(Dear Community, Have a great summer! C U next year!)
So the Third Season of Community has come to a close. There was a time it seemed doubtful to us ardent fans that NBC would even air the back end of the season. But then they did! And then they renewed it for a 13 episode 4th Season! And then they fired the show's creator, Dan Harmon, and most of the creative team left. WHAAAT? It makes almost no sense. Why keep a low-rated, but creatively rich show if you are just going to replace the people who supply the creative vision? What do you actually have left at that point? The actors, sure, but they don't write the scripts. I can't even imagine what such an offbeat show will be like in different hands. If they were planning to gut the creative side, they probably should've just cancelled the series and gone with one of their new pilots. Regardless of how fans feel about it the show in one form or another is coming back next fall on Fridays. Time will tell what it will actually consist of plot-wise. In the meantime, let's reflect on the just completed Season 3 - which turned out to be a very strong season. There were a few growing pains right at the beginning, and then again after it came back from hiatus, but the highs here were super high and definitely outnumbered the lows. And the end was incredibly satisfying, so I'm grateful it aired at all. Let's take a look back and see what this year's grades were.
Biology 101 - The study group takes Biology together, but Pierce is odd-man-out when only six seats are available in the class. Pierce gets in when Professor Kane kicks Jeff out for cell phone use, but Jeff gets back in when Star Burns tries to start a Breaking Bad-style meth deal with Professor Kane. On the administrative side, Dean Felton and Vice Dean Laybourne are at odds over the Air Conditioning Repair Annex. The school does a song and dance number promising to be less weird! (Nice try!) Jeff gets gassed in the school air vents and wields a fire axe against their study table. Britta starts her arc as a Psych Major. The Doctor Who-ian "Inspector Spacetime" takes the place of Cougar Town in Abed's imagination. Michael K. Williams and John Goodman join the recurring cast as Professor Kane and Vice Dean Laybourne respectively! It's good to have our gang back on TV. Grade: B+
Geography of Global Conflict - Annie finds scholastic competition from another girl named Annie almost too much to handle and then a Model UN competition causes strife for all. Campus Security Officer Chang emerges for a season-long arc of craziness and authoritarianism. Annie and Jeff start to deal with their awkward attraction to each other, but don't come to any real conclusions about it. It was a decent outing, but the Parks and Rec Model UN episode also from this season was way funnier. Grade: B
Competitive Ecology - The gang pairs off in science class to build a terrarium, but then they argue about their pairings all night long. Chang acts out the fantasy of being a Noir-style detective. Todd is introduced as a recurring seemingly benevolent student at Greendale. I love to hate Todd, but the gang is spending a lot of time each episode reminding each other how much they mean to each other. Out loud. We get it! They mean a lot to each other! Grade: B
Remedial Chaos Theory - Reality splinters with the rolling of a die at Troy and Abed's housewarming party. Parallel universes spring forth showing the different effects on the study group when each character is chosen to go to the door to get their pizza delivery. An evil troll doll starts a fire. Evil Abed is born. Jeff hits his head on the ceiling fan a lot and then loses an arm. Britta gets purple highlights. But not in the Prime universe. In the prime universe Britta, and the rest of the gang just gets to sing along to Roxanne and eat pizza. It's truly amazing. Even in the darkest of timelines. Grade: A+
Advanced Gay - Pierce throws a party to celebrate the success of Hawthorne Wipes in the gay community, but the "Gay Bash" turns uncomfortable and then deadly when Pierce's dad shows up and Jeff works out his Daddy Issues on him until he croaks. Also Vice Dean Layborne continues to make a play for Troy's soul in the Air Conditioning Annex. This one is a rare example of Community falling flat in execution. Even a guest appearance by drag queen Shangela could save it. Grade: C
Studies In Modern Movement - The Study Group helps Annie move in with Troy and Abed, except for Jeff who bails on helping them, and then gets blackmailed into spending the day with the Dean at the mall. Annie later struggles dealing with Troy and Abed's immature living habits and not having enough personal space. The guys eventually rally to make her feel better. The Dreamatorium is introduced. We learn the Dean's first name is Craig. Jeff and the Dean sing a stirring karaoke version of "Kiss From A Rose" in front of a green screen. Who could ask for anything more? Grade: A
Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism - Jeff and Shirley take on some losers who monopolize the foosball table, only to realize they share a scarring childhood memory of playing against each other as kids. Annie breaks Abed's special edition DVD of The Dark Knight. She tries to make it look like a robbery, causing Abed to dress like Batman and find the villain who did it. Seeing Jeff and Shirley as youngsters together is amazing. Seeing adult Jeff and Shirley locked in an anime cartoon foosball battle is also amazing. Abed as Batman is always fun. I mostly love the deepening of the Jeff and Shirley friendship. They are the best. Grade: A-
Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts - Andre re-proposes to Shirley. Britta is revealed to be an amazing wedding planner which depresses the hell out of her. Jeff must write a toast to Shirley and it doesn't go well for him. Troy and Abed attempt to become "normal" for the wedding, freaking everyone out. Pierce and Shirley try to get a new sandwich shop installed in the cafeteria, but Greendale takes their idea and moves forward with a Subway franchise instead. Andre and Shirley remarry. This was the first episode back after that horribly long hiatus and expectations were probably too high. Still, it was great to see the Study Group again! Grade: B
Contemporary Impressionists - The Study Group helps Abed get rid of debt by impersonating various celebrities at a bar mitzvah. Jeff begins experiencing extreme narcissism. This one had the potential for some very funny set-ups but they never really materialized and the idea of Abed having impersonator debts didn't really work for me. This begins the Rift arc in Troy and Abed's friendship. We should also take note of the Moby impersonator that looks an awful lot like the Dean. He may come back sometime in the future...
