By Daniel Ford
Death has never come easy for NBC’s “Community.”
The show not only had to contend with the constant threat of its own cancellation, but also featured several deaths that the misguided, passionate, weird, contentious, and loveable-despite-themselves band of community college misfits had to wrestle with.
I thought the show was dead when Dan Harmon left. There were three brilliant seasons of television that hardcore fans would forever be happy with and the ratings were such that it seemed cancellation was inevitable.
It was kept alive by NBC. David Guarascio and Moses Port did an admirable job keeping most of the show’s spirit alive in Season 4 under near impossible circumstances. But still, it wasn’t the “Community” that I, or any of its #sixseasonsandamovie-obsessed fans, had grown to love and expect. When the finale of that season ended, I figured the show would finally, and deservedly at that point, be put down for good.
I should have known not to count “Community” out. Dan Harmon was even re-hired to run the show’s fifth season. How crazy is that? Was there something mystical in that hashtag that Jedi mind-tricked NBC executives from seeing the abysmal ratings? It’s not that Harmon had a personality transfusion and would now be willing to play nice with others and develop a “normal” show for the network.
The fifth season premiere of “Community,” and the finale that followed, were the closet in execution and spirit to those incredible first three seasons. While the season as a whole was uneven, I appreciated the bonus hours I got to spend at Greendale, a place I had come to inhabit more so than my actual community college in Queens, N.Y.
Season 5 felt like a long good-bye and an attempt by Harmon to right the ship that he had himself capsized. Donald Glover said farewell, choosing his budding rap career over Troy and his river of tears and sissy sneezes. Chevy Chase’s character Pierce made a brief appearance before he also kicked the bucket and joined his mother in that big energon pod in the sky.
Some storylines were resolved. Some weren’t. It ended the way it should have. You can’t argue that the characters are in a better or worse place than when they started. “Community” was at its best when it mirrored the real world (even those episodes that involved zombies or a KFC flight simulator). None of these characters were comfortable in their own skin because their creator has never been comfortable in his own skin. No one should be 100% comfortable in their own skin because real brilliance and creativity comes from grappling with how best to deal with yourself while having to live in the real world. The friends you make along the way—even when they drive you crazy or try to torpedo your game of Dungeons and Dragons—make that journey tolerable and lead to express yourself better than you would alone.
“Community” is dead, but it lived a full life and should be mourned in peace and tranquility, not anger. We’re not in the darkest timeline because that timeline is one in which the show never existed. Five seasons of the show are a gift, one that can easily be enjoyed on multiple platforms for the rest of time.
As Shirley would say, “That’s nice.”