‘Community’ Bond Breaks

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

Over its course of three great seasons, “Community” had been my favorite comedy series on television. Thriving off of its extremely clever pop culture references, parodies and meta-humor galore, the show was unlike any of its kind. While the show’s unique style never clicked with a wide audience, it has developed one of the most devoted fan bases in television history. Interestingly enough, the fans (me included) are the main reason why a fourth season became official.

The news of a fourth season was initially a breath of fresh air, but then turned into turmoil when NBC announced that they had fired Dan Harmon, the show’s creator, show runner and executive producer of the show’s first three seasons. Worse enough, Harmon’s firing eventually led to the departure of several key writers and executive producers that had been with the show since its inception.

Hired in the vacant show runner position were sitcom veterans David Guarascio and Moses Port. Last year at San Diego Comic-Con International, they announced, “It’s all gonna be okay” for the show’s structure and characters.

Now, when I reflect on that quote, I seriously have never felt cheated this much by television since the series finale of “The Sopranos.”

The first episode of the new season opens with the group trying to enroll in an overcrowded history class. This leads to Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) creating “The Hunger Deans,” a competition that will decide who gets a spot in the class. While the competition occurs, the group contemplates on their future together, since graduation is imminent.

The second and third episodes then involve the group getting lost in Pierce’s (Chevy Chase’s) “haunted house” and then attending a fan convention that’s somewhat in the vein of Comic-Con.

While those aforementioned synopses all share stories that fall into the show’s approach for parodying pop culture and television/film clichés, the show’s new creative team has unfortunately put it in the direction that I and many others feared it would become: one big cliché. The characters and stories that were featured in the Dan Harmon era of the show have taken a turn for the worst, and are now stuck in a hole that they’ll most likely never dig their way out of.

The season premiere, “History 101,” is without a doubt the worst episode of the series for several reasons. Though the main event of the episode is called “The Hunger Deans,” the only nod it makes to the “The Hunger Games” franchise is the Dean dressing up as Katniss. Past episodes of the show have parodied pop culture that many people love, but this approach goes nowhere else in its attempt to satirize the franchise.

Oddly enough, the subplot of the episode involving the character Abed (Danny Pudi) seeing the group as a generic sitcom in his head had the potential to be the most interesting part. I understand that the writers intended for this to be a parody of all the clichéd sitcoms that air on television today, but the lack of clever meta commentary on that trope is essentially nonexistent. Instead I found myself watching “Community” as a generic sitcom, something I never wanted to see.

In addition to the stories being weaker in both the season premiere and follow-up episodes, the show’s beloved character ensemble has been broken down. Aside from Jeff (Joel McHale), Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed remaining the same to a credible extent, Annie (Alison Brie) isn’t the same innocent overachiever, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) has lost her role as the passive-aggressive “mother” of the group, Britta’s (Gillian Jacob’s) no longer “the worst,” and the Dean and Pierce are reduced to uttering derivative jokes that are no longer clever compared to previous seasons.

With writing that feels like rushed fan fiction and the subtraction of certain key character traits, I have little faith in “Community” being good in this new direction. In an episode from the show’s first three seasons, I can remember laughing about 15 to 20 times, which contrasts vastly to me barely chuckling during this new season’s episodes. NBC, take a good look at what you’ve done, because you have Britta’d one of your best shows.

Not recommended: Thanks to NBC, I can’t believe in #SixSeasonsAndAMovie anymore.