Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Community, Season 5

Score Technician: Michael DeLaney

Community tiptoed on the edge of cancellation for its first (marvelous) three seasons about/not about a group of with loveable misfits attending a community college. Hallmarks included deep pop culture references, meta-commentary, and a fearlessness in the face of being weird. Series creator Dan Harmon realized that he tested the NBC gods one time to many and he was fired. After an abysmal fourth season NBC hired Harmon back because NBC is a fickle teenager who wants his girlfriend back once he realizes that there really isn’t much else out there for him. Thus season 5 of Community shows Harmon and co. trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was the first three seasons. A year after graduating from Greendale, Jeff Winger has realized that being a good person and lawyer might not exactly pay off, so he and his study group return to Greendale to find new purpose and direction in the form of the “Save Greendale Committee.” Let’s see just how well Harmon did after being brought back from the dead.

BEST EPISODE: Episode 501 “Repilot”
HONORABLE MENTION: Episode 504 “Cooperative Polygraphy”
WORST EPISODE: Episode 510 “Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons”
(DIS)HONORABLE MENTION: Episode 507 “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality”
  • The heavy-handed imagery of Jeff Winger/Dan Harmon doing what he believes is good but still getting crushed by the machine. = +14pts 
  • Effective use of subdued grays and blacks to articulate the Dark Night of the Soul of Greendale, the study group and Jeff: dark, miserable and wonderful. = +10pts 
  • Jeff/Harmon addressing how characters and ideas have escaped from him, making a mission statement to return to character-based stories. = +13pts 
  • Not really fulfilling that promise – Shirley being mostly absent from two entire episodes. For shame! = -9pts 
  • Attributing anything that happened in Season 4 to the effects of a gas leak. = +5pts 
  • The return of Chevy Chase as Pierce Hawthorne via Obi-Wan Kenobi ghost hologram. = +14tpts 
  • Burning the old study table, blazing a new trail for our heroes. = +3pts 
  • The unfortunate truth that Jeff Winger cannot be the same ol’ Jeff Winger. Winger speech fails left and right. = +4pts 
  • Jonathan Banks’ Buzz Hickey is basically a more eccentric version of his Breaking Bad character Mike Ehrmantraut. And we’re ok with that. = +2pts 
  • Danny Pudi’s descent into madness as Abed tries to answer the unanswerable question of Nicolas Cage. = +8pts 
  • Donald Glover teases us with five episodes, then peaces out. = -7pts 
  • Hickey’s “Jim the Duck” cartoon is stupid bad. = -4pts. 
  • Troy and Abed disguised as furniture: one last amazing tag. = +7pts 
  • John Oliver returns as Professor Ian Duncan. = +2pts 
  • Professor Duncan unnecessarily creeping on Britta comes out of nowhere and it feels…just no. = -15pts 
  • Professor Duncan later realizing that he should not creep on Britta. = +1pt 
  • Gratuitous amount of stunt casting IE. Ben Folds, Walton Goggins, Nathan Fillion, Robert Patrick, Mitch Hurwitz, Vince Gilligan, David Cross. = -17pts 
  • Benjamin Chang is still insane, and Changnesia was complete bullshit. = +6pts 
  • Chang making an episode about putting coins in people’s butt cracks even creepier by wearing a backwards disguise of himself. = -4pts 
  • Star-Burns returns, with a donkey “hee-hawing” Dave Matthews impression to boot. = +3pts 
  • Out-Finchering David Fincher with “Ass Crack Bandit.” = +4pts 
  • Harmon still giving hope to Jeff/Annie shippers. = +8pts 
  • The intentionally maddening ambiguity of the identity of the so-called Ass Crack Bandit. = +2pts 
  • Achieving the unachievable in having a Pierce episode without Pierce. = +12pts 
  • “Cooperative Polygraphy” feels like classic Community at its best. = +3pts 
  • Fulfilling unintentional promises from prior seasons such as Britta getting an iPod Nano and Troy eating a ghost. = +4pts 
  • Scripting powerful lines of dialogue such as Troy having “the heart of a hero.” = +8pts 
  • Hot Lava proving that a “Paintball episode” can be done without actually playing paintball. = +7pts 
  • Britta acting as the villainous voice of reason. = +3pts 
  • Everyone fully committing to Abed’s Hot Lava delusion (Britta for the WIN!) = +7pts 
  • Dan Harmon “Joseph Campbell-ing” all over this show. = +5pts 
  • Delivering a touching (and epic) farewell to one of the true hearts of Community. = +10pts 
  • Levar Burton returning. = +10pts 
  • Britta calling out Abed: “Are you gonna have another intense burst of compatibility with a girl we never see again?” = +11pts 
  • Britta being inconceivably inconsiderate to Abed’s feelings on the loss of Troy, despite the fact that in the previous episode she was trying to get him to come to terms with said feelings. = -14pts
  • The return of Tracy the coat check girl from Season 4. “It was the year of the gas leak, but I won’t use that as an excuse.” = +5pts 
  • Jeff becoming re-interested in Britta because the plot demands it and he is shallow or something. = -5pts 
  • Without Troy, Abed runs the risk of becoming Urkel. He ruins Hickey’s comic strip and pretty much responds by saying “Did I do that??” = -9pts 
  • Chang talking to ghosts who say not to trust the other ghosts. = +6pts 
  • The MeowMeowBeenz app allowing Community to once again become a high-concept relationship machine that teaches us all what it means to be human. = +13pts 
  • People only listen to Britta when she has mustard on her face, turning her into Che Guevara. = +7pts 
  • Mitch Hurwitz as the douchey Professor Koogler = +4pts 
  • Allowing what is essentially a Yelp rating to determine your place in society. = +8pts 
  • Jeff’s standup act of inside jokes about the new caste system. 2’s love apples. = +16pts 
  • Alex “Star-Burns” Osbourne dons a Zardoz costume, reaffirming that the only thing we know about Zardoz is that ridiculous Sean Connery outfit. = +3pts (Well, maybe not the only thing.
  • Dean Pelton performing the dopest anti-establishment rap that anyone has ever rapped in a PayDay candy bar costume. = +16pts 
  • The one-note joke that is VCR interactive gaming lasts the ENTIRE episode. = -6pts 
  • The B story of grifting Chemistry books on the black market aims to recreate old school Community fun, but doesn’t quite hit that mark. = +3pts 
  • Abed making an adorable “third act apology,” complete with dramatic statements in the rain and the return of Abed’s forgotten sidekick, Pavel. = +6pts 
  • Making another Dungeons and Dragons episode = -12pts 
  • Abed noting the high probability that this episode will disappoint: “A satisfying sequel is difficult to pull off…” = +2pts 
  • David Cross coming in and shitting on everyone and everything in the episode. = -11pts 
  • The ill-advised strategy of focusing the entire episode on the relationship between new character Buzz Hickey and his guest star son. = -8pts 
  • Season 5 spends way too much time making “gimmick episodes.” The latest entry: “G.I. Jeff.” = -4pts 

