‘Community’ – watching and hoping

Community

“Community” has always been an offbeat sitcom. It’s kind of hard to imagine that the Dan Harmon creation ever got on the air.

Ostensibly the antics of a wacky and diverse bunch of adults attending classes at a community college, the show – which had its fourth-season premiere Thursday – quickly took off on its own path.

With its self-absorbed and sometimes even hard-to-take characters, its odd stories and its completely off-kilter style – an entire Christmas episode in Claymation-style animation? Another mostly depicted in old video-game style graphics? One that takes its cues from a “Law and Order” episode? – “Community” is one of those shows that inspires either absolute fanhood or absolute irritation.

You don’t have to be a fan of the show, in other words – but it helps.

Over the course of the first three seasons, Harmon and cast created some truly classic episodes, including the first-season-ending paintball war that exploded action movie cliches; the most high-stakes and heartfelt game of Dungeons & Dragons ever; an epic blanket fort; the machinations of the evil heating and air conditioning wing of the school; the characters exploring various timelines, including the darkest, complete with “Evil Spock” goatees; the highlights go on and on.

There’s no question that “Community” is unique in TV history.

Harmon was, by some accounts, a “difficult” personality and clashed with Chevy Chase, who by almost every account was as big an ass on the set as was his character.

So Harmon got fired from his own show before this fourth season began.

I watched the season opener and liked it pretty well. The story’s conceit – that mentally fragile Abed (Danny Pudi), confronted by the likelihood that their community college careers were coming to an end, retreated into a world that played out in a standard sitcom format where the characters were simpler, the laugh track made everything seem easier and Fred Willard played Chase’s role – seemed like vintage “Community.”

But something about the show seemed … off.

I’ll still be watching “Community.” I’ll have my fingers crossed that the low-rated show gets a full season – although I can’t imagine it will achieve the Twitter hashtag #sixseasonsandamovie goal – and that the show won’t wither without Harmon.

I’m hoping for a good timeline, in other words.

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