07 February, 2013

Review - COMMUNITY 4.01: 'History 101'

Sony fired COMMUNITY show creator/heart-and-soul Dan Harmon following the end of season 3 because he was apparently difficult to deal with and because they were convinced the vast majority of viewers wouldn't notice the change since network executives think their audiences are morons.

If you think this is the show many of us fell in love with, then the executives were right.

I have been saying for months that at best the show without Dan Harmon should be called CINACO (Community in name and characters only). I also promised to take 50 points away from any episode rating because the show minus its main voice doesn't deserve those points.

This isn't the show Dan Harmon created. This is some fan-fiction version of it.

Thing is, you can't replace the madness that was Dan Harmon's tireless drive to make something unique and edgy, though new show runners Moses Port and David Guarascio have sure tried to deliver something they think Harmon might have done. Thing is, Dan wouldn't have done this because he would have thought it wouldn't play.

And it is a shame because these actors and characters deserve better material. A better show runner.

Dan Harmon.

Dan Harmon!

Dan Effin' Harmon!

Sure, as an episode it wasn't completely terrible if one pretends the show hasn't done much better --in fact, every episode that preceded this one was superior. Yet some things worked a bit, like Abed's show-before-a-live-audience version of reality with Fred Willard as Pierce. Or the line about Taco Bell and the war on terror:

Abed: All of our wishes come true. Last year Troy wished we got Bin Laden and the Dorito taco.
Troy: Yeah but Obama got credit for both.
The meta jokes about things changing were also appropriate and did feel like something Harmon would have enjoyed using had he not watched the essence of his creation raped by marauding studio fools. And while I am not a fan of Britta and Troy's relationship, their fight and Troy's "Why does this feel good" worked.

Unfortunately, the rest didn't work as well. The whole Hunger Deans bit was a tired wannabe version of the paintball episodes with none of the effort. Annie's backtracking on her emotional growth away from Jeff made no sense. Annie and Shirley's dean punking? Weak. Plus Pierce's attempt to find a ball joke, which could have worked if used once, just withered away in the less than capable editing hands of these new pair of clown-shoes.

If I had to rate this episode, and Dan's essence says I don't, I'd give it:

   78 - (50 Harmon points)
= 28 out of 100

So far, not so good. And based on what critics who have seen followup episodes have said, this was one of the better early ones.


  1. Todd Van De Werffe raped this show in his previes. Sepinwall did the same, Mo Ryan too. But here is a question, how bad did it actually get?

    I mean reading articles about being over budget and behind schedule and difficult to work with does not mean shit unless it is explained to the average Joe/Jo why these things mean a damn. Was Dan millions over budget, was he weeks behind schedule.

    But even if these things are explained why does it mostly happen with geniuses like Harmon, Sorkin, Weiner, Milch, David E Kelly, etc. They have a record of multiple Emmy wins and in some cases huge ratings and adored critical work.

    Is it possible that these geniuses make studio executives feel like the fucking yes men that they are. The hacks who could not get it done when it mattered and thus hide behind their mediocre suits and try and act big and hopefully not feel like the impotent mother fuckers that cannot satisfy their wives/girlfriends/boyfriends/husbands and think sticking it to great men like Harmon and co will make them men or women are sorely mistaken.

    Gorden Gechco once pointed out to a man on the street whilst talking to Charlie Sheens character (Charlie was probably on so much coke he forgot the details) and said the reason that guy probably flys business class and only earns 300,000k a years and not millions or billions is because he does not get it.

    The studio and networks do not get it!

    This episode was shit! F-

  2. Mind you, I was being kind in my review. This is the measuring stick for me for what I imagine is the best these fucktards can do.

  3. You gave it a 78 before taking off the Dan Harmon points? Are you insane? 50 out of 100 more like it. 0 out of 100 after Dan points.

    1. I was being kind. As I said... right above your comment.

  4. I don't see how this version of the show is any more likely to get viewers than Harmon's viewers. It's not going to satisfy the few of us that did watch the show for its Harmon-created charms. It just felt empty. They might have been better off just going for something that was like the show in Abed's head than going for a pale imitation.

    All that being said, putting Fred Willard in as Pierce was clever.

    1. These studio/network executives always have this "we are smarter than the creative minds" mentality. And when a show is already lowly rated, it gets even more into their heads that they can get anyone to do it.

      Just look at THE WALKING DEAD. That's why they do it. Because most audiences never notice, nor do they care. It is just the more discriminating viewers (like us) who do notice.

