Although the Community fan base is rapidly thinning, many of us still watch weekly, holding onto the hope that the cast can crank out something enjoyable for one of these episodes. Although I checked my investment at the announcement of Dan Harmon’s departure, satisfied with the Season 3 finale as a spiritual conclusion of the show (it really did wrap up everything in a pretty excellent way), you can bet I’ll be tuning in for Jeff’s upcoming reunion with his father, a Greendale origin story, and a puppet episode that was announced at Tuesday night’s PaleyFest Community panel. If only out of morbid curiosity.
NBC describes the episode's premise in a press release: "In the episode, the study group takes a wild balloon ride that crash lands in the woods, and they end up spending a little time with a friendly mountain man, played by Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) ... As the study group recounts their adventures in the woods, which has left them all feeling a little awkward with one another, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) encourages them to speak about their experience with the use of puppets. The puppets include characters Jeff (Joel McHale), Pierce (Chevy Chase), Britta (Gillian Jacobs), Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), Abed (Danny Pudi), Annie (Alison Brie), Troy (Donald Glover) and Chang (Ken Jeong)." So ... we'll see.
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Just a season ago, a theme episode of this nature would inspire a different attitude entirely. The series has managed several high concepts, tackling film genres and a number of different types of animation, as some of its greatest triumphs to date — not because of the style, but the substance. Community's winners have used big and small screen tropes and highly specific lenses to tell personal and meaty stories, delving into the characters' relationships and fragmented psyches, while the lesser examples of the breed amount to little more than short form parodies.
And while Season 4 in particular remains the target of our gripes, it's not as though Community has had a perfect record with its high concept episodes in the past...
"Contemporary American Poultry" (Season 1, Episode 21)Why It Worked: The first of the lot introduced Community's ability to bend reality just enough, using Mafia movie schematics to tell the story of Abed's feelings of isolation among the study group and people in general...
"Modern Warfare" (Season 1, Episode 22)Why It Worked: ...but the real game changer came a week later, launching Community into a new plane of existence entirely for its memorable action movie sendup, which creator Harmon describes as colossally dependent on the effectiveness of its emotional core: the culmination of Jeff and Britta's romantic tension.
RELATED: 'Community' Recap: Can Troy and Abed's Love Survive?
"Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" (Season 2, Episode 11)Why It Worked: The real victory of the claymation Christmas episode was in its explanation of why it was a claymation Christmas episode — the heartbreaking and frightening manifestation of Abed's emotional decay over his estranged mother's abandonment of him around their formerly cherished holiday. Abed dealt with the tragedy by imagining everything as one of the Rankin/Bass specials the two used to watch together, dipping the bright and fun imagery in a vat of heavy, dark sorrow. Happy ending, though!
"Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" (Season 2, Episode 14)Why It Worked: The Lord of the Rings-ian style fit the theme of the episode while not submitting too much to the mechanics of the epic movie. And beneath an epic episode there lurked epically emotional stories: Fat Neil's struggles with suicidal desires, Pierce's vicious insecurities and fear of exclusion, and Jeff's paining guilt over having inadvertently unleashed this degree of insensitivity on an innocent classmate. All delivered via a medium capable of capturing the grand nature of these conflicts.
The Documentary Episodes: "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" (Season 2, Episode 16) and "Documentary Filmmaking Redux" (Season 3, Episode 8) Why They Worked: The show had so much to say about the documentary format that it warranted two independent episodes. The first channeled and poked fun at the luxuries of the mockumentary style in the up-close-and-personal examination of each character's emotional turmoils during a trip to visit Pierce in the hospital. The second, even more interesting episode both gave the Dean his first glimmer of spotlight, diving energetically into his frazzled, frayed psyche, while also tackling the age-old question of whether a documentarian can and should truly be detached from his or her work.
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"Basic Rocket Science" (Season 2, Episode 4)Why It Didn't Work: Serving as little more than an Apollo 13 parody, the Season 2 episode grabbed at the goofy nature of space mission movies, using the flimsy, unbelievable throughline of Annie threatening to transfer out of Greendale (on a whim, so it seemed) as its seed.
"Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" (Season 3, Episode 9)Why It Didn't Work: While this episode's emotional engagement in Jeff and Shirley's previously unknown childhood rivalry was gripping and sweet, there were a few missed marks throughout. In regards to Jeff/Shirley, the arbitrary shift to anime style during their cathartic foosball faceoff didn't pull us in as much as it did cock a few eyebrows. It was a nice idea, but didn't contribute anything to the episode. On the other side of the group, the Abed/Annie/Troy storyline, a tackle of the age-old sitcom trope of covering up a misdeed, didn't so much play with or deconstruct the notion as much as it did simply enact it.
"Regional Holiday Music" (Season 3, Episode 10)Why It Didn't Work: In the same vein as "Nocturnal Vigilantism," this Glee parody hardly seemed like an intelligent spin on the much detested "rival" series. Instead, Community just took the Christmas episode as an opportunity to sing vaguely clever songs and take cheap shots at the Fox hit.
RELATED: 'Community' Guest Star Tricia Helfer on Her Jeff Reunion
"Digital Estate Planning" (Season 3, Episode 20)Why It Didn't Work: I might be in the minority here, but I never much cared for the video game episode. Not because of its substance — Pierce's redemption and the discovery of a half-brother whom he'd come to care for are worthy fodder. But in this case, the style. The writers didn't seem to have enough fun with the idea of a video game episode, padding the script with exposition and bland chatter where there should have been more frequent takedowns of the video game generation via Troy.
"History 101" (Season 4, Episode 1)Why It Didn't Work: Only a portion of the Season 4 premiere was stylized, and in keeping with our expectations of a post-Harmon Greendale, was so in the most obvious way possible: a four-camera sitcom parody. What lurked beneath the surface was Abed's phobia of change, but the delivery seemed heavy-handed and hammy, whereas past exhibitions ("Uncontrollable Christmas" is the most pertinent comparison) were subtle and poignant.
"Paranormal Parentage" (Season 4, Episode 2)Why It Didn't Work: Another lackluster non-deconstruction. In this haunted house episode, spoofing the tropes of Scooby Doo and its leviathan of spinoffs, the gang didn't seem to have anything to say about mystery stories. They just took one on. And with a severe deficit of jokes, no less.
RELATED: 'Community' Season 4 Premiere Is One Big Inside Joke, But It's Not the Same
ON THE FENCE
"Pillows and Blankets" (Season 3, Episode 14)Why We Can't Decide: While the emotional core was vivid and strong, a good deal of the episode seemed to submit to the functionality of a Ken Burns doc, feeling like just another grab at the ol' parody grail. To its credit, a few odd deconstructions do subsist throughout — the text message gags are especially memorable.
"Basic Lupine Urology" (Season 3, Episode 17)Why We Can't Decide: It was funny, very much so, but kind of lacking in anything new to say about Law & Order.
To those who consider this list incomplete, thinking the clip show episodes ("Paradigms of Human Memory" and "Curriculum Unavailable"), the zombie episode ("Epidemiology"), and the bottle episode ("Cooperative Calligraphy") among those deserving of a place in this context, we invite you to sound off in the comment section.
How do you think the upcoming puppet episode will fare?
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.
[Photo Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC]
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Mother of Gob: Emmy winner Margo Martindale will play Will Arnett's mom in a new comedy pilot from Raising Hope creator Greg Garcia. Arnett plays the recently divorced Jack whose life gets even crazier when his parents split up after 43 years. Martindale's Carol is a meddlesome woman who's shocked when her husband files for divorce, forcing her to move in with her son. [THR]
Have Mercy: John Stamos is in final talks to join the NBC drama pilot I Am Victor. The erstwhile Uncle Jesse would star as a powerful divorce attorney with "a unique view of relationships." Considering he raised his family in an attic (oh, wait, that was only on TV?), it makes sense that he'd have a unique perspective on life. [TVLine]
The Revolution Goes Online: Want more Revolution? The show doesn't return to NBC until March 25, but starting Feb. 25, we'll be able to learn much more about the powerless future world when NBC.com debuts a webseries starring Giancarlo Esposito's Capt. Neville 11 years after the blackout, on the night Miles first tried to assassinate Monroe. Neville will embark on a quest to kill the people behind the attempt on the General's life, but he'll stumble upon "an even greater conspiracy that could change the course of the Republic forever." Mysterious! [EW]
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Come On Down: Jane Lynch is adding to her busy schedule (Glee, Broadway's Annie revival) with a brand new job: game show host. The actress will host the new NBC reality series Hollywood Game Night, which features celebs hanging out in a cocktail party-type situation and playing pop culture-centric games with non-famous folks. The eight-episode series is produced by Sean Hayes. [EW]
