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Wednesday, 22 of September of 2021

Tag » Community

Dan Harmon Leaving Is Okay

Or how Community will be your new Sugar Ray

Oh noooooooooooo!

I promise this won’t be another blog post about the rise and fall of Dan Harmon or one that bemoans the death of greatness at the hands of an industry that can’t appreciate talent or one that demands Dan Harmon be installed as supreme leader of Must-See TV or I WILL BURN THIS PLACE TO THE GROUND. We here at Monsters of Television tend to have a more sober approach to television scandals and news (sometimes to our own Google-Analytical demise, see the low statistics for our thoughts on Girls) and the same will be said for a look at the changing of the guard on one of our favorite shows. I won’t speak for Noel (I’m sure he’ll have his own addendum or companion piece [dissenting opinion?] if this doesn’t line up precisely with his thoughts) but here’s my take on everything, based on the last twenty-four hours of the Twitter news cycle.

It’ll be fine. It won’t be the same. But it’ll be — fine.

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Community – “Digital Estate Planning”, “The First Chang Dynasty”, & “Introduction to Finality”

“This is a lock of my hair.”
[with cautious affection] “Creepy.”

Community Title CardSo I thought this entry was going to waaaaaaaay too long, but it’s in fact going to be relatively short. This isn’t because the episode are bad — they aren’t — but that there’s nothing particular bonkers about them (well, “Digital Estate Planning” is bonkers, but I’ll talk about it). They’re just solid, well-balanced episodes of Community, episodes that demonstrate what this show does well: lots of laughs, risk-taking, and generally satisfactory character moments.

I’m going to take just a moment to address “Digital Estate Planning” on its own, and then the other two episodes work well enough as a unit.

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Community – “Curriculum Unavailable”

We’re all kind of crazy-town banana-pants.

Community Title CardWhen this season was just starting, and a number of folks were kvetching about the show’s seemingly single-minded focus on interrogating what it means for the study group to be a group. I was hoping the show would embrace this more, needling and working through the notion that, on sitcoms, the cast rarely interacts with anyone else, and the dysfunctional darkness that it implies.

“Curriculum Unavailable” circles back to this a little bit, and I dug that aspect of the show. But kind of like “Virtual Systems Analysis” I feel like the episode is a little lumpy, taking a bit too long to embrace the darkness that’s been lurking in Community since Jeff and Shirley seriously thought about making sure Chang went to prison. Read more »

Community – “Course Listing Unavailable”

“Greendale has warped me like a Barbie doll in a microwave.”

Community Title CardIt’s to Community‘s credit that the death of Starburns wasn’t just a joke to cap off the Law & Order homage but would rather be something that carries over and has an impact on the show’s characters into the next episode. While the theme/concept episodes have largely been free of consequence this season (‘largely’ being the keyword there), I like that the consequences carry over a bit into other episodes.

But “Course Listing Unavailable” fumbles things rather badly in its attempt at, I think, doing some sort of satire about feelings of disenfranchisement and the corruption of power. The episode never arrives at a cohesive whole about those points, both  in terms of commentary or humor, leaving the episode feeling very incomplete. Read more »

Community – “Basic Lupine Urology”

“Objection. She’s clearly ramping up to something.”

Community Title CardI routinely do nothing but complain about how Commmunity, when it does these concept episodes, doesn’t ground itself in larger character beats and moments. It annoys me to no end.

But like a witness at the end of an episode on Law & Order, I’m going to go ahead and break on the stand right here and now: That really wasn’t an issue for me in “Basic Lupine Urology” (Get it? Tell me you get it. I’m not going to explain it to you).

This is, of course, because I’m heavily invested in the subject of the episode’s homage. As a result, I can see how “Basic Lupine Urology” could fail for people who aren’t steeped in Law & Order‘s inner-workings (GUYS, LESLIE HENDRIX!). I’ve had this happen to me before with other shows, and I know a number of people probably experienced a similar feeling of exclusionary-ness with Community‘s “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” last season.

But, for me, this episode is was a big, gooey love letter to a show that I continue to enjoy in syndication, so you’ll have to pardon me while I gush about it. Because I’m going to gush.
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Community – “Virtual Systems Analysis”

“Is this a social cue?”

Community Title CardThe cast, writers, and producers of Community were pretty concerned about “Virtual Systems Analysis” at PaleyFest, with Dan Harmon in particularly fretting about whether this episode was going to be the best or worst thing to happen to television ever.

Ego-stroking aside about being able to be the best or worst on television, “Virtual Systems Analysis” is really neither of those things. Like “Critical Film Studies” before it (but nowhere near as…I don’t even know…elegant, I think is the word I want), the episode seeks to offer some insight into Abed’s behavior, and this time adds in Annie to the mix. Running through scenarios in the Dreamatorium during a 3-hour lunch, the two come to grips with a number of things about their behaviors and their positions within in the group.

It’s not a terribly funny episode (though it does have funny elements) and I do appreciate the character work they do in the episode, but it was just like a bit…too much, maybe? Not in a bad way, but just in a way that I can see how the episode would’ve worked in less gimmicky way. Like “Critical Film Studies.” Read more »

Community – “Origins of Vampire Mythology”

“Or are you a human mirror?”

Community Title CardHello types of Community episodes that just give me warm fuzzy feelings.

And I don’t just mean that it’s a Britta-centric episode. Though that does factor in. Rather, it’s a wonderful episode, as Kelly noted, about broken people that find strength in one another.

“Origins of Vampire Mythology” provides the type of emotional moments that “Pillows & Blankets” should have provided, but failed to do so because it was too wrapped in parodying Ken Burns. Instead the episode provides nice insights into a few of our characters (insights we already knew in some capacity), and it sets up what could be some really beautiful payoffs down the road. Read more »

Community – “Digital Exploration of Interior Design” & “Pillows and Blankets”

“I was going to invest in IBM in 1952, but life is full of disappointments.”

Community Title CardThis two-parter was a messy, not great thing.

Unsurprisingly at this point, I found “Digital Exploration of Interior Design” to be the stronger of the two episodes, and even that wasn’t a particularly strong episode of the series. “Pillows and Blankets” suffers from its homage to Ken Burns documentaries, not that it is poorly executed (it isn’t), but that it distances the audiences from what should be a very important episode in the story of Troy and Abed. Instead, it’s just a high-concept episode that undercuts the emotional impact of two people who are maturing and growing up and how this affects their relationship. Read more »

Community – “Contemporary Impressionists”

Community – “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts”

I’m one of the Steppenwolf Wives!”

Community Title CardI’m not going to get into a big navel gazing post about Community‘s role in the television landscape, what it means, what we’ll lose, how I’ve missed it. There’ll be some links at the end that tackle those issues.

Instead, let’s just talk about how nice this episode is. Because it is nice. It’s the kind of episode that I tend to enjoy more than the high-concept ones, one with a well-constructed core and a nice build to a great ending.
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