A grand total of four people have asked me why I stopped posting reviews during the back half of Community's sixth season, which should be enough of an explanation in itself. But the real reason could be found inside "Intro to Recycled Cinema", which was the episode where Abed makes a sci-fi movie at Greendale in order to utilize a bit of (unrelated) footage he had of the newly famous Ben Chang. I can't remember the exact context or line, but there was a point where Abed taps on the 4th wall a bit and basically admits that the show is no longer as great or exciting as it used to be, but every now and then it gives you a little something memorable (the exact phrasing was something like "Annie pulls a light bomb out of her boobs").
As a long-time, die-hard (but not AS die-hard as the folks who do flash mobs and such) fan of the show, this really hurt to hear - I knew it was true, but I didn't want the show's creators admitting it. I then thought about why I started doing the reviews in the first place; it was right after the show came back from its hiatus in season 3, and thus in danger of being canceled if things didn't turn around, so I figured I'd do my part to help promote the show a bit and explain (in more than a tweet) why it was so special and why it deserved to last. Plus it was nice to write about something besides horror movies for a change, so even when I had less glowing things to say (such as a chunk of season 4, especially that god-awful "Origins" episode), I kept going, because even at its low point, it was still a show that deserved recognition for being unlike anything else out there.
Alas, during Seasons 5 and 6, the show began to lose that part of its appeal. It was never BAD, but as cast members departed and the show began doing sequels or updates of older ideas (not just paintball), it started to feel less special. It was still like nothing else on TV (and then, the internet), but it WAS a lot like other, usually better episodes of Community. There were increasingly less and less reasons to champion it the way it consistently deserved during its first three seasons - at this point I was just watching because I loved it and it was endearingly marching along to its once-unlikely, now inevitable six seasons (movie TBD). As episodes that demonstrated how goddamn good this show could be became fewer and further between, I started losing interest in trying to convince those last few fence-sitters that they had to watch this show while it was still there. Instead, I was just preaching to the choir, and since the show's more "dedicated" fans tend to get angry when you dismiss a plot thread or episode ("You're wrong, (episode that even Dan Harmon disliked) was the best episode of the season and I'd rank it alongside the classics from Season 2!" - I'd get something like this every single time), I realized that I'd be spending time writing something that wouldn't really matter to anyone. At this point, no one was going to read a positive review and say "OK, maybe I'll give this show a look", and if I had a mixed or negative review I'd be yelled at by people who never otherwise took part in the conversation. Criticism couldn't be accepted, praise wouldn't have any effect... why bother? I could be reviewing horror movies with that time!
So I just reverted back to being a normal fan. I'd watch the episodes when I had time on Tuesday (or, admittedly once or twice, when I remembered that there WAS a new episode to watch - I have a kid now, my mind is preoccupied!), tweet out a couple choice lines or comments, and move on. I enjoyed those episodes that I didn't write up, but since I wasn't reviewing them I only saw them the one time each (I'd watch 2-3 times before posting a review), and now I can happily know that when the DVD comes out or they're on syndication*, I won't have the episodes damn near memorized already. The finale, "Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television", is the first one I stayed up late to watch since the one about the dog getting a diploma, I think, and the first since I stopped writing that I watched a second time. Not because I planned to review it in a traditional manner - but because it was just so good.
Now, Yahoo and Sony haven't made any announcements about another season, but as far as I'm concerned this is the series finale. If they continue Community, I don't think I'll be watching - if they make an actual spinoff (which it's basically become anyway with so many characters gone) I'll probably be more interested. But I just can't sit through another "re-pilot" type episode that gets us up to speed and explains where everyone went (Ken Jeong and Paget Brewster are signed to other shows, and the finale itself writes out Abed, Annie, and Elroy - that leaves Jeff, Britta, and Dean), or another quickie introduction of a seat-filler who somehow becomes a best friend in the span of a week (it was weird enough that the main gang would go to Garrett's wedding - why did Elroy and Frankie? Had they even MET?). Indeed, the episode even makes fun of this increasingly common need, with Seth Green cameoing as "Scrunch", a billionaire who buys Greendale and takes Pierce's/Hickey's/Frankie's seat at the table. With the entire core cast and a fully invigorated Dan Harmon at the helm, I might be more open to the idea of extending the show beyond its familiar mantra, but I'd rather they just save their energy and ideas for the movie and go out before things get worse. Besides, a 7th season would necessitate yet another finale that could be a fitting sendoff if the show didn't continue - they've already had FOUR of those, and barring the return of the three cast members that have left (yes, even Chevy), could another one actually manage to improve on the one we just got? I highly doubt it. Isn't it better to say goodbye when there are still more than half of the cast members around to say it?
