Friday, February 22, 2013

Community settles into its new groove in a mostly enjoyable half hour

Season 4 Episode 3 - "Conventions of Space and Time"

Three episodes in and I feel I've essentially locked into nuCommunity's wavelength. And no, it's not a wavelength that grabs me nearly the same way the first three seasons did – but Dan Harmon's Community was, save Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights and the early seasons of Lost (shudder), probably the most fanatically, religiously obsessed I've ever been with a TV show, so holding it to that standard was a lost cause from the beginning.

Dan Harmon's Community thrummed with greatness and felt electric and alive and exciting like few other shows in history, expanding the canvas of TV comedy and walking a dangerous experimental tightrope with a cocky smile plastered across its face. David Guarascio and Moses Port's Community is a solid little sitcom. It's not the same. But it's not bad.

First things first, literally, with "Conventions of Space and Time": Loved the cold open. I don't have any profound investment in Troy and Britta as a couple, but everything about Britta's acrobatic escape from Troy's bedroom and looping back around to the apartment with ceiling-stashed donuts felt lively and fun in a way few sitcoms often do.

And everything after that with Abed and Troy and Britta and villain-of-the-week Toby was pretty amusing (though I understand how it could've been a nightmare for those sick of Inspector Spacetime). I especially enjoyed Abed's Winger speech impression, as Danny Pudi has always done hilarious imitations of his fellow cast members ("I like football, but also, I don't?"). And Britta's loving-yet-firm "I don't care about Inspector Spacetime" to Troy was a pretty good way for Community to wink at the show-within-the-show's obvious inanity while continuing to use it as its go-to geek franchise.

Now, as I mentioned when discussing "History 101" a couple weeks back, the replacement of Dan Harmon makes it very, very hard for me to emotionally invest in these characters the way I used to. (Which, mind you, is not the same thing as being unable to narratively or comedically invest in them.) Some might argue that's me letting behind-the-scenes drama color my perception of what's actually on the screen in front of me, and, hell, they may not be entirely wrong. But it is what it is, and what's this blog for if not being upfront about how I feel?

And this may be why Annie and Jeff's story, which seemed reverse-engineered around getting them together on the couch having a warm heart-to-heart at episode's end, was largely a miss for me, and may be the weakest non-Hunger Deans plot of the season thus far. It had a couple funny gags, but ultimately relied on touching a place in my heart that blackened and died the moment Dan Harmon was fired.

On the other hand, Pierce and Shirley's story, which I initially felt uncertain of, ended up proving worthwhile setup for the tag punchline with Abed's reaction to the American Inspector and his blonde, racket-wielding Constable. (And by the way, Community, if you ever do a "Save Our Bluths"-type episode satirizing the show's sagging ratings and don't have Quendra appear carrying a tennis racket, you done fucked up.)

So what we're left with is a sitcom that is no longer my favorite on television – that would now be Bob's Burgers – but still makes the top two or three and I wouldn't call any worse than, say, new Futurama, or Parks and Rec season 4, or some of the middle seasons of 30 Rock. It's no longer a work of auteur-driven brilliance. But it's got a great cast and a fun tone and a lot of color and still maybe my favorite sitcom musical score of all time from Ludwig Goransson. And that's that, so, barring anything else I just have to talk about right then, this will probably be the last time I check in on Community for a couple months. E Pluribus Anus.

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