The Wishy-Washiest Timeline

The second of my Big Three shows to recently close out its season is Community. What can I write that hasn't already been hashed out in a million other places? As anyone who watches the show knows, Season 4 was the first season to lack the guiding force of Dan Harmon behind the scenes, and simultaneously had to handle the slow-motion car crash of Chevy Chase's waning involvement and eventual resignation. Will Community ever be the same? Can the new creative forces behind the show still bring the magic that made this show so compelling in the first place? Is it still a show worth watching?

No. Somewhat. Maybe.

This season was a rough, rough ride. Even without the behind-the-scenes drama, it would be difficult to follow the Golden Age of Season 3, when this show was at its absolute peak. Now, with all the tumult, it's like I'm watching a completely different show. With a couple of exceptions, none of the Season 4 episodes were terrible, but none of them even approached the genius of last year. The argument I've been trying to peddle everywhere is that you can enjoy the show if you pretend that this past season was a high school production of the television show Community. That is, if you're able to lower your expectations of what you'll get out of this show, you can still enjoy it to some degree.

I know that's damning with faint praise, but that's the highest amount of praise I can muster. I'd rank even the relatively slow-starting Season 1 above this most recent season. Still, there was a bright spot here or there. "Herstory of Dance" was probably my favorite episode, in which Britta organizes a protest against her perceived sexism of a Sadie Hawkins dance by throwing an accidental Sophie B. Hawkins dance in parallel. Too many episodes this season relied on lazy callbacks to things that worked in the past without building on them at all, but "Herstory..." was able to stand alone with some great jokes and believable character interaction. "Economics of Marine Biology" was also a pretty good episode, especially in the B-story of Troy and Shirley enrolling in a Physical Education Education class, where their skills of being high school gym teachers are put to the test.

Most of the other episodes were mediocre. There was a laugh here or there, but nothing to write home about. This is a show that would have blown my mind in the past with a puppet episode or a body-switching episode, and when we got them in Season 4, they were...fine. Not great. Not horrible. Just a thing that happened. And saddest of all, there was the one-two punch of "Conventions of Space and Time" and "Alternative History of the German Invasion", which will be difficult to top as the worst Community episodes in the show's run.

I haven't turned on this show like a lot of the other rabid fans. I'm still interested in these characters and where they'll go from here. Community has just been picked up for a thirteen-episode fifth season, and as I said on Facebook, learning about that news filled me with wild, cautious pessoptimism. I'll still be watching and hoping. It's entirely possible that this most recent season was simply one of painful transition, and the writers can work towards a show that may not be as captivating as it once was, but still deliver a lot of fun. And even if it doesn't, we'll always have "Remedial Chaos Theory". So go refresh your bowl of toilet olives.

Community - Season 4: C+


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