Like most of the Internet, I love “Community”. “Community”, after all, was made for me and my small group of friends. Everyone I’ve recommended it to has adored it from the start. Naturally I feel personally betrayed that NBC would think of taking it off the air for any amount of time, even if it is just supposed to be for half of a season. The horrible possibility that it could be canceled before we find out if Jeff, Britta, Troy, Abed, Shirley, Annie and Pierce survive Greendale College has crossed my mind and, after a while, I’ve come to accept that possibility as a blessing in disguise.
“Community” is one of the most original shows on the air right now, and certainly one of the funniest. It’s absurd enough to feel boundless in its possibilities but grounded enough to make everybody on screen relatable. The writing is tight and smart, each episode maintains its hilarity individually and amplifies after repeat viewings or in as the show flows from season to season. The whole season is a complete story where each element builds a greater whole but still maintains its brilliance in fragments. The chemistry between the stellar cast makes it impossible to keep a favourite character for more than a few scenes. The most analogous sitcom is “Arrested Development”, which makes sense because a show like “Community” could not have existed before “Arrested Development”.
But like “Arrested Development”, there is only so far that this can go. The students at Greendale are there for four years, like a real college. There is an end in sight, if it isn’t after the third season it most certainly will have to be at the end of the fourth. What reason could the show provide for keeping the magic going without it feeling forced or contrived. The show tells a good story and a good story needs to know when it’s over. A show like “Community” deserves closure. Even if “Arrested Development” ended too soon, it ended well and true to its form. As for “Community”, it’s a shame if the audience is deprived of a few good laughs but it’s far better than to watch all the vibrancy get sucked out of the show just to keep it on life support (commonly referred to as “The Office” syndrome).
Although NBC has already bought and paid for the whole third season, there remains considerable doubt whether or not there’ll be a fourth. The show has already shown indications of stretching beyond its means. Jeff’s weeping at the end of “Studies in Modern Movement” or Abed’s wail during “Biology 101” seemed strikingly out of character for both. Further, more episodes in this season than either of the others have taken place away from Greendale, which suggests that the premise of the show is no longer sufficient to sustain it. Old recurring support characters that once gave the show its sense of life (Starburns, Duncan, Nicki, Garret, and Fat Neil to name a few) have stopped appearing altogether, a lot of these personalities were one-trick ponies, but there were so many of the ponies that it still added a lot of charm to the atmosphere. Finally, as great as it is to see more of Dean Pelton, the reduced use of Chang is near tragic. Add another year to these problems and they might diminish the impact of what is probably the smartest and snappiest comedies on the air right now.
“Community” deserves better than to run out of gas but still get dragged through the motions by its fans. If nothing else, it’s changed television for the better. If it ends, it’s better to end with the audience crying out in disappointment rather than sighing with relief. “Community” has paved the way for the next quirky, absurd, self-aware, smart show to find its home on the airwaves. And thanks to “Community” we’ll be ready for it to have its brief but shining moment in the spotlight.