Community: The Complete Fourth Season

Community: The Complete Fourth Season
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Prior to production commencing on the fourth season of abstract cult comedy Community, series creator Dan Harmon, amongst others, exited the show, with the show-runners behind the short-lived Aliens in America stepping in. This shift, along with a variety of other behind-the-scenes scheduling problems, left the season and its brief 13-episode run relegated to a winter run, premiering in February 2013 rather than October 2012 as originally intended. After a long hiatus and news that series regular Chevy Chase had left (or been asked to leave), Community re-emerged with lukewarm results, starting out with episodes where the study group solves surrealist puzzles in Pierce's (Chase) mansion and one where Abed (Danny Pudi) attempts to cope with the inevitability of graduating from Greendale. The comedy in these early episodes was broader than before, having less specifically referential and oblique humour than usual, while introducing a moderately ineffective plotline about Ben Chang (Ken Jeong) returning to the school with "Changnesia," having forgotten the many psychotic misdeeds he conducted in earlier seasons. This strained storyline, along with the bed-hopping relationship shenanigans between Britta (Gillian Jacobs) and Troy (Donald Glover) — a joke is made about Britta working her way around the study group table — amidst others, such as Jeff (Joel McHale) and Annie's (Alison Brie) flirtation, suggested that the once inspired comedy was doomed to rote sitcom clichés and overly contrived modes of sustaining character trajectories. Everyone was being forced into unlikely scenarios and relationships for lack of the writers knowing what else to do with their characters, as loosely defined, idiosyncratic and hyperbolically realized as they were. But, by episode four, when the group wages war against a German study group in a somewhat inappropriate and subversive play on Hogan's Heroes, the wit begins to return, as well as the playful irreverence and socially abject exchanges amongst the highly capable, naturally funny cast. While the occasional misfire still arises — the puppet episode was particularly painful — racially insensitive hand puppets and a Sophie B. Hawkins dance in the cafeteria channel some of the cleverness of earlier seasons, allowing the cast to interact organically. This is particularly evident in the uncensored deleted scenes, where they take moderately peculiar scenes and make them anarchic, dry humping each other or making self-aware quips about the absurdity of it all. This is similarly evident on the commentary tracks, where they have a natural ease and tendency towards verbalizing the inappropriate observations most people think but rarely say. Hopefully the structural and narrative hiccups demonstrated early on in this season have been worked out enough for the fifth, and final, season to go out with a hilarious, pop-culture conscious bang. If not, at least the comment, "I'm no longer a vegan; I ate a hamburger last week and suddenly I'm not cold all the time," will remain in the Community lexicon for a digital eternity. (Sony)