Friday, March 22, 2013

Community as we knew it...

If you've been watching Community this season, chances are, you know what I'm talking about when I say that the show we all knew and loved is no more.

Despite the ousting of creator Dan Harmon as show runner, I was excited about Community's return and optimistic that the actors and writers knew the quirky world of Greendale Community College and its cast of colorful characters well enough to bring back a show that had some semblance to the original.

Alas, the episodes that have aired just prove why I tend toward pessimistic realism.

Community was never your typical sitcom. That was part of its charm. Part of what it did so well was parody the pop culture around us, such as in a Quentin Tarantino inspired paintball episode. The writers this season attempted to parody the widely popular Hunger Game books and movie in an episode that pretty much sums up everything that is wrong with this season - instead of ACTUALLY parodying The Hunger Games, the show TOLD us it was going to do it, and then never actually got around to showing us anything having to do with The Hunger Games. One of the great rules of writing - and this applies to writing that people just read, so it most definitely applies to writing that will be turned into something people watch like, say, a television show - is SHOW DON'T TELL. Don't tell me why an event was exciting. Describe for me how there were fireworks and acrobats and a car chase. So in the case of Community, we have an episode which is trying to play on The Shawshank Redemption, with Annie, Troy, & Abed trying to escape from Shirley's terrible Thanksgiving celebration. We know it's terrible because the characters keep telling us it is. We don't actually get to see any of the terrible things that are happening. And then to top it off, we only know its a Shawshank tribute because Abed says it is, not because the characters actually DO anything to try to escape besides stand around in a garage and talk about escaping.

It's not just bad Community writing. It's bad writing, period.

The characters are all still there, but their voices are not the same. Its people trying to get inside the head of Dan Harmon, who is no longer there, and write what they think he would write...except its like these people have never even met Harmon. It's obvious that Harmon was the major voice and heart and soul of this show, and that Community as we knew it is over and gone for good. It would almost be better if these writers realized that and rebooted the show - keep the characters and general concept, but make them you're own. Shows reboot all the time for all sorts of reasons. If you can't imitate someone's voice, you make your own. Yes, it would be like watching a different show, but it would be so much better than what is happening now - these writers are so at a lost trying to recapture Harmon's voice that the show isn't even funny anymore. It's not heartfelt, it's not original, it's not even typical sitcom fare. Two and a Half Men is funnier than the Community airing now, and that's saying a lot. I keep watching out of habit and obviously ill-advised optimism that things might still turn around. But it's no longer must-see TV for me. Thank god for my Community DVDs...three seasons of brilliance is better than nothing.

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