Starring: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Chevy Chase, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash,
Running Time: 285 minutes
Season 4 of Community has devided many viewers, with the majority declaring that it just isn’t as good as previous seasons. This can probably be attributed to series creator Dan Harmon being removed from the show in a creative capacity (set to return for Season 5), as well as a number of public bust-ups involving one of the show’s stars, Chevy Chase. The show has also been one of the biggest will-they won’t-they in terms of whether the network will renew it for another season. Such talks happen every year. Season 4 was delayed by NBC, meaning all the festive and holiday related episodes (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) were shown at the wrong time of year. It’s not been a smooth road for Community but Season 4 contains so much more than it’s given credit for.
One of the biggest, and unavoidable, issues that fans will have is that the number of ‘gimmicky’ episodes has increased by a huge amount, although it must also be taken into consideration that this season is almost half the length of the previous three. Whereas a bizarre episode would come around every so often in the first three seasons, here they become the focus of the show. It doesn’t mean they are individually bad episodes, with the puppets, evil timeline, traditional sitcom episodes, all containing a huge number of laughs. The joy of Community is the fact that these so called ‘gimmicks’ are used to explore the characters and their motivations. The puppets are used to access the groups’ strongest regrets, and the evil timeline is a chance for Jeff (McHale) to face certain aspects of himself. Even the body swap episode has a tender and mature ending.
In terms of humour, Community is still one of the freshest properties out there. It provides the exact amount of character based comedy, mixed with brilliant pop (and not so popular) references, and fantastic dialogue. Each of the actors has grown into their roles with such commitment that it’s impossible to not fall in love with the characters. However, there is an obvious problem in regards to Chevy Chase. The man is absolutely fantastic, and steals a lot of the scenes and episodes he is a part of, but it becomes painfully obvious that the show had trouble securing him for shooting. The rest of the cast are constantly forced to make excuses for Pierce’s (Chase) absence, rather than just creating one in the beginning of the season that might explain why his appearances are so sporadic. The focus on the alternative reality and bizarre referencing may also not appeal to some fans who enjoyed them in smaller doses.
Community succeeds in making us care for the characters without ignoring their huge amount of problems as well. The issues each one of them has are also celebrated and accepted by each other, making for a series that really welcomes viewers, rather than offering a judgmental view of how they should be. Messages are there, such as Jeff reuniting with his estranged father, but they are introduced as just one of many ways in which lives can unfold and not “This is what you SHOULD do in this situation.” Any show that can result in a 5 hour marathon of continuous laughing and not a single moment of boredom is certainly doing something right. And what Doctor Who fan isn’t going to love the Inspector Space Time episode with a brilliant guest role by Matt Lucas?