TV Tonight: Community Is Back!

Via: Tuned In

Those who would be savvy TV watchers will warn you against looking at any show as one person’s work. TV is a collaborative medium, they’ll note, more so than director-driven movies, and certainly more so than books. TV shows have creators, but they don’t have single authors: there are writers’ rooms, multiple producers and directors, the choices made by a cast of actors, and the multiple ongoing influences of network notes, audience feedback, and ratings pressure. Even the most auteur-centered TV show is a machine, a business, the work of many hands. Which is true–but then again, look at Community. When creator Dan Harmon was pushed out of the NBC comedy after its brilliant third season, it was kind of a test case for the many-hands theory of TV. Yeah, Harmon conceived the show, wrote much of it, worried over its details with a jewelers’ attention. But the show would keep many of its writers on staff, the cast would still be the same, and the show’s tone and characters were well-enough established. No reason it couldn’t stay basically the same, right? It was not the same. Nor was it very different, but in some good ways, as sometimes happens when a show’s creative leadership changes. (The West Wing, say, was never the same drama without Aaron Sorkin, yet its final-season election arc was great nonetheless.) Instead, the fourth season was a studied imitation: not awful, but it felt more jarring for its closeness to the original, like the uncanniness of seeing a real person rendered in a videogame or Taiwanese animation. The characters were familiar but the strokes were broader, and the devices–pop-culture references, campus-wide competitions–less original. Community was and is the work of many talented hands, as Harmon himself has said even as he’s been brought back to run his baby again. But whatever he’s doing in season five, premiering tonight on NBC, it makes a huge difference. In the three episodes sent to critics in advance, Community sounds like itself again. There’s the sharp dialogue and community-college

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