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Saturday, August 2, 2014

'Community' S5 DVD: One More Season and a Movie to go (Screw You Leonard)

Product Details
A personally awesome thing about the 3-disc 13-episode Sony DVD release, which hits actual and virtual store shelves on August 5 2014, of the fifth season of the "must-see" NBC sitcom "Community" is that this season and the upcoming sixth season validates the subheading "the little show that could" in the Unreal TV review of the DVD release of S4. Cool, cool, cool!

The less than groovy aspect of "Community" is that NBC Universal is not running the sixth season even on the USA network; folks will need to watch these episodes on Yahoo. This warrants awarding NBC Universal CEO Stephen B. Burke one meowmeowbeenz and banishing him to the long forgotten NBC subbasement to watch "Gimme A Break" reruns.

The aforementioned fulfilled prophecy is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the awesomeness of the abbreviated fifth season, which follows the British model of emphasizing quality over quantity when it comes to television series.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of an S5 promo. shows this wonderfully skewed (and just as Britishly dark as S5 regular John Oliver) vibe of "Community." In many respects, it is a montage of the greatest moments from this season.

A 42-minute feature in the DVD set that goes behind-the-scenes in the writers' room shows the love and care that newly returned creator/showrunner Dan Harmon and his team devote to making "the sausage." The obvious particularly strong devotion this time around seems to reflect anticipation that these 13 episodes are it for the Greendale Six. The aforementioned sixth season is a great surprise regarding that dire possibility.

Nice surprises regarding the DVD release is that watching the episodes again several months after they aired reveals that each one is so dense that you pick up quite a bit that you miss the first time. Further, marathon (rather than binge) viewings help follow the themes that run throughout the episodes. Many characters grow but still do not become much better people.

The wonderfully cynical "lessons," spot-on social commentary, well-developed and complex characters, and storylines that only stray into traditional sitcom/film territory (such as third-act apologies in the rain) to comment on those classic plots and twists are what truly make "Community" an exceptional show in a manner that evokes thoughts of the similarly struggling Aaron Sorkin sitcom "Sports Night."

The parallels between "Community" and "Night" extend beyond their limited network runs, overall above-average quality, and slight edge. Sorkin famously states that "Night" has very little to do with sports, and the same is true regarding the community college setting of "Community." The tales of the misadventures of our favorite misfits are very apt in any public or private setting where bureaucracy reigns supreme.

Each episode is adequately unique and entertaining to warrant extensive discussion. However, some that particularly stand out as best demonstrating the uber-awesome quirkiness of "Community" are discussed below. (Do not even think of issuing a "-" grade regarding these analyses.")

The S5 season premiere starts things off by having delusional and quirky fanboy Abed comment on how regathering the members of the study group around which "Community" centers is akin to the heavily retooled final season of the former "must-see" NBC sitcom "Scrubs." A classic moment in this "Community" relates to former high school stud turned community college loser Troy, played by soon to depart actor Donald Glover, commenting that Zach Braff ungratefully only appears in a handful of the final "Scrubs" episodes despite that show making him a star.

The third S5 episode is one of the best in that it hilariously reveals scads of horrible behavior of the reformed (but not reformed) group directed at their friends and others. Troy and Abed secretly sponging off the Netflix account of group leader (and new Greendale faculty member) Jeff is the least of these. This wide net additional encompasses the entire gang, including self-righteous church lady Shirley. Her primary sin is shamelessly placing profits above dietary integrity.

The lesson from this episode is fall-on-the-floor dark. This episode further provides former cast member (and well-known Harmon foe) Chevy Chase an apt ending. One can say that Chase's Pierce receives his comeuppance for his own sins while indulging in an act that some feel will subject the perpetrator to eternal damnation.

An episode in which Jeff and highly judgmental and obsessive goody-goody/former drug addict Annie team up to pursue the ass-crack bandit, who inserts quarters down the pants of students who bend over, is a prime example of "Community" expertly parodying other genres. In this case, Harmon takes on ridiculously intense suspense films. The homage includes low lights and montages of news articles.

The aptly-titled "G.I. Jeff" episode is the fifth season entry in a series of "Community" offerings that takes the action into an alternate dimension. In this case, the group and other members of the Greendale family become characters in the very hokey "G.I. Joe" animated series. The fun continues to include a hilarious take on the lesson that provides the epilogue to "Joe" episodes.

One surprise regarding the DVD release is that the one bleeped member of the traditional "seven dirty words" that you cannot say on television that is uttered in this episode remains censored. Harmon sucks indeed.

The lack of foul language aside, this classic episode offers the bonuses of hilarious versions of the commercials for "Joe" merchandise and of a story that is similar to the terrific plots of "The Lego Movie" and "The Simpsons" Lego episode. One warning regarding all this is that intense angst may send you over your own personal rainbow.

Harmon does not suck regarding his two-part season finale/ (at the time) probable series finale. This one begins with the Save Greendale effort around which this season revolves being amazed at finding that they had accomplished the goal of stabilizing their institution of inferior education only to have a new threat come in the form of an effort to close the school.

Circumstances that are bizarre even for "Community" lead to an expedition for treasure (complete with copious self-aware references to the end and "Three's A Crowd" style spinoffs) that results in a hilariously odd discovery. All of this end on an a terrifically typical "Community" note that gleefully celebrates cynicism.

The year-end grade for the "post-grad" "Community" season is a solid A, if only because nothing in this rotten world achieves true perfection. You will laugh plenty, may cry, and will be glad that you are a human being.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Community" is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.