Community: How Did a Great Show Go So Wrong?

Sure, the faces at Greendale look familiar, but this new version of Community will only disappoint fans

Credit: NBC

The great Community cast is game as ever, but the magic is gone

With the departure of show creator Dan Harmon, this isn’t the Community you knew and loved

Although I count Community as one of my favourite shows, its low ratings have caused it to teeter on the verge of cancellation ever since its premiere.

For the few of us who do watch, however, it’s an experience like no other, serving up hilariously spot-on send-ups of pop culture and pushing the concept of Meta to its limits. 

When series creator and showrunner Dan Harmon was fired at the end of last season (reportedly due to his constant battles with the network and studio), new showrunners were brought in. 

Fans were dubious. Community is such a unique, idiosyncratic show, primarily due to Harmon’s writing and vision — name one other sitcom that would take several seasons for a joke to pay off, as was the case when three separate characters in three different seasons casually used the word “Beetlejuice” in a sentence; when it was uttered for the third time, someone costumed as the afterlife “bioexorcist” in Tim Burton’s 1988 film casually strolled by in the background, a sight gag that most viewers probably didn’t even notice. 

The New and (Un)Improved Community

I shared the concerns that Community would suffer without Harmon’s unique voice, but tried to go into this season with an open mind. After watching the first few Harmon-free episodes, I think it’s safe to say that this new version of Community, frankly, stinks. 

The talented ensemble cast certainly can’t be blamed, as they’re doing their darnedest to sell it even though it’s just not up to snuff. Even Chevy Chase — who notoriously feuded with Harmon and continually disparaged the show until he was finally released from his contract after filming this season — is trying hard, but to no avail. This new Community just doesn’t work. 

On the surface, it’s still the same show, but there’s something deeper at play. When you look closer, Community now seems to be a Stepford Wives version of its former self; it looks the same, seems the same, but there’s something off and oddly robotic about it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve invested this much time in the show that I’ll probably watch the rest of the season, especially that (given the dismal ratings), it will probably be its last. But I have a terrible feeling that instead of enjoying the show the way I used to, it will just make me sad.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.