Keeping Tabs: The COMMUNITY Way (Updated)
We’ve seen it before — a show, hanging onto the edge of a cliff by its whitening fingers, tries to talk it’s way into a helping hand — suddenly, new cast members come in to try and reinvigorate things, sharks get jumped, and the acrid odor of desperation seeps out of our televisions right into our living rooms. There is that way to take when a show begins to feel its mortality, or there is the COMMUNITY way.
See, Dan Harmon and company were on that ledge with their fingers growing sore and they chose to let go, taking a drop of faith toward the canyon graveyard of dead TV shows in the hope that a magical flying unicorn would magically materialize and swoop in to their rescue.
COMMUNITY didn’t sell it’s soul to draw another breath, it spit in the face of convention and it was willing to die splendidly, it’s integrity and unhinged creativity in tact.
How else does one explain ‘Blankets and Pillows’, ‘Basic Lupine Urology’, and last night’s tremendous ‘Digital Estate Planning’? These episodes which were, separately, takeoffs on a Ken Burns Civil War documentary, an episode of LAW AND ORDER, and an 8 bit video game, were not necessarily a world apart from the zombie attacks and paintball war filled episodes of the past, but they illustrate the point that Harmon is comfortable with COMMUNITY living fast, dying young, and leaving a pretty corpse.
There is something romantic in that. A show guided by creativity and the full exploration of the writing staff’s breathtaking imagination — not ratings, not longevity, and syndication dollars — they’re doing it for the right reasons. Now, I’m not a fool, I’m sure those other things factor in, but maybe the people behind this show want to bank on that which has earned them millions of counted (and uncounted, damn you piracy!) fans and their unyielding loyalty.
This show has a pulse and a season 4 because of those fans and they give a damn not because COMMUNITY keeps pushing the envelope. No, they give a damn because the show clearly doesn’t.
COMMUNITY is made to be funny, not to be thought of as funny, you love it, I love it, fantastic. But this is art for the sake of the creators smirk, art without a thought of reception, limitation, or consequence in my view, and that makes COMMUNITY punk rock comedy. That makes the show unpredictable, a bit uncomfortable, and completely brilliant.
It won’t be around forever, it may not even get to #sixseasonsandamovie but as a now old and boring rock star once said before he became old and boring, “Only the good die young”, so enjoy COMMUNITY while it lasts, and revel in the fact that this show will be measured in impact not longevity.
UPDATE: Well, Dan Harmon is out and Sony has brought in two new show runners, David Guarascio and Moses Port (HAPPY ENDINGS) who, according to Vulture “have a strong reputation around Hollywood for balancing quirky with mainstream”. A skill that Harmon does not have, and didn’t seem to care to pursue. This to our delight and this to, apparently, his detriment.
Right now social networks are buzzing, and people are livid and seething through, most likely, literal tears. I’ve never seen a fandom so dedicated to a show, not ever, and these people got screwed by this decision. The charm, the pull, the candy center of COMMUNITY has always been it’s ideas, and the factory is now closed. I don’t think these new guys will be bad, they’ll just be different, but it won’t be the kind of different that COMMUNITY fans have come to expect.
With that said though, everything up top remains. Dan Harmon ended this season like it was his last, and now that it turns out that it was, well, at least he went out on top. Hopefully, when all is said and done, we’ll be able to say the same thing about COMMUNITY, but I think the high point may reside in the rear view from here on out.
UPDATE #2: Well, Dan Harmon got fired without Sony even trying to negotiate with him, and that is straight from Harmon’s keyboard. Check out his long, funny, and honest appraisal of the situation here.