  • Whenever Shirley’s AKA “Three Kids” takes the time to mention “I have three kids.” = +6pts 
  • Harmon and co. investigating the moral implications of introducing homicide into a cartoon world where no one ever dies. = +5pts 
  • Calling out/paying homage to classic ‘80s cartoon tropes: “From an animated perspective? Very cheap.” = +4pts 
  • Crafting a basic cartoon episode plot while establishing a system that contains three separate planes of reality. Joseph Campbell FTW. = +9pts 
  • Jeff realizing that he must leave the G.I. Joe realm, because he likes drinking, having sex and peeing. Ya know, the important stuff. = +2pts 
  • Jeff has a cartoon dream because…he’s afraid of getting old? = -7pts 
  • Commercial narrator: “Everyone dies eventually; nobody gets out alive.” Preach, brother. = +1pt
  • Abed and Britta providing a classic G.I. Joe PSA. = +3pts 
  • By the end of Season 5, it seems that Harmon has run out of steam and ideas. The second-to-last episode is a story about the fact that there is no story. Argh. = -9pts 
  • Despite 5 seasons saying otherwise, Jeff Winger still insists that he is a non-sentimental man who just likes scotch. = -4pts 
  • “This inspection is going to be the most boring thing to happen here since Britta dated Troy.” Nailed it. = +10pts 
  • Abed breaking the fourth wall by running from the camera. = -7pts 
  • Star Burns playing Dave Matthews. = +1pts 
  • Greendale is going to get sold because the property now has value. The Save Greendale Committee did their job so well that saving Greendale is actually killing Greendale, proving that The Buddha was right when he said that life is suffering. Or something. = +2pts 
  • Subway returns to Community. Fun fact from Abed: Subway doesn’t actually have a word for their units of bread. = +6pts 
  • Harmon/Jeff once again come to the realization that their time at Greendale might be over, expressing relief that the show might be done. = +1pt 
  • In a pointless act of character regression, Britta and Jeff decide that they should…get married? = -8pts 
  • In a story without a story, the deus ex machina is the prospect of buried treasure. = +3pts 
  • Everyone in the finale thinks that the Jeff/Britta engagement is absurd. “What does this look like? An hour long episode of The Office?” = +9pts 
  • Annie questions if Greendale is worth saving? With so much that has changed (and has still yet to change) “which Greendale will we be saving?” Like Jeff, Annie is asking if the struggle is worth it. Should we all just let Greendale/Community go? = +4pts 
  • In perfect Abed fashion, he assures Annie that the “Jeff/Britta spinoff” won’t work, and that this is their show too. = +3pts 
  • Alcoholic Schoolboard member Richie (“That’s right, we got names”) has the ability to rob brains, because of course he does. = +5pts 
  • Dan Harmon once again laments that idiots have taken over the world, as evidenced by the popularity of cat videos. = +4pts 
  • Jeff finally admits for the 44th time that he cares about his friends and Greendale, thus saving the day via a computer system that responds to emotions. = +6pts 
  • Harmon preparing for the possibility that Community will be cancelled; having Abed predict an asteroid might destroy Earth. = +4pts 
  • The fake NBC promo tag at the end of the finale serves as a final middle finger from Dan Harmon to NBC. = +8pts 
  • Kind of an underwhelming finale. = -4pts 
Total Score = +197pts
Available on DVD and Hulu Plus

While Community’s first three seasons can be seen as three chapters of an ongoing story, the following two lack cohesion due to constant cast and crew departures, leaving each to be judged by its own merits. Overall, Community Season 5 had a 50% success rate. It was most certainly an improvement from the Harmon-less Season 4, but it lost the focus that it had established in the season premiere. The show seemed to do ok without Chevy Chase, but it was apparent that Donald Glover’s departure left the series slightly frazzled. Despite getting a little lost in the parade of famous guest stars and wacky episode premises, it is great to have Dan Harmon back behind the wheel. The characters feel like themselves again, and the dialogue is rife with importance and meaning. So here’s to you Community, the show that just can’t die.

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