Take the first episode of Community: The Complete Fourth Season for example. It instantly propels itself straight over the edge, taking all the quirks and characterization thatís been built up over 3 seasons and just putting a brick on the accelerator, never letting it rest for a second. The episode starts with Abed (Danny Pudi) imagining the gang of friends as stars of a sitcom. Itís such a telling metaphor for what Community itself has become. Where it was funny because it made fun of sitcoms, and it was self aware when it needed to be, now itís simply a sitcom. For example, the Deanís quirks and obsessions with dalmatians and cross-dressing used to be dropped here and there. Jeff (Joel McHale) was the main one in the gang that recognized it, but no one really called it out because it was one of those things everyone knew, but didnít say anything about. The Dean was quirky, and hiding some really weird stuff under the surface, but he could possibly pass as normal because he didnít really let it slip except during parties and Halloween. Now, with no explanation, heís cross-dressing and pulling crazy stunts all the time. Jeff and the gang donít bat an eye anymore, making the whole gag a lot less funny. And what episode of Community would waste a chance to do the best Hunger Games parody of all time? Instead itís just a name gag, with the rest of it seemingly loosely based on American Gladiators. Itís as if someone just saw a trailer for Hunger Games and decided to name drop it in the show. And believe me, old Community could have also done a kick ass parody of American Gladiators as well, but thatís besides the point.
Thatís not to say that there arenít any funny moments in the fourth season of Community. The episode "Alternative History of the German Invasion" was actually pretty funny. Well, it could have been made funnier if the accents would have been a bit better. But everyone gets a few good one-liners in this episode such as the Deanís, "Let me get this as straight as I can get things" and Abedís, "He saved my life" line (referring to being saved by one of the German students in an un-named MMORPG). It was also pretty funny to see other students' aggravation at the groupís monopoly on the study room through the years. Again, though, every time I think the show is going to go somewhere unexpected, insightful, or clever, it simply sits right where it is. Itís just happy to stay in the realm of standard sitcom.
"Economics of Marine Biology" was another pretty decent episode, though it also could have gone further. Pierce and Jeff end up spending the day together since Jeff is assigned to keep Pierce busy. Oddly enough, Jeff ends up liking his day with Pierce. Thereís a gag with a fake potato chip brand named "Letís" that ends up being pretty funny, as well as a few other moments with the rest of the group throughout the day.
Community: The Complete Fourth Season does include all the extras weíve come to expect from these DVD packages. There are plenty of outttakes, deleted scenes, commentary, and making-of features to keep everyone happy after the show is over.
Even with its bright spots, itís hard to love this season of Community. The brilliance of the preceding seasons with unforgettable episodes like "Basic Lupine Urology" (the Law and Order parody) and "Remedial Chaos Theory" (the alternate timeline episode) just canít be found in this current season. Community had a good run, but it is not something that can be easily duplicated. And so, missing a key writer, it is an entirely different animal. Itís still good for a laugh here and there, but just a pale imitation of its former self.