    2. The multi-camera version of the show in Abed's head may actually have been a hit if it were on CBS.

      Being smart about something or dumb about something depends on the objectives. The objective of getting high ratings doesn't always correlated with producing a creatively brilliant TV show.

  5. I didn't even remember they kicked out Dan Harmon, so that didn't factor in my dislike of the episode. It was unfunny, boring and annoying. I'm disappointed because I was looking forward to it so much. I'm not giving up on the show yet though. I love these characters too much. I know it can't be the same (thanks for drilling the obvious so clumsily in the episode, new guys), but I hope it improves. This might be fanfic, but there's no reason to make it bad fanfic.

    1. Like I said, based on what those who have seen a few episodes in have said, this was the best episode of that bunch.

  6. Wasn't Community overrated by it's small cult base even when Dan Harmon was in charge.

    I think Chang, Dean Pelton and some of the teachers were funny sometimes.

    The main cast not so much.

    To me Abed is probably the funniest character of the main cast.

    I've watched the most critically praised episodes and to me they were just average at best.

    So I'm thinking that NBC was thinking what i think about Dan Harmon and the show.

    The show is never going to get the ratings that NBC truly wants so if Dan Harmon was a pain in the ass lets get rid of him.

    Dan Harmon is not all that.

    The ratings were pretty good for this episode so NBC is satisfied so far.

    1. COMMUNITY was definitely not overrated by anyone.

      Dan Harmon is all that.

      The ratings were also at a high point in season 3 after their mid-season break. Those ratings returned to low point levels in subsequent weeks.

    2. The sad thing is that in 10 years when Community is viewed as a single piece of art casual viewers will judge the whole series down because of this stupid decision by Sony and NBC. A viewer will bing the whole series on Netflix or Hulu Plus or Lovefilm or some other streaming service and not realise just how awesome Dan Harmon is man! The 1 to whatever amount of seasons that follow Dan Harmons seasons will dilute the show so much that it will destroy his legacy.

      I feel sorry for the future viewers, they are the ones who are going to lose out, ugh.

    3. I meant Binge, sorry my keys are sticking and it did not type the "e". They did it to the West Wing and they almost did it to Mad Men.

    4. Also when you binge watch, you don't notice a lot of the subtle shifts in writing. Like how there is a clear shift in quality between CHUCK seasons 3 and 4, and even more so in 5. Yet people who binge view the show don't notice it as much because they are just on the lovefest ride. They have love-goggles on.

      But season 3 was the last season with that core group of writers who had been there season 1 and 2. And they helped shape the show. Once they left, it was just Fedak left to his own bad decisions and a bunch of newbies eating up his every bad decision.

      With respect to COMMUNITY, it was clearly Dan Harmon who was the writer who kept the Fedak's of that writers room from running away with their bad decisions. Now that he's gone, there are just a bunch of Fedak's running their season 4 crapfest of ideas into the wall and no one is there to say "Wait a second, this is half-assed bullshit."

    5. So True, I watched season 1 of Prison Break with my parents recently and they did not realise what I did as a person who knows some of the business that it was clear as day that they only got a 13 episode order for that season and when the back 9 came in they had to do a lot of treading of water until episode 22 or whatever it was before they could escape. As casual viewers they just loved it because the sublties did not show to their relaxed eye.

      Fedak came across like Schwartz as too much of a yes man and never seemed like the guy who would rock the boat and go against NBC or the WB and fight for his version of the show. Whereas whatever faults Harmon, Sorkon or Wiener had they fucking faught tooth and nail to run the show their way and their way only. If Fedak and Schwartz had balls they would have ended the WTWT earlier they would have given better arcs for Casey and Sarah and they would have killed the Buymore off at the end of season 2. They would have beefed up Ellie and Awesomes roles and just created a more mature and balanced show and for the love of all that is mighty they would have actually made villains apart from Shaw and Fulcrum more fleshed out and dynamic. As good as Shaw turned out he was never really a villian we could sympathise with or root for like Brody (for example). Fulcrum were just villians who spouted off what all villians spout off about wanting a better country or whatever. It seemed like everyone wanted to create their own intersect which was just so funny in the end, lol.

      Man thinking about it I really did only love Chuck for the work Zach, Yvonne and Adam did with some poor material. They really made it work when it should not have.

    6. Thing is, Fedak didn't really have much pressure from NBC or WB. He made most of those bad decisions without much friction from the suits.

