Why I DO care that Community is coming back
(Lainey: Click here for Maria’s article yesterday about not being a fan of Community. Today it’s the counterpoint courtesy of Sarah.)
This is me electrically waving at new LaineyGossip contributor Maria and promptly picking a fight with her. BECAUSE THAT’S HOW I ROLL, BOO.
Yesterday, Maria wrote that she doesn’t care about Community and whether or not it comes back. She raised a number of solid points. Yes, Community is very “in”. You either get it or you don’t, and as it tends to happen with beloved cult items, if you don’t get it, those that do cluck their tongues at you and judge you. (Lainey: um, confirmed. Yes. I heard from the Community fans with the rage of Twi-Hards yesterday. Who knew?) And yes, Community is weird and ridiculous and no one is particularly likeable, though Troy and Abed are adorable dudebros, even if they do ignore other relationships in favor of their platonic love fest. And yes, I’ll even grant Maria that Community lacks a fun spirit. It is, in fact, quite mean-spirited. It often revels in its mean-spiritedness, as it relies on Jeff Winger—the Douche King of Douchonia—to be the emotional lack-of-heart of the show. I have no problem with this as I am the type of person who regularly says things like, “I hope you get stung by bees,” and, “If you don’t control your child I am going to set your hair on fire.” What I’m saying is, I’m not a nice person. So not-nice comedy makes me laugh. (Subtext: Maria is probably a WAY better person than me.)
First, I am not clucking my tongue at Maria, Lainey, or anyone who doesn’t like Community. There are only a few things I expect to be universally beloved, and Community is not one of those things (if you don’t love Friday Night Lights, South Park, Arrested Development, any one of Joss Whedon’s TV shows or Dr. Horrible, or Archer, we might have a problem). Everything else falls into the category of “well *I* like it, but I’m not good people, so I don’t expect everyone else to like the things I like.” And everything Maria said about Community is how I feel about Girls, so I feel like we’re relating on a higher plane by disliking different things for the same reasons.
Here’s my defense of Community, though, and why I’m glad we’re getting a fourth season, even if it will only be 13 (very likely neutered) episodes and airing on the Death Knell Night of Friday: Community is Mannerist television.
Mannerism was all the rage in the sixteenth century for about sixty years at the end of the High Renaissance. They’re airy-fairy paintings that were deliberately made to look artificial with elongated proportions and stylized poses that no actual human could ever hold. I like Mannerism and think it’s the cotton candy of the Renaissance—a helluva lot easier to swallow than the torture porn that characterizes most of the rest of the period—but a lot of people don’t. It doesn’t seem “quite right”. It’s affected and intellectual and precious, which is also how I would describe Community.
But the importance of Community, like Mannerism before it, lies in the ambition of the idea. Community is tremendously ambitious, one of the most ambitious TV shows going. A lot of what Maria cited as annoyances—the quirkiness, the meta-ness, the lack of a character “with heart” to stand in for the audience—are choices that have been deliberately made to fly in the face of conventional TV wisdom. Community is trying to break every rule of making “good” television just to see what the final product is.
You could argue that this doesn’t work because Community has always suffered low ratings, which means most people don’t like what they’re seeing, but the flipside of that coin is that they’re making it okay to go to some pretty bizarre places on network TV. Every time I watch Community, I’m amazed it’s on NBC and not FX or Comedy Central. This show doesn’t care about the Minivan. They’re throwing spaghetti at the wall just to see what sticks.
And we need that in network television. If we don’t have one or two rule breakers around, we end up with the same show four times over on every network (see also: the explosion of crime procedurals over the last decade). You don’t have to like Community but you should care about its fate because it’s the bellwether for how far network sitcoms will be allowed to go. Not all the spaghetti sticks to the wall, but when it does, it creates a Mannerist masterpiece of comedic strange.
Attached - Alison Brie on The Tonight Show earlier this month. (Lainey: she’s dating Dave Franco! Click here to see pictures.)