And with one last cafeteria dance party, Greendale has once again been saved, and Community has almost reached its ultimate goal of six seasons and a movie.
But the group’s hard-earned victory felt somewhat hollow, and the fifth season was brought to a close in a particularly lackluster way. Despite last week’s episode, “Basic Story” setting up a slightly different, more interesting take on the idea of the study group contemplating moving on and growing up, the finale threw all of those developments out the window for what turned out to be their most formulaic adventure yet. In fact, lackluster the best way to sum up season five as a whole, which got off to a great start, but seemed to fall flat after losing Troy and Pierce.
Since “Basic Sandwich” brings to a close a season surrounded by controversy and media attention, it seems only fair to look back on all of the episodes to see what worked, what didn’t and what we think Community can improve in the event that get the season we’ve been waiting for.
Worked: Duncan and Hickey The loss of Troy and Pierce left the study group somewhat off-balance, but Duncan and Hickey were the ideal replacements for two of the gang’s most important members. Like Donald Glover, John Oliver has the ability to deliver almost every punch line perfectly, and so he’s given this season some of its best and weirdest jokes. Jonathan Banks has also made a great addition to the group, giving their adventures some edge and playing the “grumpy older man” role with hilarious results. We’re not sure if they’ll be back next year, as both are committed to other series, but we sincerely hope they are. After all, we still need to find out how Hickey’s gay son’s wedding went.
Didn’t Work: The Finale The fifth season kicked off with “Repilot,” which allowed the show to start over again from a fresh, new perspective, which is why it makes no sense for the show to end on another push of the reset button. What’s the point of setting up interesting storylines or putting the characters through major changes of everything’s going to be wiped away at the end of the season with some Dave Matthews Band? The whole point of this season was to rebuild the show after the “gas leak,” and so ending up at the same place we started essentially renders everything that happened this year pointless.
Worked: Abed Abed was by far the MVP of Season 5, and his combination of meta commentary and heart gave the show some much-needed life this year. Between his heartbreaking goodbye to Troy and his long, rambling monologue about Britta and Jeff’s spinoff in “Basic Sandwich,” Abed continues to be one of the show’s strengths, and he has truly become the heart and soul of Community. Plus, he does the best Nicolas Cage impression we’ve ever set eyes on.
Didn’t Work: Lack of Shirley Her relationships with the other members of the study group have given the show some of its best episodes and most iconic moments, but the fifth season of Community saw Shirley shunted to the side in favor of the other characters. She never once received a story line of her own, and all of the things we’ve learned about her over the years – her devotion to her family, her dedication to her business, her secret foosball past – were touched upon at all this year. It’s not enough to simply reference her lack of screen time. You need to actually give her some more attention in order for it to work.
Worked: Higher Stakes This year’s highlights came whenever the characters dealt with big issues: the loss of two of their own, the threat of mortality, life turning out differently than they expected, and having to leave behind their safety net. These stories provided the funniest moments and the cleverest parodies and gave the fifth season some much needed weight. We’re hoping the writers will bring keep exploring bigger issues in the sixth season, as everything gets a little more serious now that the study group understand what failure in the real world feels like.
Didn’t Work: Jeff/Annie/Britta Look, we don’t care if he dates Britta, Annie, both or neither, but the show needs to either follow through with this plot or let it go completely. We can’t suffer through any more of Jeff and Annie pining over each other, and while we love Britta and Jeff’s bickering, their fake-out attempts at a relationship are losing their charm. Pick a direction and stick with it, and please, spare us all any more will-they-or-won’t-they-is-this-a-love-triangle-or-are-they-all-just-friends nonsense.
Only Kind of Worked: Season 4 Bashing We get it: Dan Harmon hates Season 4. It’s understandable. But while we loved the small references to the issues everyone had with those episodes, much of this season felt like Harmon was just attempting to prove how much better he is at running Community than everyone else. The parody episodes felt less like homages than an opportunity to showcase how much better his references were, and many of the characters’ plots felt like a deliberate attempt to undo everything the show runners of season four came up with. Now that we’ve all made peace with the past, how about we just look forward for season six, and allow everyone to just move on. (We're still on board with the gas leak idea, though.)
Still Doesn’t Work No Matter How Hard We Try: Chang Ken Jeong still has some brilliant moments, but Chang hasn’t felt like an organic part of the show since he was fired way back in season one. He flip-flops back and forth between good and evil as the story requires, but he doesn’t’ add anything to the show. If the writers can’t figure out a decent story for him for the next season, it might be best to just reduce his role to a recurring one, so that we get all of the best parts of Chang without him wearing out his welcome. Or just give him and Garret a spinoff. We’d watch every episode of that.
