Community: Ladders

“Weird, passionate, and gross.”

Another school year, another season. Well, more or less: after showrunner mistakes, network cancellations, the graduation of most of the characters, and a Shirley “spin-off,” Community is both very different and very much the same as its earliest incarnation. Good shows change, after all.

But, as newbie Francesca Dart (Paget Brewster) explains, the Save Greendale Committee, like Community, needs to hold on to the brand. And that’s an odd challenge, as this much-desired sixth season of Community is good, but indefinably off in some way. Why are these people still hanging out at their community college? How much longer could this continue, and should it continue? These are questions that I can’t help but ask.

The show is asking these questions, too. The opening scene, in which a huge tonnage of Frisbees collapses the roof of a building at Greendale, seems like a metaphor. Throwing on Frisbee on a roof is fun. Getting into the habit of it, spreading the word (as Leonard seems to have done)—also fun. But at a certain point, too many Frisbees stops being fun, and starts to be depressing.

Abed hangs a lantern on these issues, telling Francesca that there are important questions people are asking—such as where any of Our Heroes get their money—although he would like to continue to explore more interesting questions, such as “What is real?” and “What is Saturday?”

Those are solid questions, but not something Dan Harmon can build a show on. That’s where this week’s B-plot comes in: Britta, Annie, and Jeff decide to market Jeff’s mystic and make some money with a speakeasy. Because…why not?

An illicit speakeasy built with actual lumber is more fun than reality, which Abed’s montage confirmed is incredibly boring. If only we could all montage our way through paperwork and jump right to the drunken 1930s with fedoras, cigarette girls, and Radio Announcer Voice.

But it can’t continue. Like the roof that collapses under the weight of too many Frisbees, a campus-wide drinking binge is funny—especially in montage—but truly dangerous. And that’s the theme of this season: not just “Why are these people still at a college they no longer attend?” but “Is too much of a good thing really a bad thing?”

Those are some serious questions, and the weight of them, along with the extended Yahoo Screen running time, may be the cause of this episode’s lack of punchiness. I didn't laugh much watching this. For those of you streaming along at home, though, please know that this season does get pretty good. It finds its rhythm, and it marathons quite well. It winds up being a “good Belushi”: weird, passionate, and a little bit gross.

Cool Cool Cool:

• Paget Brewster played a minor role (tech support, I think, but honestly I forget) in the Season Five episode “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking.” It is alluded to here, and clarified in a later episode, that she is not the same person: that tech-support girl was her cousin, who went crazy.

• Chang’s point about the departure of a second black person is an excellent one. What is this, The Walking Dead?

• Oh, Nathan Fillion!

• Kids, don’t ladder while drinking. It’s just not safe.

534 out of 535 critical emergencies.

Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

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