      The only thing he was forced to change was the destruction of the Buy More.

      Once Ali Adler left, the show seemed to lose something essential.

    7. Could it come down to luck? I mean how can someone create 3 pretty great seasons on 2 average ones? How does Sorking create a very good Sports Night and West Wing but poor Studio 60 and The Newsroom? How does Donald Besario create the awesome Quantum Leap but some poorer fare like JAG or NCIS (I like NCIS but it is not a touch on Quantum Leap). How does David E Kelly create Picket Fences, The Pratice or Boston Legal but do sucky stuff like Harry's Law or (so I have heard the reboot of Wonder woman) Monday Mornings.

      If someone can answer that then that would be awesome! Wait I got another one! How can JJ Abrams create Lost, Person of Interest or Alias but also create a piece of shit like Fringe or Undercovers?!

      I guess we will have to wait for thier final autobiography's.

    8. You don't get lucky for 50+ episodes. You get lucky maybe once or twice.

      When a show takes a dive it is usually something very specific and almost ALWAYS related to talent. Talent leaves. Talent gets bored. Talent runs out.

      As for JJ... he was barely involved in most of those shows except ALIAS. He has mostly just been one of those barely involved executive producers. Like McGee on CHUCK.

    9. going off topic but The Newsroom is poor ? what the hell

  7. This happens with almost every show at some point or another.

    The showrunner and various writers that were on the show from the beginning will leave after a while then they bring in new people that aren't as good.

    The quality of a show almost always suffers after that happens.

    P.S. Sports night was an overrated show that wasn't any good.
    I was surprised to find out a couple years that it's one of those shows with a passionate cult following.

    I would say Sports night is the worst cult show ever.

  8. Shawn,

    You win some and you lose some.

    Also quality is subjective i know some people that like NCIS and Jag more than Quantum leap.

  9. Did you just slam Sports Night? Wow! Even if some people said it was over rated season 1 was still fantastic and season 2 was not awful. But wow, ok fair enough.

    1. You did not like Sports Night?

      Oh and Anonymous, whoever like NCIS more Han Quantum Leap...mind blown! I have no words.

  10. Shawn and Magnus are really on Chris Fedak's ass tonight.

    I wonder what both of them would say if Chris Fedak took over Community from Dan Harmon.

    I like Chis Fedak and think he did a good job with Chuck.

    They only thing i would have done differently with Chuck was that Fedak used the intersect too much as a plot device.

    I suppose if Chris Fedak was the showrunner for Community he would create scenario's to introduce the intersect.

    Then he would give every character on Community the intersect just for the hell of it.

    1. Chris Fedak did a fine job with CHUCK. But season 4 was weak and season 5 was messy. Both seasons without Ali Adler and Scott Rosenbaum (Matt Miller the previous year). I think Ali and Scott were huge losses. They wrote some of the best episodes and were seasoned professionals who were big voices in the writers room. Any time you lose that kind of direction you get what COMMUNITY is suffering through right now. A lack of respect and talent.

      There is a ton of talent in any writers room. There may be some strong leadership. But you need someone with a powerful vision to steer the show in the right direction. That's the show runner. But sometimes the show runner is fortunate to have people in that room who help keep things focused away from cheesefests and repetition.

      With respect to COMMUNITY, Dan Harmon wasn't just the show runner who steered the ship, he was also the guy in the engine room, the cook, the guy scrubbing the deck, the dude cleaning the toilets and so on. That's why people who understand the industry immediately questioned the logic of replacing him. It was well known within whispering circles that Dan was a big personality problem for many people working on the show. But so what? This happens ALL THE FUCKIN' TIME! It was just that the show wasn't pulling big numbers and that is the only reason Dan Harmon was fired.

      The only reason.

      Mind you, the show the new show runners are creating is an attempt to do what Dan was doing, minus all the genius. So the only reason the studio punted him was because he hurt the feelings of some executives. Poor thin-skinned pussies.

    2. People like Dan, Aaron and Matt cannot be treated like "employees" who have to adhere to things like schedules and budgets and ratings and being cordial or anything but a genius. So what if it is not Dan's money he is playing with...do we question the value of a Picaso or Degard or Polack? What Dan produced is priceless!

    3. Yes! Yes! Yes!

      We are number one! we are number one! we are number....no that is CBS where it counts, but it has a nice ring to it, right?

