Saturday, May 11, 2013

Finale Fun: Community's "Advanced Introduction to Finality"

Chic-fil-a's chicken will never be as good as Popeye's chicken, nor will a Dan Harmon-less Community be as good as the three seasons when Dan Harmon ran the show. Television works differently than other mediums. Network executives want money. Community's still kicking because Sony wants syndication money. Dan Harmon was fired. Moses Port and Dave Guarasico were hired to replace Dan Harmon. Many of the other writers left. Throughout the fourth season, fans and critics were split into two groups. One group disliked the show more with every week, wondering aloud what it'd be like with Harmon. The other group told the first group to stop complaining and enjoy the show since it is still enjoyable. Neither group is wrong or right in their opinions. Art is subjective. TV's a collaborative medium. Writers come together to tell a single story. Novelists are alone; artists are alone; dancers are alone, and on and on. Singular voices in television are rare. Roland Barthes would've probably liked TV because the author barely matters.

Moses Port and David Guarasico were in the spotlight from the moment Sony/NBC hired them to run the show. Folk wondered what kind of show they'd run. At Comic-Con, they promised to maintain the style of the show. Indeed, throughout the season, Community had 'community' episodes. The show took viewers to the Inspector Spacetime convention and showed them the gang as puppets. There were other episodes such as the body swap, another documentary filmmaking with the focus on Chang this time, and a semi-homage to Hitchock's Rope. The writers brought back the Annie/Jeff dynamic, openly explored Troy and Britta's relationship, in addition to all the callbacks from past episodes. Their hearts/intentions were in the right place. Some episodes worked rather well while others failed terribly. The reworked origin stories finally drove me to listen to Harmontown. I missed Harmon's insane perspective.

I also listened to a Nerdist Writers Panel with Andy Bobrow. Bobrow wrote for the series its last seasons. Megan Ganz stayed on as a writer after Harmon's firing. Port and Guarasico, as Bobrow told it, invited Bobrow and Ganz to teach them, and the new writers, how to write the show. Port and Guarasico took beatings for ideas that weren't their own. Bobrow admitted to having the meta-heavy idea for the premiere since so much changed. Community's identity, its formula, essentially demanded some kind of reference to what happened. Bobrow continued with more stories about post-Community situation and how he and Ganz enjoyed freedom to continue telling the story they started. Sometime near the end of the season, Bobrow wondered if he was killing the show. Again, their hearts were in the right place, but this season definitely had its issues.

The finale--"Advanced Introduction to Finality"--combined with last week's "Heroic Origins" was difficult for me to watch as a purist. I approached each episode with an open mind. I enjoyed the early part of the season; however, I had more problems with the latter half of the season. I'm one of those fans who watched for the characters rather than to see what crazy thing the show would do next. I understood why Troy would play-act a body swap with Abed to break up with Britta because play-acting is what Troy and Abed do, but Troy learned maturity in past episodes. The body swapped seemed like an indulgence rather than something that came from the character. Of course, Troy faked an injury in high school to get out of playing football, so he's had trouble expressing himself. Anyway, the series indulged fandom. Indulging fandom should work. Of course, rooting stories in a character works more than inventing something new to make the character work in the story.

I watched the bulk of the finale in horror as the darkest timeline took over the show. The writers clearly tried to respect Dan Harmon's vision during the season. Respecting his vision extends to keeping some things on the white board. The darkest timeline was wiped out in "Introduction to Finality." The timelines are Abed's thing. It is nonsense that Jeff would dream the darkest timeline out of fear of graduation. The darkest timeline dominated the middle part of the episode. I felt deflated. Why, show, why? I'd like to forget about the last two episodes of the show. Jeff Winger's graduation/wedding at the end was a well-written and well-acted scene. Those moments are delicate. Make it too big and it won't work, but make it too small and it might feel like it's not important. The simplicity of Jeff's speech, the ceremony, and what-not, was good. I liked that Jeff had trouble finding the words for his experience. I appreciated the idea of Jeff worrying about returning to the real world that ruined him, forcing him to return to school and find himself with a group of other misfits who had nowhere else to go.

Also, NBC renewed Community for another season. Chevy Chase won't be part of the series. Chase famously quit the series. Pierce barely mattered in season four. The writers' hands were tied. I'd like Chevy to be less difficult to work with since I love Pierce. The Pierce scene in "Heroic Origins" just bummed me out. This post is ending rather unmemorably.


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About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.