At least it’s still better than Go On.
Last spring, a large section of the internet had a collective seizure when it was announced the NBC sitcom Community would be going forward without Dan Harmon, the super-duper-mega-genius who created it all. It seemed like sacrilege, since the show was Harmon’s baby from the beginning, and he had put so much of his blood, sweat, and tears into the project.
When it was announced that he would be replaced by David Guarascio and Moses Port, best known for their work on Happy Endings and Just Shoot Me (the latter is a fairly underrated show, for the record), all the diehard fans were all to eager to write the postmortem for Community without even seeing any of the new episodes. Well, after watching the first three episodes of the post-Harmon era, it’s my sad duty to report that those devoted ultra-fans actually had a point.
The show just isn’t the same.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s bad, in fact, I’ve chuckled quite a few times during all three episodes. No, Community is still a good show, it’s just not the one we fell in love from 2009 to 2012, and it doesn’t look like that show is ever coming back.
The general concern about Guarascio and Port is that they would try to turn the show into a more conventional sitcom, robbing it of the glorious weirdness that made us love it to begin with. While those tendencies may have crept up a few times, the real problem is that they’re trying too hard to create a show that feels like Community, without actually capturing the vibe that made it what it is. It’s not bad, but it feels a bit like fanfiction, with some dedicated viewer trying desperately to capture the magic of the real deal, but not quite getting it.
The show tries to capture the meta-humor that Harmon was known for, but it doesn’t quite get it. In the second episode, the gang is trapped in a haunted house and Abed is watching them on camera in one of the more obscure rooms of the house. His remark? “I remember when this show was about a community college.”
There’s a few things wrong with this. First off, it’s trying way too hard to be self-referential. Secondly, the show was always more about the off-the-wall exploits of seven misfits than it was about the school itself. Yes, some quality jokes were made about the general crumminess of Greendale (Go Human Beings!), but really, they could have done this shit at any school, and the core ideas would have still been there.
Things that used to be nuanced are now made to be more obvious, a lot like when Family Guy came back and the “Stewie is gay” and “everyone hates Meg” jokes were amped up to the max, just in case anyone wasn’t in on it. Don’t get me wrong, Community is still a far better show than Family Guy, but it’s giving us some of the telltale signs that it’s past its prime. Annie’s crush on Jeff isn’t the slightest bit subtle anymore, and in one episode, she pretends to be married to him, and comes off as somewhat insane.
Abed’s use of film and television as a framing device for his actual social life is also taken to the absolute limit, as in the first episode, he spends the time imagining he’s in a laugh-track filled sitcom with his friends. Admittedly, this is also a reference to the fear that Guarascio and Port would turn the show into a typical sitcom, but that’s just the problem; it’s two extremely obvious comments being made at the same time. Community wasn’t subtle under Harmon either, but the new creators are going for easy humor way too much, and it’s going to lead to more and more groans from people who come to this show wanting more than the usual.
I’m probably coming off too negative, because there’s still some laughs to be had, and this is still one of the better shows on TV, but still, it’s an imitation of itself. The Community we once knew is dead and gone. All we can do is chuckle at the new version, and try not to be too put off by the glaring flaws. Pop-pop…I guess.