After the amazing chicken fingers and paintball episodes in the first season, Community quickly became one of my favorite sitcoms of all time. It proved to be a show with an absolutely amazing eye for parody and an unprecedented ability to shift between genres and tones without every losing its characters or its emotional center. At its best, I think it’s an utterly brilliant half hour of television.
So you would think that I was quite ecstatic upon hearing that news that the show would be brought back for a fifth season (thanks to the fact that all of the “broader, more accessible” sitcoms NBC launched last fall failed miserably).
You would be wrong though.
I was actually incredibly disappointed.
That’s because, for the last year, Community hasn’t been Community. Dan Harmon, the show’s creator and showrunner, was let go after season three and a new regime took over. They gave us a fourth season that was occasionally quite funny and charming (particularly “Intro to Felt Surrogacy” and “Basic Human Anatomy”), but for the most part just felt like a pale imitation of Harmon’s work. It never reached the brilliant heights seasons two and three did. It’s parodies seemed half-assed and done purely out of fan service. It went for easy jokes over emotionally-compelling stories. It teased a season-long arc about Chang plotting with City College, only to drop it unceremoniously one episode before the finale. And the finale itself … ugh … such an unwatchable train wreck that tried to coast by by retreading two of the show’s greatest Harmon-era episodes.
I was told by friends that I should count my blessings. I heard people say that a watered-down, pale imitation Community is better than no Community at all. But is it? Why aren’t 71 episodes produced under the Harmon era enough? How many episodes do we really need? How much is enough?
There’s something to be said for the British approach to television. Many British shows run for only a few seasons (which typically have somewhere between six and 12 episodes) before wrapping things up for good. The British version of The Office gave fans 12 episodes and a two-part Christmas special. By the end of its second season, the American version of the show had more than doubled the amount of episodes of the original incarnation. And yet, after eight years and 201 episodes, I have friends who are absolutely devastated that The Office is ending tomorrow night. They want it to keep going on forever.
Saying that America is a culture of excess certainly isn’t a new sentiment. I mean, I grew up in the 80s, for fuck’s sake. Excess was that decade’s defining characteristic.
But I do think that as the network system dies a slow and painful death and cable television (and outlets like Netflix) become the predominant source of quality original programming, embracing the British model is a good thing. It’s already the norm for cable shows to run around 12 or 13 episodes a season. And it’s much easier and more accepted for Vince Gilligan to convince AMC to set a definitive end date for Breaking Bad than it is for Carter Bays and Craig Thomas to turn down the wheelbarrows full of cash being offered to them by CBS to give us 22 more completely unnecessary and lackluster episodes of How I Met Your Mother.
Personally, I look forward to a new less-is-more era of entertainment.
I look forward to a time when I won’t go on Twitter and see a petition to bring back Futurama once again (which I actually saw this week) – a show that was already brought back through a series of direct-to-DVD films and three extra seasons that ran on Comedy Central.
I look forward to a world where the thought of one more fucking Die Hard movie would be viewed as absolutely sacrilege.
I look forward to a time when, one week after The Dark Knight Rises is released in theaters, I won’t have to listen to people discuss who should take over the reigns of the Batman franchise and how soon the next film should be released.
I look forward to a world free of Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaigns because, let’s face it – after all this time, the chances of the movie reaching the heights of the original show or living up to fan expectations are slim to none.
In what is considered by many to be the greatest film of all time – Citizen Kane – we see a protagonist who lives a life of complete excess and yet, it’s the simple pleasure of a humble item from his childhood that he clings to at the end of his life. I think that’s an important lesson that we could all learn when begging for more episodes of our favorite TV shows and more sequels to our favorite movies. Be happy with what you have instead of constantly trying to get more, more, more. Pop in The Avengers into your Blu-ray player instead of clamoring for Iron Man 3. Rewatch season one of Veronica Mars on Hulu. Or seriously, if you’ve never done so, take some time and watch Citizen Kane. It’s absolutely brilliant.
… speaking of Citizen Kane, am I the only one who has always been dying to see a prequel where we watch a young Charles Foster Kane having madcap adventures in the snow atop his beloved Rosebud? Let’s start an online petition and see if we can get that sucker greenlit ASAP.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org