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Episode 1 - History 101

11 February 2013

This was so fascinating to watch. It felt like a weird kind of voyeurism, a “what if” scenario where someone else got to create their own version of Community. As you know I haven’t been a fan of the show since early Season Two and so I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about how the show would look and feel in a post-Dan Harmon world. However after the first five minutes it really began to strike me how surreal it was to be watching the same show but with different show runners. At times it was hard to explain why something felt wrong or different but it just did. Harmon had a style, often a frustrating one, but it was very apparent here how difficult it would be to replicate.

The episode was structured far more logically or should I say traditionally than the average Community episode. The meta-commentary on it being the final year of school felt far more overt and straightforward than I would have expected. The characters were all dealing with reactions to the situation as you would expect. Jeff trying to be nice, Annie trying to be different, Pierce trying to make gay jokes and Abed trying to cling on. It all felt sensible and believable and in a way that’s why it didn’t feel like Community. There was no unexpected twist or surreal slant on things.

Instead characters behaved as their archetypes would on a more traditional sit com. The way the Dean Games played out, as a comedy side bar, rather than some kind of parody or commentary didn’t feel like Community. That Troy and Britta had an argument at the fountain which was clearly designed to advance their relationship didn’t feel like Community (no relationships ever really developed under Harmon). Abed’s dream looked surreal on the surface but was actually just the kind of plot you might see on other sit coms. He tried to stop life from changing and then had to learn to accept that it would. It’s just that he did it all in his head whereas most comedy characters would have actually gone around trying to physically stop things.

You might think I would prefer this more traditional version of the show. But there was definitely something missing. There was an absence of snap from the dialogue. The scene where Annie and Shirley broke into the Dean’s office just didn’t feel authentic. Annie didn’t sound like Annie. The jokes written for her where crafted as if she was Amy Farrah Fowler (The Big Bang Theory) or some other twee person who would get all excited about a prank that had no teeth. Annie was never that simple a character. There was more complexity to her than that and it was kind of sad to see the character be, understandably, reduced to a more relatable stereotype.

As you might expect in a move toward more predictable comedy the Dean featured heavily and flamboyantly. He was far more involved last season than in previous ones so it wasn’t a huge shift. However it certainly felt like he was being prominently featured to provide laughs that Harmon would have spread around more evenly.

For Community fans this must be a difficult situation. Show runners do change on other shows but Dan Harmon had a vision and style that made Community genuinely different from any other show on TV. To see the same cast be pulled back toward the format of other shows was weird. I wouldn’t blame anyone for giving up now. I will continue to review it over the next few episodes but reserve the right to stop covering the show if it becomes too hard to watch. 



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  • While i agree this episode was underwhelming i really wish you would get someone else to review comedies, Your comedy reviews are unnecessarily harsh and always consist of unfairly low scores. I came here for The Wire reviews but your comedy reviews have made me discard your opinions on all television.

    Viewer score: 60 / 100

    Posted by Oh Gee, 14/02/2013 11:17pm (7 years ago)

  • I didn't feel as negative towards this as you did. It didn't feel exactly like Harmon's Community, The Hunger Deans were just trying to hard to be weird and weren't very clever as Community's other parodies, but it didn't feel too terribly off. Annie was problematic in that she feels like her character has been reduced to her most basic archetype which is.. unfortunate. I feel like the show can continue in the fourth season to be an average comedy though while I agree a lot with Dan Harmon's overall style of running a show I don't think any episode will achieve the uniqueness that he was able to bring. Abed TV was a little bit of hope but as you say it was a quite common TV plot.

    Viewer score: 60 / 100

    Posted by Derek, 10/02/2013 11:27pm (7 years ago)

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