Last year after the premiere of Community's 4th Season I wrote that the show had finally done the impossible and was getting decent ratings.
Now that wasn't meant as a crack at the show's creator Dan Harmon, who, after a very public spat with Chevy Chase (one of the show's stars) was fired as Community's show runner before the start of season 4.
No it was much more in the vein of wishful thinking, in that I hoped, somehow, a show that I had come to love (and those who know me know I don't throw the L word around lightly) could remain the quirky conceptual comedy, unique to network TV even without the creative genius behind it no longer involved.
For those of you not yet familiar with Community (every Thursday night, 8pm on NBC) it follows the weekly adventures of a study group at Greendale Community College, and it's pretty remarkable what one study group can get up to.
the new show runners' idea of emulating Harmon was to write the cast into wacky adventures and let hilarity ensue.
However quirky story lines and self-referential humour always straddles a very thin line between laugh out loud funny and annoying. In the 4th season it was oh so painfully clear that the new show runners' idea of emulating Harmon was to write the cast into wacky adventures and let hilarity ensue.
What I love (wow twice in one article) is Harmon's ability to push the boundaries of what can be done in sitcom/single camera TV.
However it wasn't until the second season of the show that Harmon and writer producer Chris McKenna really hit their stride. This was the season that saw episodes on D&D, post apocalyptic style paint ball, simulated spaceflight, zombies, a claymation Christmas episode and my personal favourite, episode 21: Paradigms of Human Memory - a clip show with clips from never seen before adventures culminating in Jeff Winger's (Joel McHale) delivering a monologue as the cast cycles through alternate realities of adventures they may or may not have had.
This style of out of left field comedy mixed with just the right amount of pathos and sentimentality is what has earned it such a rapid cult following (fans performed an extended flash mob outside NBC headquarters in NYC when the network threatened to cancel the show.)
I decided to wait and get a few episodes in before making any pronouncements...
"This is a very round about way of getting to season five (my old editor would never forgive me for burying the lead this deep, but then he still works in print, so there)."
"I decided to wait and get a few episodes in before making any pronouncements (this time) on season five. But now half a dozen episodes in it's clear the old magic is still there."
Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad) comes in ably to fill the role of the 'old guy' on the study group after Chase's departure from the show last season. He plays a former cop turned criminology professor and gives the cast a new (and much needed) dynamic.
Community has very quickly thrown off the pall of season 4 and returned to its quirky/sentimental ways.
So far we've seen a self referential re-piloting in the opening episode, a concept show based on just about every Hollywood thriller ever made, a campus wide game of 'lava' (with Mad Max overtones) a [semi] bottle episode featuring a group polygraph and last night's episode (Jan 30) about political corruption, a bear massacre themed mid-term dance and a parody of Game of Thrones (Bloodlines of Conquest).
Community has very quickly thrown off the pall of season 4 and returned to its quirky/sentimental ways. Happily the new season is scoring new ratings highs and finding an audience beyond its cult following.
Sadly the show is now on hiatus till Feb 27 (to make way for something called the Olympics, sigh).