Community is one of my favourite sitcoms of all time, and it also just won’t die. After the incredibly unprecedented season 5 which re-piloted the series and brought back creator Dan Harmon, the show was finally cancelled by NBC, only for it to be announced less that a month later that yahoo would pick it up for a sixth season to be aired on their new streaming service. Obviously it’s a big transition from network show to web series, and a lot of fans are unsure of what to expect after what many considered to be a sub-par fifth season. Whether season six will hold up or not is yet to be seen, but if they really want to save the show, I have some suggestions.
1. Have A Consistant Regular Cast
One of the worst things I think can happen to a sitcom is when the cast starts to fall apart, especially when it’s a show with such deep and loyal character connections as Community. Now, obviously one of the biggest problems with season five was the departure of Chevy Chase, and then later Donald Glover. But despite the hole left by Troy’s leaving in episode five, I began to get used to the slightly altered cast in the second half of the season. I liked Jonathan Banks’s character of Buzz Hickey, and thought that Duncan and Chang’s increased roles helped to fill Troy’s shoes a little. The point is, by the end of the season we have a solid cast, albeit one that is slightly different than in the first four seasons. I was ready to see this new set of characters going forward into season six and beyond. Unfortunately, according to some of the internet buzz, neither Jonathan Banks or John Oliver will be returning as Hickey or Duncan, respectively. Now, this is still just internet buzz at this point, and season six has yet to go into production, so it’s possible they could still be involved, but considering they’re both fairly successful actors who did season five under a temporary contract I would say it’s pretty unlikely. So that sucks enough already, because it means we’ll once again have a shift in cast going into the new season, but even worse than that is the rumour that some of the other actors may leave part way through the season. We don’t know who, but I’d be willing to bet Allison Brie and/or Danny Pudi. The absolute last thing we need at this point is people shifting in and out in the middle of a season. As much as it would pain me to see these characters go, if actors are unable to do the whole season I think it would be better than they were just uninvolved entirely, or given smaller roles, rather than having a fundamental shift in the main characters part-way through. At the end of the day I would rather see a show centred on just Jeff Winger than to have everyone else popping in and out inconsistently. Which leads me to my next point…
2. Focus More On Jeff As A Teacher
As I already said in my Community Season 5 review, one of the biggest annoyances of that season was how little time we spend on Jeff as a teacher. The whole premise of the season is that he comes back to Greendale to teach, and yet we see him in the classroom a total of three times, all in the same episode, and we hardly ever address his new position in relation to his friends. He’s now in a position of authority over his former study group members, and that should change the dynamic of their relationship a little. I know there is an episode in season five that deals with this, but I always felt it should be a more consistent theme throughout, instead of everybody just pretending things are still the same. As I said before, whatever Community was is dead, and whatever it is now is something different. This change should be embraced, not ignored. In Community season six I want to see more of the struggles Jeff deals with as a teacher. I want to see him interact with students. Maybe we could even see new characters in his class. I’m not suggesting they pull a Scrubs season 9 or anything, but if we’re going to be losing more cast members it might not be a bad idea to have some backup character already established. But beyond that, I think focusing on Jeff more as a teacher is kind of indicative of the show’s new perspective. The first season is primarily about Jeff and the other characters dealing with the problem of being students. This last season should be about Jeff dealing with the problems of being a teacher, bringing things full circle. But in order for that to happen, we need to…
3. Bring It Down A Couple of Notches
One of the most common things to happen as a show goes on is for it to get progressively more ridiculous. As writers search for new stories, things can get more and more outrageous and detached from reality. That’s true with Community more than anything. The first season was pretty grounded and realistic, with a couple of standout episodes that broke the rules and took things to the next level. (Ahem, Paintball, Ahem). Throughout season two they began to push that envelope more and more with stuff like zombies and claymation Christmas specials, and while these episodes are great, the problem is that it didn’t stop there. I loved season three and will defend to the death the whole dreamatorium arc, but the simple truth is that it was a little too much for most people. Season four got even more silly, but we can forgive them for that because season four was so terrible in so many other ways. The point is that when season five rolled around, we were promised a “repiloting”; a chance to bring things back to square one and start fresh, while still acknowledging the continuity of the previous four years. However, when season five did air they picked up right where they left off in terms of craziness. They got right back into cartoon parodies and lava worlds and all kind of high-tension, fast-paced escapades. The problem is that it no longer felt earned. The only reason any of that stuff worked on Community is that you had two and a half seasons of regular sitcoms plots to establish the characters and setting before you took things to the ridiculous. But when you throw out half the cast, bring in a bunch of new characters, and attempt to start a new chapter, you need to re-establish all of those things. The whole point of a repiloting is to bring things back to basics. You can’t change the premise completely and then expect to pick up right where you left off. We need some time with the new situation before you can get crazy again. You have to earn your way back up to being able to pull the kind of shenanigans you did in season three. We all love those special whacky sci-fi episodes from time to time, but season five felt a little overstuffed with them, and I think season six need to calm things down a little bit and return to more traditional sitcom plot lines, at least for a little while. Not every other episode can involve an evil hierarchy of app users taking over the school, especially when you have so many more grounded story opportunities with Jeff as a teacher.
4. Give It A Higher Budget
I know this one is beyond the control of anyone on the show, and is entirely in the hands of yahoo. And if the writing is up to par, I would never even consider budgetary restrictions as a factor in my overall opinion of something. Having said that, having money can make a big difference in the quality of a show, and I think Community has suffered from a lack of it in the past. In the first season, back when NBC still actually gave a shit about it, the show looked a lot different. Greendale seemed like a big school, with a sprawling campus. The main field and front steps were commonly used locations, and we would often see characters having conversations outside on their way between classes. Greendale even had a gym and a pool that we saw a few time throughout the season. However, as the show progressed and the network gave them less and less money every year, the campus started to shrink, and we stopped seeing things taking place outdoors. By the fifth season it seems like the entire school is just the study room and a single hallway. The inclusion of Troy, Annie and Abed’s apartment in season three seemed like a breath of fresh air at the time, but after two seasons it now feels just as isolated and claustrophobic as the rest of the sets. Even on the few occasions when they do go somewhere else, it’s painfully obvious that it’s just a redressing of the same three sound stages they film everything else on. Now, Yahoo’s a pretty big company, and this new streaming service they’re attempting to launch is a pretty big venture for them. They have a few original series in the works, but at this point it seems like Community is their only major asset towards making it work. Hopefully that means they’ll put a little more money into it, because the absolute last thing I want is for it to look like a cheap web series.
So those are all my major concerns. I also kind of hope they make the season longer, like 22 or 23 episodes as apposed the 13, but that would just be gravy. And an eventual DVD release would be nice, too, because I kind of hate watching stuff on my laptop. Regardless, I’m just so happy that the show is back for a sixth season after almost being dead forever so many times. And I’m sure that even if none of my advice is listened to, it will still be way funnier than anything else on TV. And hell, even if it was just Joel McHale and Dan Harmon broadcasting out of a radio tower somewhere, I’d still be watching. Long live Community. #sixseasonsandamovie