Come Together: All of your indie favorites in one place! Melanie Lynskey has just joined the comedy pilot Togetherness, from Mark and Jay Duplass. She'll play a stay-at-home-mom in an unfulfilling marriage who wants more from life. The show is about two couples trying to make their relationships work will maintaining their own hopes and dreams. The Duplass brothers, who can currently be seen in a guest arc on Fox's The Mindy Project, will write, executive produce, and direct Togetherness, although they will not appear in the show. [THR]
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Lost and Found: Two Lost alums have landed dastardly parts in different CW drama pilots. Mark Pellegrino will play an evolutionary biologist in The Tomorrow People, about a group of young people who have evolved beyond normal humans and have the power of teleportation and telekinesis. Pellegrino's Dr. Jedikiah Price sees the Tomorrow People as a threat to humanity. Henry Ian Cusick, meanwhile, will star as an officer aboard the space station that houses all humans after an attack on Earth on The Hundred. With the ship on its last legs, the government sends 100 juvenile delinquents back down to the planet to see if it's hospitable or not. [TVLine]
Going for the Gold: E! announced a premiere date for its reality show about Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, appropriately titled What Would Ryan Lochte Do? The new docuseries will premiere Sunday, April 21 at 10 p.m. on the network, and will be followed by a new season of the Kevin Jonas reality show Married to Jonas. [THR]
Follow Jean on Twitter @hijean
[PHOTO CREDIT: Frank Micelotta/AP Images]
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Not to pull a Britta or anything, but we've maybe sort of definitely watched two new episodes of Community — the first (and third) of the series to air since the departure of mastermind/showrunner Dan Harmon. The first episode of Season 4 will (finally) air on Feb. 7th, and even though the show's audience is small, the dedicated fans it does have have been concerned about the series following the Harmon's exit — nothing against Moses Port and David Guarascio, but Harmon's particular, peculiar brand of wacky is not exactly easy to replicate.
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But fans should rest easy (until it becomes time to discuss renewal), because hanging with the Greendale 7 and the almighty Dean still feels like coming home to a warm cup of (spiked) hot cocoa on a winter's day. Troy and Abed's relationship remains super special, Britta still pulls Brittas with aplomb, and although Jeff Winger has debuted a kinder, gentler Jeff 2.0, the sarcastic narcissist underneath is very much there. In short, everything is different, yet nothing's changed: in a good way! And since everyone loves a list (hello, Buzzfeed!), we've narrowed down our 10 reason-iest reasons why you should feel okay about the post-Harmon landscape. (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)
1. Less Chang: We think that Ken Jeong's Chang is best in small doses, so we were delighted to see that the little guy doesn't have much screen time in either episode. Let's hope it sticks. Community is best when it's focusing on the characters we love to completely love — not Chang (or, of course, Pierce), who is a strange in-betweener that often drains blood from the main plot's throbbing veins. Ew.
RELATED: 'Community' Cast Spoofs Season 4's Delayed Debut
2: Troy and Britta in the Beddddrooom: Troy and Britta's "interesting" relationship has progressed, but not to the point where the show turns into a variation of Friends and abandons its roots. Trust us, there's a lot of quirk to explore there, and the two seem to be a pretty good (and very comedic) match at the moment. The writers have done a good job at exploring the sweet side of their union without entering into rom-com territory, which is exactly how we like it.
3. An Inspector Deep Dive: You don't have to be a fan of Doctor Who to enjoy this season's third episode, "Conventions of Space and Time," but it certainly helps. The gang's visit to a Doctor Who Inspector Spacetime convention is a long time coming, and features one of Pierce's greatest ideas of all time.
4. Caprica Six: Oh, and did we mention that Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica fame is there, playing an Inspector diehard with a crush on a Greendale-ian that is entirely based on lies? Well, we are now.
5. New Neighbors: Annie has been peacefully coexisting with Troy and Abed for awhile now, so it's only fair that Jeff should have the lens directed at his home life, which has thus far been a giant mystery. The end of episode one introduces us to a particularly eccentric neighbor, and we're greatly looking forward to more interaction.
6. Jeff's Muscles: Still there. Still on display.
7. Abed's Brain: Still there. Still a bastion of brilliance with a seemingly unending river of comedic content. Episode one, "History 101," proves that the new writing team is capable of writing for this unique, probably difficult character. He's Harmon's baby, but that doesn't mean that he can't walk on his own.
