The über-fans have decided that this simply does not matter. To them, anything successful must be akin to pop music, where pop music simply must be awful. Sure, lots of pop music is bad. But on occasion we get gems from the genre. Like jazz fans, they revel in how cool they must be to like something that is decidedly unpopular. I am not one of the superfans. I like the show and make every effort to see it when it is on, but I don't plan my life around it. I certainly don't place Community on par with sitcom classics such as The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66), M*A*S*H (1972-1983), or Cheers (1982-1993). Some have compared it to Arrested Development (2003-2006; 2013?), but Arrested Development was clearly a much slyer (and unconventional) take on Soap (1977-1981), which was itself a send-up of soap opera overreaches.
Where Community has become something of a mess, a show dedicated less to delivering coherent stories or building characters through the events of their lives, it didn't really start off that way. It was, looking at it again, a rather normal sitcom. It just decided to go with the absolutely insane notion of placing a group of adults (or varying degrees of maturity) into what essentially is a high school setting. Except, because high school isn't for adults, it became a very challenged community college: Greendale.
|Jeff Winger (McHale) in a prime example of his wardrobe misfires from Season One.|
Look at me being nowhere near on point. Community started off as a slightly off-beat sticom that, occasionally, would turn some of the conventions on their respective heads. But it hadn't become wrapped up in the need to shock and enthrall (some of) the audience with journeys into the absurd. It had recurring characters who were more than other hapless denizens of the halls, notably John Michael Higgins as Professor Whitman, Lauren Stamile as Professor Slater, John Oliver as Professor Duncan, and Eric Christian Olsen as Vaugh (being more of a denizen of the grassy quad); only one of those characters appears after Season One. The wacky antics revolved around things at the school because that is where the intersection of the character's lives was.
Somewhere along the line, in planning for a longer running show than four years (this was always more ambitious than realistic), Harmon decided to move the focus away from the classes, cafeteria, and the study group's reserved room in the library into their lives. This became very pronounced in Season Three, and stands in direct contrast to Season One. No doubt that Harmon, like Keith Olbermann, has gone crazy in part from having people praise his more out there moments. "Modern Warfare" (episode #23) was the first truly outrageous divergence from reality – it is the first paintball episode. It works not because it has escaped from any relationship with reality but because it can be viewed as an absurd but logical extension of how things are at Greendale, but only as an exception to the regular shenanigans. Having been praised for this, Harmon and company went off the rails in Season Three attempting to deliver as many as these type of events as possible. It makes Season One look divorced from the show by comparison.
|Annie (Brie) didn't have much to do but pine for Troy and react to scenes until the writing staff realized she had great chemistry with Jeff – and that came from them watching the episode where they had the two characters kiss (the first time).|
What is consistent is the total unnecessary presence of Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase). I don't blame Chase for this, because he can't do much beyond what he is given to work with, but he should have had some thoughts about how a fat man in his mid-60s doesn't make for compellingly funny broad physical comedy. Chase was always at his best when he was allowed to be a witty, warm (if befuddled or self-possessed) character struggling with minor inconveniences (see Clark Griswald or Andy Farmer) or putting his wits against devious bad guys (see Irwin Fletcher), but Harmon and company made his character into a nearly completely unsympathetic jackass. The character feels – from the very beginning – like a compromise forced upon the show by the network. You want to develop a show? Put a name character in it. It seems that Harmon's response was to put one in and then to have no idea what to do with him.