WASHINGTON, February 7, 2013 —Tonight, the NBC cult favorite, Community, airs its 4th season premiere, but not without controversy, of course. Last time around, Community’s season concluded with a three episode, one-night marathon that resonated with finality, perhaps because the show’s creator Dan Harmon was fired at the end of the season. Yet despite the fact that NBC is woefully lacking with viable entries in the sit-com department, the network saw fit to shake up one of the few comedies it’s rolled out in recent years that has actually been well received.
As if this weren’t enough to sabotage Community’s chance for success, in early October, NBC delayed the premiere episode of its fourth season—which had been scheduled for October 19, 2012—without announcing a new date. What? Delay the premier of a show that Entertainment Weekly ranked one of the 25 Best Cult TV Shows ever, AND not give its devoted following a definitive date for its return?
This kind of muddled programming gaffe goes a long way toward explaining NBC’s overall ratings swan dive in recent years, and leaves TV addicts like myself groping for explanations that never materialize.
Community is about a group of community college students brought together by the formation of a Spanish class study group. The study group format serves well in bringing random diversity to the cast, reeling in seemingly endless story line possibilities in the process.
This kind of ensemble-minded casting is hardly a new concept, of course. From All in the Family to The Big Bang Theory, net-heads have mined this formula of success for a long time, and Community is no exception to the rule.
Community does what an ensemble show should do: it explores the world of each character without playing favorites. Every character brings something unique to the story without letting any single role totally dominate.
Sure, the show’s writers resort to some stereotypes in this scheme. But that’s only because they’re well aware of America’s love affair with labels, and entertainment is the name of the game.
Fortunately, Community acknowledges this label-love without over-exploiting it. Instead, the show allows the viewer a glimpse inside the inscape of each character without totally surrendering his or her dignity to the realm of tired clichés.
Unfortunately, the sharp and topical dialogue played out by the beautifully diverse Community cast reminds me of 30 Rock. Despite its critical acclaim and devoted fan base, 30 Rock never enjoyed the ratings success it deserved. This fact does not bode well for the future of Community.
Meanwhile, on a brighter note, here’s a quick preview video that illustrates the point. Patience. You get an ad first, of course. But hang in there, and this clip will deliver the goods:
That was refreshing. But it’s also unusual for network TV these days.
The current network TV trend is to dumb down audiences by force-feeding one preposterous—and cheap to produce—reality show after another. Watching these structured reality shows doesn’t require any cognitive effort and perpetuates a programming trend that heads down the same lonesome dead end road.
The supply of people willing to sell their psyches for 15 minutes of fame will eventually run out, thank God. There will come a time when encouraging bad behavior in people while following them around with a camera to document it will at last get old, and not a moment too soon in my opinion. Let’s hope it happens before “smart” shows like Community are relegated to the era of TV past.
If not, there are always a million videos of cats being cats on the internet to entertain myself with. And best of all: there’s certainly nothing structured or contrived about a cat’s reality.
All times are EST:
ABC: Shark Tank: (Repeat) The sharks fight over a three-in-one nail polish invented by a mother of six; a feisty couple from New York present what they think is the next trend in women’s accessories; two hockey moms pitch their idea for tank tops with interchangeable straps.
CBS: The Big Bang Theory: (New) When Sheldon and Leonard fight, it affects Penny and Amy’s living arrangements. Meanwhile, Raj takes care of Mrs. Wolowitz while Howard is away.
FOX: American Idol: (New) The tough Hollywood round continues as the judges narrow down the contestants.
NBC: Community: (New) On the first day of senior year, Jeff reveals some news that threatens to tear apart the study group. Meanwhile, Dean Pelton holds an elaborate competition dubbed “The Hunger Deans.”
CW: The Vampire Diaries: (New) Four months after a tragic car accident killed their parents, 17-year-old Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev, “DeGrassi: The Next Generation”) and her 15-year-old brother, Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen, “Everwood”), are still adjusting to their new reality.
CBS: Two and a Half Men: (New) Alan has concerns when Jake brings his 36-year-old girlfriend (Jaime Pressly) home for a visit. Meanwhile, Walden tries to keep a secret from Alan.
NBC: Parks and Recreation: (New) Ann tries to get to know herself as Leslie meddles in one of her biggest life decisions. Meanwhile, things go south when Ben enlists the guys to help choose a caterer for the wedding.
ABC: Grey’s Anatomy: (New) Several of the doctors compete to be the new face of Seattle Grace; April brings an emergency case to the hospital; Alex and Jackson work with a transgender teen couple; new policies test the patience of the staff.
CBS: Person of Interest: (New) Reese and Finch meet their match in a tech billionaire POI whose curiosity and limitless resources threaten to expose their identities and sabotage their efforts to save his life.
FOX: Glee: (New) Finn challenges the glee club to find their inner powerhouses.
NBC: The Office: (New) When Andy returns, Erin has a choice to make; a Valentine’s Day sale has the staff coupling up.
CW: Beauty and the Beast: (New) Cat (Kristin Kreuk) suspects Muirfield might know Vincent’s (Jay Ryan) whereabouts and in spite of her vow to go cold turkey, she is forced to interrupt his romantic cabin getaway with Alex (guest star Bridget Regan) in order to save their lives.
NBC: 1600 Penn: (New) The First Lady puts her all into Xander’s school election.
ABC: Scandal: (New) David learns the truth about the Cytron case; Olivia, Cyrus, Mellie, Hollis and Verna go to extremes to protect themselves.
CBS: Elementary: (New) Sherlock tries to find out who kidnapped the adult daughter of his ex-drug dealer, Rhys (John Hannah). Watson worries about Sherlock’s sobriety when Rhys suggests Sherlock was a better detective when he was using drugs.
NBC: Do No Harm: (New) Jason wakes up with a Ferrari, a trunk full of drugs and an angry drug dealer hot on his trail.
New episodes of:
The First 48: Missing Persons at 9 p.m. on A&E
North Woods Law at 9 p.m. on Animal Planet
Chopped at 9 p.m. on Food Channel
Mysteries at the Museum at 9 p.m. on Travel Channel
Anger Management at 9:30 p.m. on FX
Beyond Scared Straight at 10 p.m. on A&E
Kathy at 10 p.m. on BRAVO
Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell at 10 p.m. on Food Channel
Archer at 10 p.m. on FX
House Hunters at 10 p.m. on HGTV
King of the Nerds at 10 p.m. on TBS
What Not to Wear at 10 p.m. on TLC
Suits at 10 p.m. on USA
Property Wars at 10 and 10:30 p.m. on DSC
House Hunters International at 10:30 p.m. on HGTV
Buckwild at 10 and 11 p.m. on MTV
For movie lovers:
Demolition Man on AMC
North and South o n ENC
Full Frontal on IFC
Anne of the Thousand Days on TCM
Matilda on ABCFAM
The Five-Year Engagement on HBO
American Wedding on MOMAX
Blitz on SHO
Cold Creek Manor at 9:30 p.m. on ENC
Die Hard 2 at 10 p.m. on CINEMAX
Resevoir Dogs at 10 p.m. on TMC
Bound at 10:15 p.m. on IFC
Constantine at 10:31 p.m. on AMC
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