One By One, They All Just Fade Away
Community is back, and it's more Community-y than ever -- not really in a good way.
With its sixth season miraculously beginning on Yahoo! (the exclamation point is part of the site's name, not an expression of excitement), it is clear that Community will not die. Well, not right away. It will, however, wither before your eyes, as core characters leave and the plots become lazier and lazier. Or, if you are of an optimistic, generous nature, you can pretend that being "meta" is an excuse to just cop out on the finer details of character and story.
I, however, am turning bitter and mean in my old age. So when Paget Brewster is brought in by the Dean announcing, "Say hello to the new Shirley!," I am not enchanted by the very idea of the fourth wall being broken. Instead, I wonder if it's unreasonable to expect new characters to be introduced with even a drop of logic. When Ms. Brewster's character is established by Abed's explaining to her that her character is "boring person," I know perfectly well that Dan Harmon thinks he's deliberately inverting the traditional "show, don't tell" rule. But that's a rule for a reason, and ignoring it does not actually lead to a better story. It leads to a story that's practically terrified of being perceived as containing actual characters. It leads to a story where a surprising amount of time is spent in which the characters list plot holes as a way of indicating that they won't be addressing them.
And, by the way. About Paget Brewster. I realize she's got lots of television credits, like "woman who dated both Chandler and Joey, leading to that time Chandler spent Thanksgiving in a box" and "someone on Criminal Intent." But I mostly know her from her work on the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast, where she plays Sadie Doyle in the "Beyond Belief" segments. She's great there! Here, she's stuck with the role of "boring person," because new regulars are needed to fill the spaces left by Donald Glover, Chevy Chase, Yvette Nicole Brown, and even Jonathan Banks and John Oliver. After two episodes, she's been slotted firmly into being the person who scolds everyone else for doing crazy nonsense all the time. That used to be the job of the Dean, or Jeff, or Annie, or Britta, but they all got transitioned to being completely unhinged all the time.
The other people filling up screen time are Jim Rash and Ken Jeong. And they're doing largely what they did before, except that now there's more Chang to go around. A lot more. And I'm on record as enjoying Chang's antics from time to time, but a little of him goes a long, long way. And it can start now.
Look. It's not a surprise that Community isn't about a community college. But at this point, it's a show about a show called "Community." And you know what we call it when a television writer makes all of his work about the people who he feels have not shown his work the proper respect? We call it "late period Aaron Sorkin." And with that, even with my greatest effort, I cannot.
But, look. If you like Community -- and I mean if you really like Community -- there might be enough residual goodwill in the characters to keep you coming back. But it seems like you could get almost the same effect by just imagining Danny Pudi reading an episode description to you.