Posted February 14, 2013 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment

Community Season 4: A Parody of Community

“Community” has never been a popular show. On a national scale it has been widely ignored. During it’s third season no episode topped four million viewers, a relatively miniscule number. This rating is especially small for NBC’s Thursday night comedy line-up, a block that has held shows like “The Cosby Show,” “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” and “The Office.”

In spite of its weak ratings, like so many cult shows before it, it was a critical darling and had a devoted fan base. When the show went on hiatus midway through its third season, fans reacted to the threat of the show being cancelled in droves, protesting and pleading for the show to get another season. Eventually NBC relented and gave fans hope for the series to be continued. Technically the show is still on, having just premiered the first episode of its fourth season last Thursday, February 7. However, “Community” is for the first time without series creator Dan Harmon and it shows.

Harmon created the show, which premiered in the fall of 2009, and served as the show runner throughout the first three seasons. Throughout that time, it was constantly rumored that outside of the writers’ room, he was a difficult person to work with, especially for his superiors at Sony and NBC. On May 18, just the day after the final episode of the third season debuted, NBC announced Harmon would no longer be show runner or producer but in his statement mentioned Harmon might still have some role on the show going forward. Harmon corrected him via his Tumblr, “That’s a misquote. I think he meant to say he’s sure cookies are yummy, because he’s never called me once in the entire duration of his employment at NBC.” Harmon went on to make it very clear he had been fired and in response many of his producers and writers left the show with him.

“Community” now has two new show runners, David Guarascio and Moses Port, whose backgrounds are drastically different from Harmon’s. When Harmon launched “Community,” he had already created “The Sarah Silverman Program” and had written for “The Ben Stiller Show” along with future comedy luminaries Judd Apatow (“40 Year Old Virgin”), David Cross (“Arrested Development”), and Dana Gould (“The Simpsons”). Guarascio and Port, on the other hand, wrote for Steve Levitan’s (“Modern Family,”  “Wings”) “Just Shoot Me” and co-created the short-lived sitcom “Aliens in America.” “Aliens in America” was a sitcom in which a family takes in a foreign exchange student, expecting an attractive European one, to try and make their son more popular at school but end up getting a middle-eastern exchange student and learn that he can be cool even though he isn’t attractive and white. I’m honestly not trying to say that these guys aren’t funny, just that they don’t have Harmon’s sense of humor or pedigree, and therefore will run the show with a different comic style.

The first episode of the fourth season confirmed those fears. The episode could be described loosely as a collage of what non-Dan Harmon people might see as “Community” fans’ favorite aspects of the show rolled into 22 minutes. Epic events worked into the mundane setting of a community college a la the paintball episodes of the first and second seasons? Episode one has Hunger Games! Meta-breakaways from the main plot’s linear continuity a la the Christmas musical or the Claymation episodes? Episode one has an Inception like view into Abed’s mind to see his “happy place.” There were legitimately funny moments in the episode. I was especially partial to Fred Willard’s cameos, but these tropes came across as empty and self-serving in a way even the most subversive elements of Harmon’s show never did, during even its most convoluted moments (8-bit episode, anyone?). While it’s nice that Guarascio and Port aren’t attempting to turn the show into a run of the mill sitcom and are trying to imitate Harmon’s style, the show seems to have lost both its cohesiveness and the indefinable quality that Harmon brought to it.

By David Lukashok