Disclaimer: This review could mention anything from any of the season 4 episodes of Community. If you haven’t seen the episodes yet and plan to, be warned; spoilers ahoy.
A little while back, I posted about how I still have hope for Community. It has changed quite a bit from its first three seasons, and a lot of people I know and don’t know have to varying degrees given up on it or have become frustrated with it or are just downright bored with it now. I’m not sure where I stand with it. I certainly don’t feel the intense love for it now than I did when I really felt like “a part of the fandom.”
But that isn’t to say I’ve hated the season. I’ve been following reviews of Community very closely on the Onion A.V. Club written by Todd VanDerWerff and have more or less been on the same page with his views. I got the sense that he was being pretty patient with the series and accepting of the fact that, to use his words, it’s basically a different show now.
Except last night that changed. The final episode, “Advanced Introduction to Finality” got a D grade, the lowest grade that an episode of this series has ever gotten. I was with VanDerWerff up until partway through, when his writing began to sound more and more like a temper tantrum and less like a critic. To a degree, I understand the reaction. He’s been with the series since the beginning, as have I, and I’m guessing that we both really love the series, so he was disappointed to see an episode far from the series’ best finishing off what could be Community‘s last season.
As I said, the episode was not a stellar one, but I still stand by my belief that most Community episodes, even bad ones, are still better than many other sitcoms. I’d rather watch a horrible episode of this show than watch The Big Bang Theory, Two And a Half Men, although comparing the show to those two seems a little unfair. There are a few comedies on TV I do like watching or have recently started to like watching, including Bob’s Burgers, New Girl and Parks & Recreation.
Overall, season four of Community has been a little hit and miss. I did enjoy the opening episode, “History 101,” even if “The Hunger Deans” was a little bit uninspired. Jim Rash is a consistent high point of the series, though, and nearly every scene he’s involved in has been slayingly funny. In last week’s episode “Heroic Origins” I loved the callback to the first season when he picks up a piece of lingerie and says “I hope this doesn’t awaken something in me.”
There were a few episodes that fell flat for me. One was “Alternative History of the German Invasion” which, for some reason, reintroduced the German guys from season three’s excellent “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” but without Nick Kroll. The episode relied far too heavily on German stereotypes to fill out the episode, whereas “Foosball” last season packed in probably the best Shirley storyline the show has ever done.
I was also not a huge fan of “Intro to Knots” which was almost a bottle episode, but not quite as funny.
That being said, I liked “Paranormal Parentage” which had a bit of a Scooby-Doo vibe to it, particularly with Gilbert making an appearance at the end of the episode. “Herstory of Dance” was also great, because it was nice seeing “Britta’d” become something a little more positive.
And despite the hate that a lot of people had for this one, “Intro to Felt Surrogacy” was a lot of fun for me. I loved the weird puppets, the random Sara Bareilles and Jason Alexander and the general Muppets feel to it. Oh yes, and “Basic Human Anatomy” was written by Jim Rash and was quite good, Body switching has been done before but Rash managed to work some heart into it.
I don’t buy into the criticism this season that the characters have reverted back or changed way too much. Jeff has changed a lot since his season one beginnings, Abed has become an anchor for the group as opposed to a weird side character and Shirley has stopped self-pitying and become quite the strong woman. Britta changed in season three, and I do believe that Dan Harmon made her stupider, although her tendency to “Britta” things is a trait that has been established since season one (see “The Science of Illusion” from season one).
So I think I’ll say it again: I still have faith in Community. One thing that I do agree with VanDerWerff about is that it would be horrible for NBC to cancel the series after an episode that wasn’t the series’ best. The show has almost brought me to tears before and I feel like the series finale should probably do that again.