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8. Annie's Boobs: Animal Practice was cancelled, so AB will be back and more mischievous than ever at some point this season... probably when we least expect it.
9. Pierce's Exit: The end of the season will find the gang Pierce-less, once and for all. Chase's issue with the show (Harmon in particular) have weighed heavy for years now, so we're excited to see the shifting dynamic without him.
10. Dan Harmon: The man himself still wants you to watch it. Yes, he has little (err, probably nothing) to do with Community 2.0, but he created this world and still wants it to be successful. Port and Guarascio know this, and have done everything in their power to honor his vision. Nobody wants to make a fan base this rabid unhappy, so don't expect a dramatic shift in tone.
Community premieres Thursday, Feb. 7 at 8PM on NBC.
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: Jordin Althaus/NBC]
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A great cast can be a powerful weapon. In the case of the new family dramedy The Oranges it's the saving grace.
The formula for a quirky suburban dissection is on full display in the feature from TV veteran Julian Farino and first-time writers Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss which follows two best friend couples Terry and Carol Ostroff (Oliver Platt and Allison Janney) and David and Paige Walling (Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener) whose BFF relationship implodes when David strikes up a romance with the Ostroff's daughter Nina (Leighton Meester). The scandalous affair lights a fire under the well-to-do New Jersey families and when David realizes that his connection with Nina is deeper than just a one night stand their white picket fence lives completely crack.
Even with a divisive subject matter (to follow love or to stick with family?) The Oranges floats by without much edge. David and Nina's romance begins with passion but is entirely void of sexual fire. As it evolves they become complacent and boring — everything David hated about his first marriage. That would be a great twist but The Oranges isn't satire. The conflict comes with the scowling world around the unlikely pair the Ostroff's distraught over their daughter's choices Paige off exploring other options for her own now-single life and David's daughter Vanessa (Alia Shawkat) juggling her own aimless path as a furniture designer. For a risky life choice David and Nina's decision to declare their love for one another doesn't come with many repercussions even in the "squeaky clean" land of Jersey.
But the cast turns The Oranges into one to watch. Laurie has a life beyond the uptight Dr. House playing David as a compassionate conflicted acceptedly selfish man. It's easy to see why he falls for Meester's Nina who isn't simply a 20-something with an interest in older guys. They both see qualities in each other that are apparent to the audience and they play it with energy not present in the material. There's a been-there-done-that feeling to Platt and Janney in The Oranges but only because they're continually perfect as the hilarious overbearing parents. Sadly Keener goes to waste; another indie vet she spends most of the time of screen until one momentous outburst that arrives without build up.
Farino adeptly directs The Oranges and avoids the eye-rolling tropes that go hand and hand with movies of this nature (I'm looking at you head-on shots featuring Linus-like characters moping about). He knows how to let his actors play and when you have a man like Laurie in the lead that's a must. The movie never peels back the rhine to find something new to say about the 'burbs but with great actors in tow The Oranges rises above the lookalikes.
Hugh Laurie is reportedly in discussions to play the lead role in Oranges, a dark dramatic comedy about an older man who has an affair with the daughter of a family friend.
Also said to be circling the project, according to The Los Angeles Times' 24 Frames blog, are Leighton Meester and Mila Kunis. If Meester were to play Laurie's lover, it would be a fitting denouement to a role she had on an early episode of House, wherein she played a girl obsessed with Laurie's curmudgeon/genius diagnostician.
24 Frames notes that the Oranges script, by Jay Reiss and Ian Helfer, landed at No. 2 on the Black List back in 2008. Produced by Anthony Bregman, the film is being financed by Glen Basner's Film Nation and Leslie Urdang's Olympus Pictures.
Laurie, little known to mass US audiences before becoming Dr. Gregory House on the Fox TV show, has had several supporting film roles and, contrary to the LAT blog's contention that he has never carried a film, starred in UK cult favorite Maybe Baby opposite Joely Richardson in 2000 (OK, it wasn’t a “Hollywood” film…).
That project was written and directed by Ben Elton (with whom Laurie worked back in the Blackadder days) with some scenes directed by Laurie himself.
Meanwhile, both Meester and Kunis appear opposite each other in the upcoming comedy Date Night, which stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey.