Unpopular Counterpoint: I Still Like "Community"
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Unpopular Counterpoint: I Still Like "Community"

By Courtney Enlow | Miscellaneous | April 25, 2013 | Comments ()


As I begin this post, I am suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that I am markedly better at criticizing something than I am defending my appreciation for something. I feel as though this must speak volumes about me as a person, and I will take it up with a therapist at once.

I also think this must be a common struggle, because any cursory internet search for this season of "Community" brings up a lot of negative and very little positive. But I am certain I cannot be absolutely alone. Of the tens of us who have accounted for the show's ratings over the years, I cannot be such a unique snowflake to remain its lone admirer.

There must be others. And I will find them.

This is not to say I disagree with every bit of criticism this fourth season has received. Sure, this iteration of the show doesn't necessarily feel like "our show." But. When people refer to this "our show" they are clearly referring to the first and second seasons. And that's fine, that's common anytime any television show lasting longer than two seasons is discussed--the superior seasons become representative of the entire series. So, sure season four doesn't feel like those first two seasons. But it feels an awful lot like the Harmon-ized season three.

Season three didn't quite feel like "our show" either. As a new, novel concept, season three was, indeed, inferior to its predecessors. But isn't that always the way? When a premise stops being new, it's not as interesting anymore. The gimmicks of meta references and parodies were revolutionary four years ago. Now, it's just another Thursday at Greendale. It's expected. And that's fine. That isn't a bad thing. The glow of newness can fade as long as it is utilized in fresh, funny ways. But, season three, with the writers clearly swaying to network demands of plot arcs while still desperate to maintain their own weirdness, tried too hard and ended up producing something, while still enjoyable, at least to me, that was at least a noticeable fraction different from what preceded it. And that's what season four feels like. It's not a Harmon-less world of nonsense and sad attempts at mimicry. It's a natural progression of season three.

We are lovers of television and film. Whether we like to admit it or not, when something changes on a program we enjoy, it is challenging. Even to the most "roll with the punches" cool cucumber of an individual, a new character, new direction or new showrunner can throw off the entire experience of watching a TV show, and, because these shows can exist often as our escapes, perhaps a lone bright spot in a rough personal or professional week, it can actually hurt. We take these things personally. It affects us.

The thing that's been a struggle for me is this immediate, internet-wide understanding of "we hate this now." Which happens a lot, the mob mentality of pop culture, and can often throw me into an Abed-esque befuddlement, because I have literally no comprehension regarding things like "guilty pleasures" or universal shut-downs of things we all used to like. I get thrown off and discombobulated and sometimes fall down. Stop making me fall down.

It's still my show. And who doesn't like puppets?

I genuinely don't understand how people didn't like that.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • I have enjoyed this season. But it really is not the same show. Between NBC showing episodes out of order and the delay in actually putting them on the air, everything has felt off this season. That being said, I totally loved last nights episode. I am going to stick it out. I still like the actors and I am still interested in seeing where these characters are going.

  • Wednesday

    I was on board with the "I still kind of like it" crowd till last night. Last night was flat-out stupid and awful. The only high point was Troy's Abed impression -- he nailed it. The Britta-Troy relationship arose for no good reason, and ended for no good reason. It feels like this whole season, in a way. Everything's a setup for a damn afterschool special moral.

  • Last nights, episode was amazing and I feel sorry for you if you didn't get it. I kind of hope you are trolling.

  • Wednesday

    I "got it" all right. Points made with sledgehammers tend to hit home fairly easily. But the characters have become shallower and shallower as time goes by. They've gone from characters to caricatures, so simplistic and one-note that you could literally change up Troy and Abed and not miss a thing.

    How many times is Jeff supposed to reveal that beneath his self-obsessed exterior beats a heart of gold? How many stories have to end up reinforcing the inherent goodness of friendship?

    Even the best jokes become stale with repetition. There's not enough material here for six seasons and a movie, not the way the show is being managed now.

  • This season feels like season 1 when Community was more of a straight forward comedy. The show really started to hit its stride (for me) at "Contemporary American Poultry." Most of my favorite episodes are from seasons 2 and 3. So um, don't include me in that group of people that only call seasons 1 and 2 "our show."

  • BTW, Sophie B. Hawkins has been the highlight of this season. By far.

  • Mr_Zito

    "Basic Human Anatomy" calls for a reassessment of the whole situation. If Community can be this good, even if only for a few episodes in the season, I'm calling for #sixseasonsandamovie again.

  • poopnado

    The puppet episode had the only moment this season in which I laughed out loud. I LOL'd, you guys. When the puppets started tripping on berries from Jason Alexander I lost my shit.

  • Two of my dearest and most beloved friends in the world who have otherwise great taste hate puppets. And I mean with a fiery passion and I just DO. NOT. GET. IT!! I've always been a huge puppet fan and I regularly watch Muppet movies. Just a couple months ago I watched Great Muppet Caper everyday for two weeks. I just cant comprehend who couldn't love the cuteness and silliness of the Muppets!

  • Some guy

    puppets =/= Muppets

    Just sayin'.

  • Community has always been more clever than funny. Parks & Rec and Up All Night (1st season) always had bigger and more consistent laughs. Season 4 is simply not as clever as the first 3 seasons. It is recycling gags, it is playing broader, and yes, the Changnesia shit is excruciating. Also, I miss Pierce. The show is still watchable but that's only for the cast who are selling the hell out of mediocre lines and killing the few gold jokes they get tossed by the writers. Especially Gillian Jacobs. She is definitely MVP this season.

  • I'mNotTheGreatest

    Season 4 isn't as good as previous seasons but people saying it's bad, terrible, rating episodes 1 or 2 are crazy. I didn't care for the puppets or cartoon babies either but there was much more to the episodes than just them parts

  • toblerone

    After tonight there are only 2 episodes left till its over.

  • Donna SHerman

    I freaking loved season three. If anything Harmon didn't feel "quite" right, it's season 2 for me - that one always felt just a little bit more harsh and mean-spirited. For me, the order is 1, 3, ... ... 2, end of time, 4.

  • Lovely Bones

    My favorite (of the first three, the important ones) season is 3, and 1 is least favorite, both contrary to what seems like the vast majority opinion for Community fans. Oh well. Anyway, 1 is easily the weakest, with Shirley's writing not getting strong until season 2 and much fewer great episodes, even as the longest season. I do really enjoy season one, of course, and it was when I fell in love with this series, but it definitely had plenty of room to grow.

    I don't see where you're coming from with season 2, not with how sympathetically Pierce was written, even as an admittedly cartoonish villain, especially in the season finale, and episodes like Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas, Mixology Certification, etc.

  • MelBivStillCan'tLogIn

    But this Changnesia storyline needs to die in a f*cking fire already. Enough.

  • MelBivStillCan'tLogIn

    I don't hate it. I just don't enjoy it as much as I used to. I enjoyed last season as much as the first two. Honestly, I barely remember any episodes from this year, and there definitely haven't been any quote- or GIF-worthy moments this year, either. It just kinda... exists. And that sucks.

    All that said, I don't understand the puppet episode backlash. It was a cute, harmless episode. Plus, bonus Sara Barielles is always a good thing.

  • Mr_Zito

    I'm sure if Harmon was there we would be getting more creative plots and we wouldn't be getting some terrible stories we are getting, and Abed would be handled right. But overall the quality was declining, season 3 was a mess, with brilliant moments but some really bad episodes. I would say the tone has gone back to season one, which wasn't great except for a few episodes. I also think that the worst episodes will still be some of the Harmon Era like the Jesus Abed and the second clip show and the Glee episode, which I think some people like, but I thought was dreadful and did something this season has done over and over: took a simple joke from one episode (the first clip show) and dragged it into a whole episode, basically killing the joke. So I think we can still have fun with this show, and people shouldn't be quitting on it so fast. But then again, I worry about what might happen if NBC decides to renew it because they have nothing else to put on...

  • GwenBear

    I was with you until the puppets. I actually thought that might have been the worst episode of the season so far, and it seemed super, super forced and a lot of the characters felt out of character. Ugh. On the other hand, I thought last week's Christmas episode was fantastic. But yeah, I've been saying all along that season 4 feels a lot like season 3 - some great high points, overall not quite at the level of seasons 1 and 2, but still pretty damn enjoyable television.

  • Rochelle

    If I were seeing Community for the first time this season, I wouldn't turn my nose up at. In comparison to most other comedies on tv, Community is good. I still watch it and plan to continue watching it as long as it's on the air. It isn't as insanely brilliant as it was, but it isn't Whitney either. There were several Community episodes that I didn't like the first time I saw them, but they stuck in my head. I didn't like the Season two episode with the trampoline, Aerodynamics of Gender, at first, but I couldn't get it out of my head, and now I love it. The only episode of this season that comes to mind is the convention episode, and that's mostly because of Peirce ruining Inspector Spacetime. So I like the current Community, but I don't love it.

  • pfeiffer87

    There have been some redeeming episodes - I enjoyed the Oktoberfest and Muppets ones. Other episodes have felt a bit forced, and I'm really hating Troy & Britta together. I also feel that the way they start the episodes has been different, this season they jump right into the story whereas in previous seasons there was more of a gradual introduction to the episode. If that makes sense.

  • Harvey Jerkwater

    Season Four's been slow to get working -- the first few episodes were okay-ish, but it's hit a groove in the last few. Thing is, that describes every season of "Community." My impression is that season four is pretty good and getting better, and I wish it were a full order of episodes, rather than thirteen.

    The show is wrestling with its past and trying to find a new way forward, so there are misfires (the puppet episode) and fine ones (the "Sophie B. Hawkins Dance"). All in all, I'm still diggin' it and hope it keeps on going. Not just because I'm infatuated with Annie and Britta. Not just.

    What'll kill it is too many goddamn callbacks to earlier episodes. "The Darkest Timeline?" It was funny once. ONCE. Leave it in the past and come up with new shit. YOU CAN DO IT, YA BASTARDS. And mostly, you are. Yay!

  • Cree83

    I'm definitely still entertained. I really feel like every single season has had a fairly drastic difference in tone, so the change this season is par for the course.

  • Ben

    Other than the Changnesia episode and the puppet episode I haven't found it terrible. I think that people were planning on not liking this season anyways after all the strife that occurred.

    In full disclosure I haven't like Chang as a character since season one. I thought he was hilarious as a teacher, but since then he has been annoying.

  • kirbyjay

    OK. I'm going to admit it. I don't like puppets. I don't hate puppets, they are relatively benign, but I don't get the love.
    They're cute, you say? Puppies are cute, puppets are leftover pieces of fabric. And did they willingly co-opt the name PUPPETS so people would think they were somewhat puppy-like and therefore cute? Is it a subliminal word freak? PUPPIES.....PUPPETS......small puppies that are even cuter than big puppies? And most of them aren't even cute. The pig isn't cute, she is bitchy and plain with an inflated sense of self. The guy in the trash can? I bet he smells. The 2 gay roommates? Progressive and liberal, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that, but hardly cute, especially the one that looks like Howard Sprague from Andy of Mayberry.
    They're funny you say? Is Puppet Abed funnier than Real Abed? No. Puppet Abed lacks the humanity of Real Abed. Is the slob who likes the cookies funny? No...he's a one-trick pony that got old 30 years ago. The two old fucks in the balcony? Jeez...if I wanted to listen to old people complain, I'd visit my mother-in-law.
    They're socially relevant and great teaching tools? So's the Kardashians and a ruler but I don't want to watch them either.

    a ruler, but I don't want to watch themeither. them.

  • Kirbyjay

    Kindly disregard that last sentence. I think it was a puppet.

  • Rochelle

    I agree with you about Chang. I miss Senor Chang, and think his transformation was a consistent misfire.

    I wanted to love this season of Community. I was optimistic about the new show runners. I still like Community, but it has lost it's special snowflake heart. I don't feel that way because I was told to, or prepared to, but because the day after I watch an episode I can't remember what the episode was about or moments in the episode that I loved. I am not sheep.

  • Steph

    Season three was kind of a mess and it sometimes went in a stylistic direction I disagreed with, but it was still wildly creative and hilarious which season four hasn't been. I don't buy the 'natural progression' defense. It's been OK this year not great, just because these new guys don't know their stuff as well as Harmon and can't live up to the really high standard he set.

