Brow Beat

No One Talks About Community Anymore. Here’s Why We Should.

The Season 6 paintball episode is one of Community’s best.

Photo courtesy of Yahoo.

The Community Season 6 finale is now up on Yahoo. Perhaps, if you’re a hardcore fan, you knew this already. If you’re anything like me, however—even if you are a diehard fan of the show—it may have completely slipped your mind.

It didn’t always used to be this way. Community has had an interesting evolution as a TV show: It was never a commercial darling with whopping ratings, even in its early seasons—when critics consistently heaped praise on creator Dan Harmon’s self-aware, smart comedy, and terrific cast. Yet those critics, along with the show’s small but devoted fan base, were very vocal champions. By the time the show entered Season 3, Community—and Harmon—was perhaps best-known for its behind-the-scenes drama and its will-they-or-won’t-they (cancel the series) relationship with NBC. But no matter how dire the situation got off and on camera, Community still seemed relevant as a cultural touchstone, thanks in no small part to the infamous hashtag plea: #SixSeasonsandaMovie.

Now, Community has seemed to have all but disappeared from the wider conversation, despite finally reaching its highly desired sixth season, albeit on a new “network,” After some fanfare around the premiere back in March, the show has faded quietly into the background. Part of this may have a lot to do with the fact that it’s difficult for any show to maintain strong interest going into later seasons—Community is clearly no longer the show that is constantly surprising you with narrative twists and trailblazing concepts. (New comedies like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt retain that spot for the moment.) It also probably hasn’t helped that it came back just as Game of Thrones and the final season of Mad Men were about to return to the air.

But here’s the thing: This season of Community has been good. Once it got past those initial two blah episodes, it seemed to find its groove. Though the comedic pacing can still feel off at times due to the significantly longer episode run times, Harmon and his team have managed to find new ways to breathe life into the show. The return of the beloved paintball war in “Modern Espionage” made for one of the best episodes of the season, especially thanks to Dean Pelton, who is more involved in combat here than he ever was in the past. (His impressive, panicky battle in a small elevator with several adversaries is particularly great, a funny take on a familiar action movie trope.) And “Laws of Robotics and Party Rights” was weird in the best way possible: The prison inmates who attend the school as roving robots made for great visual comedy, like when one of the convicts tries to “push” Jeff down the stairs, to no avail.

New characters Elroy (Keith David) and Frankie (Paget Brewster) have come into their own as well. The former takes on the “elder” role that was long ago vacated by Pierce (Chevy Chase) in the group, and while he’s often confused by modern-day slang and makes references to Vietnam, he’s not a carbon copy of his predecessor—he’s actually quite smart (a retired scientist), and definitely not sexist or racist. Frankie’s adjustment to the loopy characters around her has also been a pleasure to watch; her exaggerated pragmatism balances out her more chaotic peers. (“Oh god, no, I never hope,” she tells a horrified Annie. “Hope is pouting in advance, hope is faith’s richer, bitchier sister.”)

And so it makes me sad that the show has receded in relevance. Part of the blame may fall on the shoulders of fans like myself, who grew weary of the back and forth between NBC and Harmon’s team and had finally made peace with Season 5’s mostly satisfying ending. Also to blame, as Pilot Viruet has noted on Flavorwire, is the jump to Yahoo, which is new to the TV streaming game when compared to the likes of Netflix and Hulu, platforms that have plucked other shows from their former networks in recent years. Yahoo isn’t known for being a website specifically used for consuming television. And looking at its homepage now, you may not immediately realize that it has put up the finale unless you deliberately sought it out, as I did via the ⌘-F combo in my browser window. (At the time of writing, a small sidebar on the right-hand side links to the finale, if you scroll down a bit.)

But you should do yourself a favor and get back into the show, and not just because Yvette Nicole Brown returned as Shirley for the finale. This time around, in fact, the ride is a bit more pleasant, because there are absolutely no more expectations to be had—no real, solid hope for more beyond this season. If you’re a hardcore fan like me, you can enjoy Season 6 free of anxiety, while being delightfully surprised at just how good it continues to be.