Pillows and Blankets (Part 2) - Presented in the style of the Ken Burns' documentary, The Civil War, the school splits between Troy's Blanketsburg and Abed's Pillow Town. Jeff first tries to prolong the fight to avoid studying and later tries to negotiate a truce between his friends. Annie sets up a treatment center for pillow fight victims. Britta tries to take documentary photos and fails badly. Shirley and Pierce head to the front lines. Eventually the war ends and Troy and Abed reconcile. The Changlorious Basterds are introduced to the school as Chang's pre-teen death squad. This is a very solid and funny episode, and if you know Ken Burns's documentary than it's even more enjoyable, but the thing that kinda leaves it slightly unsatisfying for me is that the storytelling and POV between parts 1 and 2 are so vastly different. I feel like they both should've been done in doc style or neither of them. But it's just a stylistic quibble. Grade: A
Origins of Vampire Mythology - When the carnival comes into town, bringing Britta's carney ex-boyfriend Blade with it, she needs Anne to keep her away from him. She hides out with Annie at the apartment while Abed and Troy unhelpfully watch Blade. Vice Dean Laybourne recruits Dean Pelton to lure Troy to the Air Conditioning Repair Annex, but he fails miserably in his half-hearted attempt. Jeff becomes obsessed with learning Blade's secret of being irresistible, annoying Shirley in the process. Change and Pierce become short-lived best friends at the carnival. Britta eventually realizes she shouldn't be into guys who are mean to her, and should maybe be into a guy who likes her a lot, like Troy. I didn't think Blad was all that special. Grade: B-
Virtual Systems Analysis - After their biology test is postponed, the gang splits up for the afternoon. Annie accompanies Abed for some some quality time in the Dreamatorium, while Troy and Britta going on a lunch date. While "rendering" an adventure with Inspector Spacetime, Annie confronts Abed about his true feelings about himself and their friends, and Abed in turn forces her to examine her feelings for Jeff. The Dreamatorium effects were unusual and rad, and the look into both Abed and Annie's way of thinking was entertaining and enlightening. Grade: A
Course Listing Unavailable - The Study Group deals with the death of their drug-dealing classmate Star Burns. Britta acts as a grief counselor, with little positive effect. Chang ramps up his campaign to the Dean for to increased policing powers. The memorial service for Star Burns turns into a riot, instigated in part by the incendiary rants of the Study Group. Chang's Changlorious Basterds attack the student body, the Dean gets replaced by a body double (Fake Moby from Contemporary Impressionists!) and the Study Group becomes known as the Greendale Seven and are expelled from school. This is a solid episode with a lot of plot that moves well. Grade: A-
First Chang Dynasty - The Study Group plans to rescue the Dean - Ocean's Eleven-style. An elaborate heist! While Chang becomes distracted planning a big birthday par-tay for himself, the gang dons elaborate costumes worthy of the Dean himself and infiltrates the school. At first it looks like they are busted by Chang, but it's an intentional fake out, until they are actually busted by Chang. Troy sells his soul to the Air Conditioning Repair Annex to free them in time to stop Chang from blowing up the school with illegal fireworks and a key-tar. Chang's scheme is exposed and he flees the school. The Dean takes back control and the Greendale Seven are vindicated, but Troy must leaves his friends for the waiting arms of Vice Dean Laybourne. They wrapped all that up rather nicely, I'd say. Grade: A-
Introduction to Finality - Story Arc Resolution for all! After a legal squabble, Shirley and Pierce open their Greendale sandwich shop! Jeff bests his former colleague,who once turned him in to his law firm, aces his Biology final and starts searching for his Absentee Dad! Britta sticks with her psych major! Vice Dean Laybourne dies and Troy becomes the Repair Man Messiah! Abed vanquishes Evil Abed. Annie... is doing fine! Abed takes down the Dreamatorium so that Troy can have his own room, but keeps a phonebooth sized version for himself! #sixseasonsandamovie. If this had to be a series finale - and from an original creative standpoint it certainly is - this ended on a very satisfying note. Grade: A
So that's all there is, until there is more! It was a very productive school year for the Greendale Seven. We'll have to see what course they all take together next year. If the show is nothing like it was in the first three seasons, at least there will be the theme song, appropriately titled, "At Least It Was Here."