Community is cancelled: Or… How I lost a friend

Community is cancelled. I first read the headlines when I came home from work about a week ago. From the second my browser was open, until my head hit the pillow that night, all I could think about was Community and its cancellation. Thus one would think it would dominate my dreams. I didn’t dream about Community, or any of our beloved characters. Troy and Abed didn’t invite me to their dine and dash. I was not in any of the bar photos with Shirley, or even in Jeff’s “Kiss from a rose” music video. Pierce didn’t send me a vial of his sperm, and Britta wouldn’t even let me bring my emotions to the surface to explore them. It was almost as if Annie chloroformed me into the darkest timeline where Community never existed.

I dreamt that all of my friends left me, and that I had to walk in to the future alone and abandoned. So in a way, I guess I did dream about Community.

It may seem like an over exaggeration to many of you. I’ve been told countless times that “it’s just a television show”, and that my relationship to both Community as piece of entertainment, and the people who created it, is unhealthy for me. I can accept that Community is not for everyone, and some people might hate it, but to say how I should feel towards it – on a level beyond entertainment – is crazy to me. It’s like Jeff Winger says in the very first episode, “people can connect with anything” and voila! I connected to Community and its creator, Dan Harmon.

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While the show is without a doubt the smartest and (maybe) funniest sitcom ever, that has never been my sales pitch for the show. Sure, I’ve told people Dan Harmon and his writers are geniuses, but I also know that emotional connection always trumps quality. You can say quality is subjective, but you can’t argue against the fact that Community is one the smartest and most passionate sitcom ever created. You can however argue that you connect to other shows on a bigger level. Say Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother or even The Big Bang Theory. I can see the value of these three shows, although one of them really needs to take a step back and examine itself, but I wouldn’t tell anyone that they can’t like it. I will be honest, The Big Bang Theory should be ashamed of itself, in its portrayal of geek culture, but that does not mean it’s audience should be ashamed of themselves for enjoying it. It’s an easy target for Community fans, because in many ways it’s been our main competition since the very beginning. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I want to say goodbye to Community, as more than a television show.

I laugh and laugh and laugh while re-watching Community time and time again, but nine times out of ten, it’s the heartfelt scenes that draw me in. It does a fantastic job of balancing pop-cultural humor, with real human connection in ways no other television show even attempts. You can build up to a joke for five seasons, and while it’s rooted in a scene of absolute hilarity, the character reaction (here, Britta’s reaction to her gift) is a punch to the gut of emotion. This entire episode was build up around a sad premise, since Chevy Chase no longer was a part of the show in season five, they wrote him out in a way which not only honored him and his character, but also made fun of the whole situation outside of the show.

Troy sadLater on in the season Donald Glover leaves the show, and as a result we lost Troy. Here we got another high-concept episode, but it’s not another Paintball episode, or a blanket vs pillow fort battle, it’s a Hot Lava-episode. It is with these episodes Dan Harmon really shines and shows us why Community works. While these high-concept episodes may seem like a cliche and a cheap way to get a laugh out of the audience, it’s actually with these we get to see the show for what it is. A high-concept meta-analysis of television itself. It satirizes clichés and tropes in television, but never does it in a way which leaves its characters behind. The characters, and their roots in reality, is always whats important. When Abed hangs above the lava, ready to let go so his friend can leave and live his life, the scene is not as much symbolic for anything, as it’s a statement of letting go. When the episode ends with Troy saying goodbye to everyone, I teared up. When Pierce – whom nobody in the study group considered a decent human being (a little harsh) – leaves his final message to everyone I teared up, and even Abed’s Six Candles movie in the first season thugs at my heartstrings. 468px-Community-castThe first Dungeon & Dragons episode, explored loneliness and depression, but still manages to be fun. When Abed explains to Annie that the reason he waited in a room for 26 hours, even though he’s “livid”, was because she asked him to, and said they were friends, I couldn’t help but feel the love between them. We also have the animated Christmas episode, but before I stop listing up scenes and episode, there is one you can’t leave out of the equation. Where Abed spoofs My Dinner with Andre as a fun project, but ultimately pushed Jeff over the edge in a confession. I will stop listing them up now, as I feel like my point has been made. I’m someone who rarely cries during movies, and never before in a television show, but Community has pressed me to tears at countless occasions. I found it during it’s second season, which up until that point of the year was a very bad year for me. I will not bore you with the details, but when finding Troy and Abed’s relationship, Annie’s drive, Shirley’s moral compass and much more, I felt happy for the first time in a very long time. This has of course shaped my appreciation for the show, and when I feel alone and depressed – as one do from time to time – I can always rely on Community to make me feel better, even if I end up with a tear or two running down my cheeks.

It can still throw in a hilarious rap

So when NBC decided to cancel Community, it’s not just a television show they took of the air. As narcissistic as it sounds, it’s not just the fact that Dan Harmon, the actors, the writers and everyone on staff lost their baby, that hurt me, but the fact that I lost a friend. I send all my love to anyone who’s ever worked on Community, even the fourth season, because as much as it lost it’s identity, we wouldn’t have a fifth season without it.

Now my love goes out to Dan Harmon especially, and I hope that one day in the future I can visit LA (I live in Norway) and watch Harmontown live, just to meet you afterwards and give you a heartfelt hug, as a thanks for shaping not only the last couple of years of my entertainment life, but also me as a person. Thank you, again!

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Per Morten Mjolkeraaen

Uses words from time to time. Equally inspired and confused by metamodernism.

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