It's tough to begin this weekly recap of Community, because tonight's episode was so imaginative, and so rewarding to the audience that has fallen in love with these characters, that I don't know where to begin. It's also tough because it was just so f---ing weird. I mean, what just happened?
At NBC's Summer Press Day this Wednesday, Jim Rash said that "The third [season] has been about all of these characters testing who they are, and what they've chosen to do with their lives." Well, "Virtual Systems Analysis" found two of our main characters testing (simulating?) who they were, and how their actions could impact the loved ones around them. Pierce mainly sat on his balls, but whatever.
The set-up was this: Since the study group's biology test had been suddenly canceled, (As announced by Dean Pelton, who was wearing a busted up Victor/Victoria-meets-Two Face ensemble that will only be mentioned this one time, because I want to sleep tonight) the gang had 3 hours to spend by themselves. Shirley ran off to a fast food chain across town, Pierce watched some movies, and Jeff went God knows where -- probably to nap in his car.
But the major players here were Troy, Abed, Annie, and Britta. That game-changing text that Britta received from Troy last week was obviously not forgotten: The two were shyly flirting at the study table, and matchmaker Annie used the 3-hour recess as an excuse to force them into a Senor Kevin's lunch date. This did not please Abed -- he wanted to play with Troy in the Dreamatorium, and the manager at Senor Kevin's said Die Hard was bad.
To raise Abed's spirits and satiate his need for some Dreamatorium time, Annie subbed for Troy in a reenactment of Professor Spacetime. But Annie was no match for Troy's Constable Reggie -- she didn't know the difference between Blogon and Blorgon, and she couldn't buy into Abed's story that the Dreamatorium's Engine enabled him to envision every possible scenario for their study group. "I'm able to to simulate any of the study group, and even a half-accurate Chang, in over 7,000 unique situations," he said.
Abed was simulating a disastrous date for Troy and Britta -- in his mind, Troy spent the whole date missing Abed, and the manager still hated Die Hard. "I'm afraid your food won't be ready for another half hour," he said. "I'm too busy misunderstanding the whole point of Die Hard."
This didn't sit too well with Annie, who was confidant in her matchmaking abilities and offended when Abed said her brain wasn't able to function at a high enough level to understand the Dreamatorium. She stormed out of the room, and ended up on the phone with Troy -- giving some validity to Abed's earlier claim. Troy said that he worried about Abed when he wasn't home, and that the Dreamatorium could take a dangerous toll. "He's just extra-sensitive in the Dreamatorium," Troy explained. "It takes a lot out of him to run that thing."
Annie instantly ignored Troy's advice, making a drastic change to Abed's control room that would put "Other People" needs above Abed's own thoughts. His brain quickly malfunctioned, and this is where things started to get super weird. (Please keep in mind that the following events take place in the Dreamatorium. They make little to no sense, and they are awesome.)
When Abed awoke, he was no longer himself -- he was playing the role of Jeff (Obviously not a Kardashian), who was trying to seduce Annie in a Dreamatorium-created Doctor's Lounge at Greendale Hospital School -- where the Jeffs are hot and the vending machines only sell buttered noodles. (Exposition: It's a sexy emotional school where doctors save lives and make love, often simultaneously.) Jeff wanted Annie to have sex with him: True, he was a surgeon and she was a hotshot upstart administrator, but not even their two-foot height disparity would suppress his unbridled passion. (Aside: This scenario gave even more validity to Abed's omnipotence claim, as this is totally something that Annie herself would dream up. You know Annie watches Grey's Anatomy.)
Annie and "Jeff" then ended up in the bio lab with "Troy" and "Britta," who were currently in the middle of Abed's disturbing version of a make-out session. Abed's Troy and Britta wouldn't help Annie locate the actual Abed, but Troy admitted to seeing his file once Annie injected him with a truth serum. (See what I mean about this episode being really f---ing weird? No, Mom -- I'm not taking drugs. This is the actual recap.)
In addition to the existence of the file, the truth serum made Dreamatorium Troy admit to the following: "I love butt stuff. I hate spiders. I stole a pen from the bank. I cried during About a Boy -- the soundtrack. I don't wash my hands before a surgery. I can see why women find Clive Own attractive to the point where I might just as well be attracted to him. I use comparisons to Hitler to win arguments on the internet at the drop of the hat. I know nothing about wine. I'm more turned on by women in pajamas than lingerie -- I just want them to feel comfortable." Interesting! But the final secret secreted from the serum was positively devastating: "I didn't get Inception!" Troy cried. "I didn't get Inception… " (There were so many layers!)