  • I don't necessarily care about muppets. But I certainly don't care about singing in my tv/movies. I thought the first episode of season 4 was good. But I haven't cared for the rest of them. Aside from just feeling weird, they aren't funny.

    And while I'd probably agree season 3 isn't as good as the first two. Some individual episodes are great, mainly Remedial Chaos Theory and Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism.

  • I still enjoy the show. There are plot threads that I don't like, Chang-nesia mainly, but it wasn't like the show was batting 1.000 in the first couple seasons. I probably don't have as many laugh out loud moments this season but I'm not going to stop watching because of that.

  • John W

    As long as Jacobs and her judgy face is on the show, so do I.

  • Wōđanaz Óðinn

    Who the fuck let Britta post here?!
    And I bet she's been giving Braff some money on the side too.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I think Britta is better this season, if that counts for anything.

  • Mr_Zito

    Totally agreed. I never liked Britta until this season. She is great.

  • toblerone

    Britta has always been AWESOME!

  • poopnado

    You totally Britta'd that comment.

  • Personally, I feel season 4 is MORE like season 1 and to a lesser extent 2 than it is to 3. I agree that 3 was vastly different from the first 2, but 4 is a welcome return, as far as I am concerned.

    It's the Chang (love Kevin, groan when Chang rears its head) and "timeline" carry-overs from 3 I personally don't like. Everything else feels like a wonderful regression to pre-3.

    Also, I am loving season 4, so you are not alone.

  • IMO they screwed Chang's character up so bad. I wish that they had just kept him a teacher because that was where he worked the best.

  • GDI

    I guess a more Greendale centered setting is big step up towards getting back to season 1 greatness.
    They need to fix Chang. Either make him the fantastic, narcissistic bastard he was in season 1 or remove him. The scheming, underhanded Asian man stereotype has been wholly racist and annoying.

  • Darlene

    I am even MORE unpopular, because I like it more this season than I did last season. My husband, too.

  • Jackie

    It is nice to read an article about Community that isn't a relentless comparison of the current season to past seasons with the current season found hopelessly lacking. At this point, I am of the opinion that if one seems to dislike the show that much, then stop watching it, or at the very least try to come up with novel critiques because reading the same "that's not how Harmon would do it" complaint gets old. Community still makes me laugh, multiple times per episode. Really, that's the thing I care about most in a comedy.

  • foolsage

    I loved the show; I really did. I bought the first three seasons on DVD even though I could watch them for free online, just to support the creators.

    The new season has really disappointed me. I stopped about a third of the way through last week's episode, and thought, "Well, I'm done with this." I removed Community from my Hulu queue.

    I don't think my critiques of the show are likely to be earth-shattering or uniquely insightful. I also don't think that my perspective is based in any meaningful sense on what others think about the show. I'm positive that such people exist - people who care more about liking popular things, than about having standards on which to judge things and decide if they like those things. I'm not one such person though, and I don't think the average Pajibite is, either.

    I'd be very happy to keep watching the show, with or without Dan Harmon, if I still enjoyed the show. I don't enjoy the show anymore. I don't recall a single laugh-out-loud moment from any episode in the news season, but I can recall numerous moments in every episode that felt like they were pandering to me.

    I'm glad you're still enjoying the show; sincerely. De gustibus non est disputandum.

  • GDI

    I believe that the quality levels dip in middle portion of season 2, rise up towards the beginning of season 3 (reaching a plateau concurrent of season 1), and are somewhere in the middle of season 4. I'm lukewarm to it. Had season 2 not been such a mess, I would probably hate it however.

    Now, why do I harp on the 2nd season? 2 reasons.
    1) Turning Pierce into a villain. Plain and simple. Whether or not this stemmed from Chevy Chase and Dan Harmon's beef, it does not matter. The impression that the character was purposely underwritten and made out as useless was more than enough to make me hate the show. The D&D episode was a flop, the season finale a tired rehash. All a result of oversimplifying a character.
    2) Direct copying of an AD episode. You figure out which one.

