I just finished watching the (possibly, maybe?) very last episode of Community, “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television”, and for a comedy show, it made me cry from start to finish. Let’s go back in time for a little bit.
Community is a weird show. Weird in the best possible way. Created by Dan Harmon, the pilot episode introduces us to Jeff Winger, a lawyer caught with a fake diploma so, in order to get back to his work, he needs a real diploma and the easiest way is attending to Greendale Community College. There we’re introduced to Abed, Britta, Troy, Shirley, Annie and Pierce. Later on Jim Chang and Dean Pelton also become key characters, but that happens because their importance in the show grows along seasons. Critically acclaimed and with a huge fan base, it sounds almost absurd that the show faced cancellation at the end of almost every season (but the first two). Community’s humor revolves around being self-aware and tons of meta jokes, it’s a show where jokes are planted across several different episodes and seasons (such as the numerous times they hum or play daybreak and then the Dean comments on it in one of the last episodes as he enters an elevator), but at the same time, you can watch any episode independently and not feel lost. Season two is particularly brilliant, with different styles/genres for nearly all episodes (copied from other shows and movies), and some of the show’s best jokes, so if you want an incentive to start watching, pick anything in season two, and that extends into season three.
Besides almost being canceled every other season, Community faced an uncommon issue for tv shows, which is the fact that almost half of the original main cast left the show – for various reasons – along the time and even the showrunner was fired during season four – and he constantly jokes about this season in the show. During season two, Abed – which is the most fourth-wall aware character of all – creates the hashtag #sixseasonsandamovie and that has literally guided the fans to push for the show to stay alive when it started to face trouble with audience numbers in season three – Community is so aware of its uncertain future that the ending for episode 14 in that season is Troy and Abed enacting a charity drive to save Greendale. We thought it would end there, but it didn’t. Then we thought it would end by the end of the fourth season, with Pierce’s departure, but no, we got Dan Harmon back just to find out Troy would be jumping the ship next, before the middle of season five. Shirley also leaves by the end of season five and NBC confirms it won’t renew the show for the sixth season. That’s when Yahoo picks it up and fulfills the promise of six seasons, through the roughest of roads.
Season six was overall strange. Very different yet too familiar. I didn’t crave for next week’s episode and ended up not watching the last five episodes until today. They were here, sitting in my hard drive ever since they came out (the last one aired in June 2nd) so I thought “you know what? I could use that space” and decided to watch them so I could get rid of the files. The first three were kind of ok, the fourth was weird in a way that I couldn’t make up my mind if it was good or bad or just plain weird – and that made me think about it, about its message and the way it was delivered and how that didn’t sound like Community, but at the same time was extremely true to its nature, which is not common with TV, so I decided it was a good one – and then we got to the very last episode in which I cried for 25 of the 27 running minutes. I didn’t cry out of sadness and desperation, plus I also laughed while crying and that too is not a common thing overall. I cried because it connects with many many things in my life right now.
When I started to watch Community, it was in the break between seasons two and three. May started it at home, and then she rewatched the first few episodes with me and we were hooked. We did watch a ton of tv shows during the years, yes, but if I were to rank the most important ones, the ones we deeply cared about the characters, the ones we went online to find out more information, it would be Community and Breaking Bad. We wouldn’t watch them without each other. And we never minded watching repeated episodes – so many favorites! – to the point of knowing several lines. We turned off our phones and woke up in the middle of the night to watch Breaking Bad’s finale just so no one would spoil it for us in the morning. We have clothes from Community. It’s a show that followed May and I around since almost our beginning and one we rooted for during its crises, one we constantly reference in random moments or conversations and, lastly, one that makes me think of her every time I watch an episode. Watching the ending of it was very close to what we talked in our last conversation as a couple. It was good, it was great – amazing, actually – but it was also time to let go. The same way the characters pitch absurd solutions that obviously wouldn’t work for “season seven”, we had our own crazy attempts of keeping us going and, just like Jeff, realized it wasn’t gonna do us any good.
In the last two episodes the characters start to raise the subject that one is different from itself when it’s part of a group and each member of the group is as part of them as they are part of the others. Confusing, I know, but they realize how much better (or worse, for Chang!) they are when they act as individuals instead of part of the study group. This whole argument was also extremely in sync with plenty of our latest conversations, how each of us had a separate life from the other and that that wasn’t a bad thing. We may not be girlfriend and boyfriend anymore but the connection we share is not going away, ever. Quoting Abed’s words from the last bits of season six’s last episode: “(…) It’s a friend you’ve known so well, and for so long you just let it be with you, and it needs to be okay for it to have a bad day or phone in a day, and it needs to be okay for it to get on a boat with Levar Burton and never come back. Because eventually, it all will”.