“Change is always scary. But then I thought of you guys and I wasn’t so scared. Abed, when you brought the group together, you changed our lives. But then we changed each other, and we’re gonna keep changing in unexpected ways. (…) Even if we go somewhere, we’re not going anywhere. ”
Okay, Human Beings, I need everyone to take a deep breath.
Although yesterday’s calendar read February 7th, those of us crowded around our televisions beginning at 8:00 likely knew it to be October 19th. The question isn’t where, but when, yes?
After all it’s been through in its relatively short time with an audience, fans of the show Community were anxiously awaiting the premiere of season 4. After dealing with a mid-season hiatus in December 2011 with a return in March 2012, the Dan Harmon/Chevy Chase debacle, the ultimate removal of Dan Harmon from the show’s reins, the show being pulled from its original October 19, 2012 air date, and finally, the announcement of Chevy Chase leaving the cast, we were constantly left wondering after the season 3 finale if the show was coming back at all and, if it did, what would it be like?
Season 4, Episode 1: History 101 addresses those concerns and more.
I wish I could say I was a fan of Community at its inception, but the reality is that I rarely got to watch consistent rounds of television (excluding summer and winter breaks) from August 2008-May 2012. Between classes, meetings, and events, my television watching in college was resigned to doing homework and half paying attention to various reality programs or the occasional hate watching of Glee or whatever else my housemates had on, give or take various movie nights. That being said, when I inevitably and eventually got my hands on the seasons of Community, I found myself utterly committed to and enchanted by this little show that could. It is one of my favorite shows; I quote it too much, I own memorabilia, I threw a tantrum of unprecedented levels during the October 19th fiasco, etc. I’m a recent college graduate with no direction and I needed this parasocial aspect of my life back, and I was practically dancing all day yesterday waiting for my clock to hit 8.
Be careful what you wish for? Not in this case, not yet. I know that History 101 left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths, but if I’m being honest, I think the collective We/Us needs to take a step back and really think. Here are some things I hope that I can put into perspective so we’re not in such a tizzy for our second week of senior year, starting from least important to most.
Least Important: Trust me, I spent a lot of time scouring forums last night and I came away from that experience wondering if people had seen the same episode I did. Why? Because a lot of people just didn’t get the joke. No, not that they realized everything and didn’t find it funny (although some did and that’s one opinion to have), but they legitimately didn’t get that what was going on was a joke.
I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I’m going to attempt to anyway. The show last night served a few purposes, the primary purpose being an attempt to dispel the viewer’s fears about Community turning into something completely different while acknowledging that everything changes and that change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Simultaneously, they were ribbing all of the shows that regularly compete against and somehow outrank the show in ratings, The Big Bang Theory being the big one that comes to mind. I’m not here to compare and contrast, but people. The laugh track? WAS A JOKE. I can’t count the number of people who were legitimately upset that a laugh track was on the show that never seemed to catch on that it was a one-episode-thing to make fun of the basic sitcom format. Greendale Babies? Was a riff on Muppet Babies, and was also supposed to be a joke about what happens when you take something already cheesy and overdone to an even lower form. I just….I don’t know. But yes, next episode, please make sure that you actually get what’s going on before you fly off the handle, please. It’s one thing to get it and not like it, that’s fine and I can see where the jokes may have fallen flat, but you might have bigger issues with your television experience if you don’t even realize the joke is going on to begin with.
Middle Importance: From everything I can find online, the majority of the cast absolutely adores this show. I’m not going to get into Chevy Chase territory, because it’s been discussed to death and because I don’t agree with a lot of his opinions surrounding the material of the show. Either way, I would think that as dedicated fans, we should be trusting the people that have a huge part in bringing this show to life. It’s hard to say what the dynamic of the show would be if it had a different cast, and there’s no real point in trying. The charm of this show has a lot to do with the dedication and comedic skills associated with the cast, and I think we do them a disservice by dismissing the show as it stands now. We’ve only seen one episode! Give them a chance to shine with this season’s material. Furthermore, please direct yourself to Yvette Nicole Brown’s Twitter if you want some cast insight- she did a marvelous job live-tweeting and she really seemed to have enjoyed working on this episode.
Speaking of cast for just a second, I honestly feel as though I can’t comment on where the characters are at right now. You know, one episode and all, we’re not really set up for any sort of arc yet and I won’t be able to fully comment on that for awhile. We’ll see it when we see it, I guess.
Most Important: I would be lying if I said my heart doesn’t ache for Dan Harmon. I find everything surrounding his dismissal to be lunacy, and I worried just like everyone else to think of Community without him. That being said, we all need to acknowledge the following and move on: Community is no longer Dan Harmon’s show, at least, the Community that is now airing no longer falls under the perfectionist, watchful eye of Dan Harmon. This is an unfortunate but seemingly unchangeable fact that we need to deal with if we’re going to continue to support this show.
I personally believe that the majority of complaints about the season premiere were more a symptom of knowing that nothing about it involved Harmon rather than huge legitimate issues. People, we need to be realistic in this. Yes, Harmon as the show’s creator had a lot of input into the episodes. That being said, all shows are the result of a team effort. Hell, one of my favorite episodes and arguably the best episode of the series, Remedial Chaos Theory, wasn’t even a result of a Harmon/Russo trio, it was written by Chris McKenna and directed by Jeff Melman! Does this mean that the former group didn’t have influence on the episode? No, but it does prove that huge success can come out of more minds than the sole creators and directors.
My point in this is that yes, our show here has new parents. It’s going to be different, and it might seem a little off. That’s life.
I realize that no matter what we’re discussing, whether it be food preferences, television preferences, political preferences, etc., there is always going to be dissent and differences when it comes to appraisals. That being said, I do think that the collective fandom was a little harsh on History 101 last night. Do I think it was a perfect episode? No, I don’t. I think that a lot of material was shoved into the time allotted for the show, I think that we got baited with a “Hunger Deans” premise that actually ended up having little to do with the show’s content other than to slightly punctuate the main message, and I think that we’ve still got some kinks to work out with the new showrunners. That being said, I wasn’t at all put off by the episode and thought it was everything I needed from a show I’ve been missing for so long. I thought Abed TV was a hysterical meta-game that pretty much illustrated what actually sells on TV versus, in my opinion, the better format that Community has (I loathe laugh tracks, but man are they prevalent!). I really enjoyed seeing the little fissures in the characters and am extremely curious to see what paths they will take, I always enjoy Leonard in an episode, and the Jeff/Dean tango made me grin. I’d call it about even and I can’t wait for the rest of the season.
Until next week, make sure to hone your filter work due for Instagram for Besties, and I sincerely hope that if you did have issues with last night’s episode that this coming episode more than makes up for it.
One last thing to leave you with:
This article was first posted on February 8, 2013