NBC’s Community has reached the end of its fifth season with the two-parter that airs this week and next. Part one, called “Basic Story,” finds absolutely no story happening at Greendale. This drives Abed (Danny Pudi) nearly insane, as there always must be a story. But no, the Save Greendale Committee has done its job and saved the school, so all is good in the world. That is, until an insurance appraiser (Michael McDonald, Web Therapy) finds the campus has value, and then the school board can’t wait to sell it off, meaning the Save Greendale Committee did their job too well and had the opposite effect on the school.
It’s absolutely fantastic that “Basic Story” starts with no story. True, Seinfeld made a ten-year run off of a lack of plot, but Community is a show that almost always has something going on. The meta way in which Abed references this, combined with his break down, as he sees his life as a television show and can’t cope with that illusion being broken, is funny and intelligent. It’s another new direction for Community, one that feels very apropos, should this end up being the series finale, the real end of the story.
Fans of Community have long pushed for six seasons and a movie, made famous by their hashtag. Since this is only year five, these viewers, myself included, do not want to see things come to an end now. It would be a promise unfilled, and a terrible tease to get so close to that goal and then fall short. Yet, as has frequently been the case in years past, Community teeters on the brink, unsure of it’s fate. Will the network please just give it one more run, bringing us that much closer to the twitter prophecy?
It’s hard to imagine talking about any other show in these terms, pointing to a social media trend and calling it destiny. Yet, for a series as weird as this one, a program that breaks all the conventional rules of the standard sitcom, it feels right. Just like Abed breaks the fourth wall within the confines of the series, Community should match up with the expectations and dreams of its fans. NBC would be stupid not to give it one more pick up, a gift to those who have followed it for so long, even if it barely makes financial sense. It’s not like the network has an abundance of other successful options to choose from.
If “Basic Story” and its second half does end up being the series finale, though, it is sure to be a good one. This whole fifth year has been a depressing tale of accepting life as it is and giving up on flights of fancy. Jeff (Joel McHale) has to be realistic, returning to the place that drives him crazy and accepting that’s where he belongs. That this place may now be yanked away from him, after he’s put forth so much effort to make it work, feels like the ultimate injustice, and yet one that fits with the tone of the show as a whole.
Jeff deals with the situation as fans would expect him to. At first, he’s in denial, even sending Abed away because he’s can’t cope with the possibility that there might be a problem at Greendale. Then, he acts like he’s OK with the outcome, dissolving the Save Greendale Committee without any huge, outward display of emotion. Finally, he prepares to hook up with Britta (Gillian Jacobs) again, even proposing marriage, settling in love as he does in life.
Some root for Jeff and Britta to be a couple, but I’ve long been a Jeff-Annie shipper. While Britta helps Jeff grow, usually unintentionally, she often feels like she’s the wrong choice for Jeff. In the end, she could be right, but not under these circumstances, where Jeff is just clinging to an anchor as the ship goes down. Their almost-sex is pathetic and sad, not celebratory or fulfilling. So Annie (Alison Brie) is still in the running!
Speaking of Annie, she allows herself to be pulled in to a treasure hunt with the Dean (Academy Award-winner Jim Rash) and Abed. At the last moment, Abed discovers a clue that could save Greendale from being bought out by Subway (anyone else getting Chuck flashbacks?), and they begin searching for the lost riches. This is zany, silly stuff, the kind that the best of Community is made of. But is it real, a Greendale mystery brought to light, or is it Abed forcing a savior into being where none exists?
“Basic Story” has other great character moments, too. The Dean’s breakdown is moving, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) shoots off some terrific one-liners, and Hickey (Jonathan Banks) and Duncan (John Oliver) bond over an unexpected possible family connection. Best of all, Chang (Ken Jeong) betrays the group yet again. If this is how Community is going out, it’s fitting that Chang should become a henchman for the wrong side, the Subway stooge that spies on the group. Another excellent effort in a long string of them for this show.
Community will conclude its tale, at least for now, Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
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