The show also seemed to have lost its way with regards to not hitting the traditional reset button at the end of every episode like other sitcoms. One of the things I always loved about the show was its insistence on not throwing anything away - even the 2nd season's zombie episode found a way to not only count within that week, but play a part in a lasting plot thread (Shirley's pregnancy). When NBC would swap an episode order, it'd be instantly noticeable, because even though it wasn't exactly serialized, the characters and world around them was constantly growing and changing like reality. But this season? Once Frankie and Elroy had been established, I'm pretty sure you could watch the episodes in any order you like and it wouldn't matter at all. As good as this finale was, did it really feel like the culmination of a season long journey for anyone? Not in the slightest; you could easily skip a number of episodes (the sci-fi movie one and the road trip one in particular) and you wouldn't even miss out on a callback joke, let alone any sort of plot thread. When Annie brought up her criminology internship this week, I had to stop and think if they ever mentioned her career choice once this season, something that would have made her announcement a lot more meaningful than something that just served as an excuse to propel the episode's plot forward. Ditto her and Jeff resolving their romantic longings - it seemed like a moment thrown in to appease 'shippers than the natural progression of this week's/season's storylines. And Frankie's big "We saved Greendale!" moment wasn't exactly a strong one, since the group did that without her last season and most of their efforts have been sidelined to throwaway dialogue anyway. I mean, forgive me, but getting rid of a giant hand we've never seen before isn't exactly the sort of thing that makes me think Greendale is getting better. I wouldn't go so far as to say the show was getting sloppy, but it was certainly getting to the *point* of getting sloppy.
And as great as the finale was, it also illustrated the box Harmon and his writers (well, the ones that have been there for more than 2 seasons) find themselves in - having to work around Donald Glover's seeming permanent absence. It makes sense that no one's idea of a 7th "season" involved Pierce, because he is dead (and really, even if he was alive they'd probably make a joke about no one wanting him there), but even in their imaginations they apparently couldn't conjure up Troy Barnes (bringing Shirley back, while a nice surprise, only served to highlight this dissonance - they imagine she returns but not Troy?). Harmon created all seven of the primary characters as extensions of himself, and has admitted during season 5 that it had been hard for him to come back to the show with one of them gone and another exiting - tying the show up now before he loses any more of those voices would be in the best interest of everyone, I think.
I will miss this show. I've largely hated watching the episodes on Yahoo's site due to the off-timed commercial breaks that would ruin jokes, not to mention the horrendous (and always the same) Honda and Subway ads I had to endure 2-3x each episode (the Xbox 360 app, my only other option don'tfuckingtellmeaboutRokuboxIdon'townoneandI'mnotgoingtobuyoneforthis, never updated the episodes in a timely manner - eventually I gave up even looking**), but the finale really made me glad the show was on the internet and not a traditional TV network. Those extra minutes allowed for perfect moments that would probably have been chopped up on NBC - Jeff giving Abed the 2nd hug, Jeff staring at the study table, and Harmon's breathtaking "monologue" at the end of the tag were a fine way to squeeze a few "extra" final moments in this world I've grown to love - and one I'm ready to leave.
* When they will be cut down to fit a traditional half hour slot with commercials. Very curious what those will be like as that will require a quarter of some episodes to be excised.
** Until the finale, when I gave the app another chance. Kept looking until 1 am, still wasn't there. Gave up, once again having to look at the "I loved my Honda. But I got a new Honda" asshole another three times. You fucking suck, Yahoo.