  • cruzzercruz

    I don't agree that season three was inferior to the first or second, in fact, I think it was the best. I think it veered more deeply into "meta" aspect and provided some of the most brilliant parody/homages/genre deconstructions the show ever had. People say that the show began to buckle to the network, but it seemed to be to be digging its feet in the ground and getting even more strange and disconnected from general audiences than before, which was good to me. Season one always felt the weakest to me until "Modern Warfare." Though, Community at its weakest was still my favorite thing ever.

    "Was" being the key word. Season four started off immediately being more broad and remained that way. The Hunger Games was such a generic parody and the convention idea is something that even people who go to conventions find played out and watered down by the new mainstream interest in it.

  • I loved season 3 as well. I never understood why people thought it seemed like they were giving into network pressure when most of the episodes were crazy weird. The last couple episodes were just so perfect I almost wish it had ended then.

  • ERM

    I just can't agree with someone when they indicate they don't like something by calling it "mainstream." Convention hipster!

  • GDI

    Community's fanbase probably has a hipster majority. Of course it's no longer cool to like it, but now it's also cool to like it now that it's not cool!

  • John G.

    Ok, that's it. I'm officially retiring the word "hipster". It no longer has any meaning.

  • GDI

    How can that be, if it never really meant anything at all?

  • John G.

    you hipster

  • cruzzercruz

    That's always the narrowest way to look at the fanbase of the show. It's go-to insult for people who either don't like it or don't get it. Not saying you don't get it, but the term "hipster" being used for people who like a rare, creative, and intellectually stimulating show is insulting and inaccurate.

    Do people say that about Arrested Development fans? No, somehow they're just a cult following. Probably because their show didn't directly attack other shows, but that was the beauty of Community. And its fanbase.

  • GDI

    Sarcasm doesn't transmit well online.

  • Guest

    But nerd rage is clear as day. My bad, I'm just tired of being called "hipster" for liking Community, then being called "Harmon hipster" for not liking the new season. I'm all out of sorts.

  • cruzzercruz

    I wasn't saying that I don't like the show because it's mainstream, I was referring directly to the convention episode, which is kind of piggybacking on that new interest in Comic-Con the public has. It wasn't even a very nerdy episode, rather very bland.

    I've never gone to a convention, but people who go to Comic-Con and the like, including the writers and guests of honor, complain about the new wave of people who attend "watering down" the experience. I would be one of those people trying to get in now, being shunned.

    Side note, nobody likes to admit it, but everyone has had a "Oh great, there goes the neighborhood" feeling about something they've liked at one point or another. It's a natural possessiveness people feel with fandom.

  • ERM

    I was just joking...

  • GDI

    It's funny, because "Modern Warfare" got me into the show. But I always thought it was the weakest episode of the season once I burnt through season 1.

  • cruzzercruz

    I started at the first episode and loved it throughout, but Modern Warfare blew me away. I just hadn't seen a sitcom parody that awesome before. It became my favorite aspect of the show, how it could seamlessly shift into genre/trope parody while maintaing all its characters who could be funny just being college students.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I Senor point. You're definitely right about the similarities to season three. It's like after the second season finale, something Changed. All of a sudden a toxic presence intruded on the characters we'd Ben growing to love, and it wasn't the same anymore.

  • GDI

    He was squandered before that. The whole gollum-esque creepiness was wholly unnecessary.
    I thought him becoming a security officer was a slight turn for the better.
    Slight being the operational term here.

  • Mr_Zito

    I had a lot of problems with Chang, but he had his moments. Even on season three, the detective episode was awesome. It's a good character, and a great comedy actor, but the thing is they have to make too much effort to keep him in the show and there's not gonna be a place for him in every story.

  • foolsage

    "You won't regret this... unless I rise up against you." Yeah, that was a much better version of Chang.

  • anikitty

    I sense you're trying to tell me something. But I can't quite figure it out. It must be the hangover.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I think you mean Changover.

  • Guest

    Chang was ruined in season 2, further ruination in season 3. I forgot to mention that in a previous post.

  • I still watch even though it is pretty much a shadow of even Season 3 (Basic Lupine Urology was an awesome episode). I guess I watch now out of fan loyalty to the cast and I told myself going in that this season wasn't going to be what it once was, so I try to enjoy what it is now.

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