Over in the Dreamatorium version of the study room, "Shirley" made it clear that Abed did not exist -- the hospital sequence was simulated according to Annie's needs, and nobody needed Abed. But Annie knew that Abed's file existed, so she promised "Jeff" some sex in exchange for the information it held. Jeff quickly located the file, which revealed that Abed was a psychiatric patient. "Enough games," said an exasperated Annie. "Just take me where I want to go."
And so "Jeff" took Annie where she really wanted to go: To the exact place where Jeff had kissed her at the end of season one. But she wasn't in the mood to play games with Abed's simulated, Annie-idealized version of Jeff. She needed to locate Abed. Jeff finally read Abed's full file, which revealed Abed's diagnosis: "Control freak with no empathy," he said. "People bend over backwards to cater to him. Signed, healthcare administrator, Annie Edison." (These were various insults that Annie had thrown Abed's way earlier in the episode.)
The next scene found Annie and the still-broken Abed back in the Dreamatorium -- he asked where Annie wished to go next. She wanted to be alone -- the scenario with Jeff had obviously hurt her -- so Abed simulated a room where Annie stood alone with "Annie." Annie asked Annie why she was blowing their perfect moment with Jeff, but Annie strongly replied that it wasn't perfect -- it wasn't even real. "We're just in love with the idea of being loved," she said. "If we can teach a guy like Jeff to do it, we'll never be unloved. So we keep running the same scenario over and over, hoping for a different result." (Aside: Between this and the "let's stop hating ourselves" speech from Jeff last week, Community is really doling up the sensible love advise.)
Annie's use of the word "scenario" triggered something in "Annie" -- the presumed prime Annie was starting to sound like Abed. Once presumed prime Annie said, "cool, cool cool" and mentioned Cougar Town, it became clear that "Annie" was the actual Annie, while Annie was actually Abed. Got that?
So Annie finally located Abed, who had mentally retreated to his middle school locker. He was feeling sorry for himself, finally realizing that his Dreamatorium concoctions were simply a product of his own imagination. Annie disagreed -- she thought that Abed's simulations were brilliant science fiction, much like 2001: A Space Odyssey. "Did we have a Space Odyssey?" she said. "No. We got snowboarding in the Olympics and we over-validated Carson Daly." (Aside: NBC's Community dissing the host of NBC's cash cow The Voice? You bad, Community.)
Annie's words seemed to reinvigorate Abed -- the two played a legendary game of Inspector Spacetime, then enjoyed a bowl of hot buttered noodles. Abed, as it seemed, had finally discovered empathy -- while Annie had, in turn, discovered Abed.
Oh, and for the record, Troy and Britta's date went well.
What did you think of tonight's Community? Does anyone else think that this episode was meant to coincide with 4/20?
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
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A host of Oscar activity has begun to unfold despite the annual award show still being more than three months away. The show's head writer, as well as its short-film creator, was announced recently.
As expected, the guru of award show writers, Bruce Vilanch, was once again tapped for the celebrated lead writer position at this year's Academy Awards show.
Vilanch, who has written nine Oscar shows, is arguably one of the most sought after comedy writers in Hollywood. He has worked on numerous award shows, including the Tonys, the Emmys and the Grammys. His story was recently the subject of documentary filmmaker Andrew J. Kuehn's "Get Bruce."
Oscar-winning director Chuck Workman ("Precious Images") was charged with creating the short-film segments that will air during the awards telecast. Marking his 11th association with the Academy, Workman's previous film work includes the documentaries "Superstar" and "The Source."
Finally, 11 U.S. film festivals will receive grants totaling $245,000 from the Academy Foundation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Academy President Robert Rehme made the announcement Dec. 7.
Festivals benefiting are AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival, Chicago Latino Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival and Seattle International Film Festival at $30,000 apiece; San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, South by Southwest Film Festival and USA Film Festival at $15,000 each; and Santa Clarita International Film Festival and Thomas Edison Black Maria Film and Video Festival at $10,000 each.
The festivals were selected by the festival grants committee, which is led by producer Gale Anne Hurd.
The 72nd Academy Awards telecast takes place March 26 at 5:30 p.m. PST.