over summer and if he took this history class he would graduate
early, the group are not happy with this and he must fight for them all
to get into the class. Abed and Pierce watch Jeff but Abed is in his
happy place where they are asked to start the three years over again.
In reality Shirley and Annie want to make prank by putting popcorn in
the dean's car. Troy and Britta's relationship has developed quite
quickly and the two can change rules Troy once had with Abed. Jeff must
dance with Dean and we fin out Dean is trying to keep Jeff in the
school. Abed is still in his happy place but has gone to another happy
place. Everyone try's to help cure Abed with Jeff being the one to
finally bring Abed back giving up the last history credit he needs.
Dean now is neighbours with Jeff promising another history class he
needs. The return of the show is cool but something felt very off to
me, with Harmon this show is not good. It felt like a cheap copy
version of what the show once was that I would have been happy if it
was cancelled after three seasons of Harmon.
EPISODE GRADE: B- (MVP: Joel McHale)
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