Why I don’t care that Community is Coming Back
(Lainey: a couple of weeks ago, Maria emailed me to say she didn’t give a sh-t about Community and whether or not it would get renewed. Finally! Someone else who isn’t member of the Community Fan Club. Oh I hear you smart comedy people who KNOW comedy - we don’t KNOW and our failure to appreciate the show speaks to that which is deficient in our souls. Yes, we are lesser. Here is Maria’s lesser defence of the stupid among us who haven’t been invited.)
I was all set to write about the Community finale over the weekend, and then it became a mess.
It started, publicly at least, in March/April when Chevy Chase reportedly walked off the set over a script disagreement with showrunner Dan Harmon. At the wrap party, Harmon tried to lead the crowd in a “F-ck Chevy” chant – Chase was there with his wife and daughter. Then Chevy left Dan an irate voicemail (“Your writing is getting worse and worse”) and Dan played them publicly and they were released to TMZ (you can listen here). B-tches be b-tching, basically.
As a lover of TV and pettiness, this interests me way more than Community ever has. Because try as I might, I’ve never loved Community. Deep breath: I don’t even like it.
When an intelligent comedy comes along, if you are a fan, you have to be a hardcore fan. Preaching, Tweeting, telling everyone how much they are missing out on the "best comedy since Arrested Development." And the first season of Community, I was down with that. I thought it was sharp, smart and irreverent. But as time went on, I lost interest. I would nod along when someone said how amazing Community is, because that's what you're supposed to do when a sitcom doesn't revolve around erectile dysfunction and boob jokes.
Community lacks - sorry if this sounds corny - a fun spirit. I appreciate it. I just don’t laugh when I watch it.
Chevy Chase gave this interview to Huffington Post before the dust-up, and damn if this loon doesn’t make some good points. You can read the full piece here.
First though, he starts off by insulting his castmates. He jabs Joel McHale (“There are narcissistic elements to Joel [McHale]'s character, which come easily to him.”) and says some pretty offensive things about his female coworkers (“I think that the two white girls -- the two pretty, young girls, Alison [Brie] and Gillian [Jacobs] -- they're probably more like people that we can all understand”).
No wonder Chase is pretty much disliked by everyone he has worked with. But then he says, “There are many times when this doesn't seem like a community college at all. Particularly this year ... I think we've gone way south. And way north. It doesn't even appear to have anything to do with college.” I hate to be that viewer, but when do when do they graduate? Should I care this much? Or is my pre-occupation with community college more about my inability to care about the space-time continuum or doppelganger storylines? The “Curriculum Unavailable” episode touched on the 4 years of Community college issue, but it was in a, “Please, you are so dumb for caring that we are still in community college” way.
Community feels like an inside joke that the audience is left out of. Some see this as niche, I see it as smug. The jokes take subversive to the next level — Cougar Town references and hasthag gags, really? I wanted to love the Goodfellas/chicken episode, because who doesn’t love a Goodfellas homage, but I found it clever, not funny. (And for the record, if you understand Italian slang Goodfellas is hilarious.)
The cast is talented, absolutely. But the characters are too quirky. I hate that word, but with all the personal ticks and voices and gags, they ring false. It lacks earnestness; it’s like they don’t touch the ground. Arrested Development had Jason Bateman’s man-boy charm to guide it, Job’s need for parental validation, George Michael and Maeby’s teenage love.
Community’s characters are a mixed bag of unlikable traits (self-absorbed, close minded, petty) – which is usually great fodder for jokes – but there’s no “straight man” to balance them out. Each character is stranger than the next so there's no pay-off. I guess their combined weirdness is supposed to elevate the study group to some higher level of existence. The group dynamic in Community, to steal a phrase from Family Guy, insists upon itself. And it’s exhausting.
There has to be a character with heart to guide the wackiness; someone with more than a quip and a wink. I just have no attachment to any of them. Chevy summed it up for me:
“[Last season], no one had any idea whether I would or wouldn't come back, but who in God's name in this country would care?”
Joel McHale is fantastic on Talk Soup – he’s lambastes the Kardashians and Ryan Seacrest and hasn’t managed to get him fired from E! On Community, Joel is Jeff Winger and the “smartest guy in the room” shtick gets stretched thin. As the object of everyone’s attention, the show hangs on him. Arrogant and narcissistic, he’s just so self-satisfied that I lose interest in what he’s saying really fast. To me, he’s the guy at the party who wants to talk about real estate or his boat.
This week, NBC ordered season 4, but moved it to Friday night with Whitney. Are there any Community/Whitney crossover fans? I can’t imagine who this would be. NBC loves to move its low-related critical darlings to this lackluster night, don’t they? Ahem, Friday Night Lights. Over the weekend, NBC replaced creator and showrunner Dan Harmon; NBC says he will be involved, but Harmon released a statement making it clear he was indeed fired with no warning or discussion. You can read his full letter here. He doesn’t sound keen to consult on his own show. Who can blame him?
I may not be watching season 4, but I’m happy for the fans. Although the fans probably aren’t happy with me right now.
Attached - Joel McHale on The Tonight Show last week.