There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who watch Community, and those who are wrong. However, when it comes to the discussion of the new fourth season of the show, opinions are much more muddled. Coming in months after the originally scheduled date of 19th October and after the hugely polarising decision to axe Dan Harmon, the original creator of the show, Community’s fourth season was always going to divide its fans. With three episodes out so far, it’s time to take a look and see whether the show is living up to its own insanely high standards.
I’ll start off by saying that it still hasn’t quite hit its stride yet. There are a lot of positives, which I’ll get to, but there are also the classic signs of behind-the-scenes changes. It’s in the small things, the slightly slower joke delivery; the repetition of a joke one too many times. It was there in the first episode, where the show kicked off in typically acerbic style by doing a skit where they parodied primetime comedies. The first five minutes or so were filled with copious canned laughter, purposefully slow gags and hilariously forced character narration, all building to a fantastic dig at shows like The Big Bang Theory and Two and A Half Men. The same joke, however, when used for the fourth time in the episode, wore slightly thin and came across less as mocking and a touch more as bitter.
The signs of a show in imbalance were all too obvious in the most recent episode, Conventions of Space and Time, where there was unfortunately very little to make me laugh. Nobody really seemed to be on form, the natural zing that was so characteristic of Community (especially Season Two) was lacking, and there were probably too many subplots going on. For the fans, it would have been depressing.
However, that being said, there have also been some very good signs of things to come. The second episode, Paranormal Parentage, was much, much more like Community of old. It was in this episode where you saw the cast start to click seamlessly like they used to before, where every single punchline was on point and there was the warm feeling that the dialogue was so rapid fire that you could go back, rewatch the episode and find things you’d missed. And it is this that they need to do more of, to go back to the old school Community, the stuff they had in Season One and Two.
I am probably in the minority, but I think it may even be a good thing to start fresh without Harmon. The man was undoubtedly a genius, the mastermind behind the show, but there were indications that he was fraying. There were leaked reports about his behaviour on set, about multiple missed deadlines, scripts that were slowly becoming entirely improvised on the fly, friction with the actors. And it began to show in the episodes as well, the later part of Season Three lacking focus and drive; a stream of ‘special’ episodes to the point where the standard episode about a community college became a rarity. With a fresh start, the creators of the show have the freedom to find a new direction. They can play around with the characters a bit now; they can use a couple of episodes to find their feet and bring the show up to speed.
And yes, I am hopeful for the future of the show. There have been some misfires, but I think that with the quality of the cast, and the tone that has been set over the last three years, that it could become great again. It won’t be the same without Harmon, of course not, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t be as good. Here’s hoping for six seasons and a movie.