      I totally agree, NBC and Sony should be this ATM in the sky that just keeps shelving out money day and night because it is their duty, they have a duty to the Dan Harmons of this world!

      It does not matter that the people who will suffer from those decisions will not be the executives themselves but the poor bastards that are unforunately called underlings and when a random Board Member or Stock holder asks the executives why profits are 6 billion instead of 7 billion the executives can just pass the buck onto them and they will get their poor ass fired!

      Or when the advertisers start asking for compensation for not getting the bang for the buck that their Board Members and stock holders are expecting because they gotta sell that Toyota that Chuck tried with all their might to sell in show!

      No, Screw everyone because it is the duty for everyone to provide for Dan Harmon and screw all their other shows in development at the same time! Money, money, money, money!
      Except NBC and Sony does not have all the money in the world to play with or the freedom to just flush it down the toilet on an investment that fails to pay off where it matter. Ratings brings in the money not some fat wanker who writes a review praising you.

      Dan Harmon had a responsibility to make a show that was good but generated enough viewers...he did failed. I am sorry, but it is that simple.

      Yours Faithfully

      An employee who has worked for a marketing firm and dealt with actual people who get shit on when the shit hits the fan.

      Thank you

    4. Or your corporate fucktard marketers failed to use any of your skillsets to actually generate viewers for the show.

      Mind you, COMMUNITY was getting similar numbers to PARKS AND RECREATION and 30 ROCK. Does that mean those shows were failures too? So why didn't they fire those show runners?

      Your logic is dumb.

    5. 30 Rock won 3 Best Comedy Emmy's and also Tina Fey and Adam Baldwin won multiple Emmy acting awards. Parks and Recreation are run by the same people who run the Office and the Office was until Michael Scott left quite good in the ratings so we can see why NBC would want to keep a strong relationship with those people. Tina Fey, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur my not have shows that get great ratings but they also do not go and tell NBC and their studios to go and fuck themselves either.

      I think in their early runs 30 Rock and Parks and recreation have had higher numbers. I may need to double check that and I also think NBC owns Parks and may own 30 Rock.

    6. Both Parks and Rock suffered when not following THE OFFICE.

      Also, COMMUNITY was Emmy nominated the year they fired Dan.

      And you have no clue whether or not any of the show runners on any other show told their respective networks or studios to go fuck themselves. You know about this one because it made the news.

  11. That's right Shawn.

    I did not like Sports Night at all.

    I watched it a few times when it was on during it's first season.

    I found the characters and the show to be boring and uninteresting.

    What the hell was so great about it.

  12. Yeah why not just go ahead and keep Dan Harmon for another season or however long Community lasts.

    It's not like Dan Harmon is like Shannen Doherty or someone like that.

  13. Well... the only thing i can say is its probably a good thing that's this is, more than likely, the final season. The only thing i liked in this was Fred Willard. And staring at the beautiful Alison Brie, can never go wrong there.

    As for this conversation on Chuck. I have to agree that losing Ali, Scott, and Miller were big blows. The drop in quality in those final 2 seasons was mainly due to that. And the fact that Schwartz was not totally involved, especially in the final 2s, also played a factor. I think.

  14. I don't think Josh Schwartz ever really involved with Chuck on a creative level like that.

    As for Ali Adler, Matt Miller and Scott Rosenbaum there's nothing you could do about that.

    It happens writers leave shows for other shows.

    1. Josh was definitely involved in the creative side but he was not a writers room guy at all.

      And there was also something that could have been done about Ali Adler. Fedak and WB reached out to NBC to give them an answer earlier about CHUCK returning for a 4th season so they could keep Ali. NBC ignored them, so Ali took another job. Then NBC did what they had intended on doing all along.

  15. It will be interesting to see what television show Dan Harmon does next.

    It will also be interesting to see what television show Chris Fedak does next.

  16. I know I'm way late on this but I just wanted to post a quick comment that I felt exactly the same way about this as you did. You mentioned it being like a "fan-fiction version" of the show and that's exactly what it felt like to me, except actually even worse than that. About halfway through the ep, my husband said to me, "This feels like someone who had simply seen a few episodes of Community then tried to make an episode themselves." It was like fanfic from a very casual fan, not even a die-hard fan hahah. Uggh.

    If this is what this show is gonna be for the rest of the season, I definitely hope they cancel it (i.e. make S4 its last) to let the cast move on to better things. They deserve that and it would suck for them to be stuck on some weird bizarro crappy Twilight Zone version of Community for yet another full season after this.