This review contains spoilers.
6.13 Emotional Consequences Of Broadcast Television
“I can’t count the reasons I should stay…”
A couple of weeks ago, we wondered how the remaining two episodes of Community‘s sixth season could top the third-from-last actionpalooza in episode eleven, Basic Espionage, and we were answered with last week’s Wedding Videography, which stands as the highlight of the season and perhaps one of the funniest episodes the show has ever done.
But in a season that started with the goal of grounding the series’ drifting premises, we’ve nevertheless had a few reprisals of previous high concepts, particularly in the most recent paintball and documentary episodes. The finale, written by head writers Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna, is a roundabout rehash of the show’s most conceptually ambitious bottle episode, season three’s Remedial Chaos Theory.
While that episode saw parallel realities arise from a game of Yahtzee, and also spawned the show’s running gag about “the darkest timeline”, it’s Abed who steers the conversation of possible futures in Emotional Consequences Of Broadcast Television. After six years together, he has each of the Nipple Dippers (new name!) talk about what they could possibly want from another year at Greendale by pitching their own ideal version of season seven.
Look out for a feature on what might come next later this week, but for now let’s concentrate on the episode, which works perfectly as an overall finale to the show. The fourth wall is well and truly demolished by this point and the episode almost serves as pre-emptive bereavement counselling for the fans. Just wish for what your own personal season seven would be, but don’t cut away to it and it might still happen.
The different scenarios run by the characters each seem less likely than the last, from the introduction of animated Ice Cube Head (voiced by Rick & Morty‘s Justin Roiland) to Britta’s super-dark political thriller version that moves the school into international waters and has a Tom Waits-a-like cover of The 88‘s theme song (which gets a bunch of plays in this one as we skip through each possible future.)
Over the course of the episode, it’s Jeff, not Abed, who really fears the prospect of the darkest timeline, which for him would be the end of “the show”. His first attempt at a pitch sees him in the same seat at the study table, surrounded by the only returning characters – Leonard, Garrett, Vicki, Todd and Dave – and a tech billionaire called Scrunch, (Seth Green) which seems the most depressingly likely event when Elroy and Annie are already off to pastures new.
But Harmon and McKenna even close off potential avenues for a seventh season in the process. Jeff’s best effort sees the returning characters become teachers at Greendale, which has seemed like the most likely future calibration ever since Mr. Winger started teaching Law. But Abed shuts that down (and sends Jeff into a hilariously dark fantasy of strangling multiple Abeds) by revealing that he too is “spinning off” to a production job in LA.
In other timelines, we witness the return of Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley for a couple of inserts where she comes back, but Abed acknowledges that it would get them back on formula rather than pushing forward. However much you miss the old dynamic of the show, she’s been missed this season and it’s nice (or niiice) to see her back before the end.
It’s a shame that we didn’t get more of Elroy and Frankie in this one as new arrivals Keith David and Paget Brewster have been two surprise MVPs of this season. It doesn’t quite chime with the closeness of Elroy to the rest of the group in last week’s episode that he leaves so early, but at least Frankie is still around in the final shot with Jeff, Britta, Chang and the Dean, which will now surely be the starting line-up in any further adventures.
Although #AndAMovie flashes up at the end, this really does feel like a fire sale on the show’s emotional loose ends. The Tumblr fans are thrown a bone when the Jeff/Annie romance finally gets its bittersweet moment, paying off all that subtext with a kiss and an added fashionable backhand to all those Marvel movies. They even throw in a couple of precision F-bombs for good measure, in the absence of Keith David yelling “Vietnam, baby!”
After last week’s pro-incest end tag from the writer’s room, all bets are off when it comes to the meta, but the existential commercial for a board game of the show is the cherry on top for this one, with Dan Harmon himself voicing the hysterical emotional disclaimer that brings season six to a close. It was probably the cumulative effect of the rest of the episode, but this is where I actually felt most emotional.
Emotional Consequences Of Broadcast Television feels like an ideal finale to Community as we know it. As funny and warm and self-referential as ever, it remains faithful to this season’s more grounded approach and closes a run that some have found uneven, in a way that can’t fail to satisfy the show’s loyal Greendale Human Beings.
Never forget that NBC fired Dan Harmon after the third season. Everything we’ve had since then – the gas leak year, the “Re-pilot” year and now this Yahoo! Screen kiss-off year – has been a very cheeky bonus.
Previous finales have also tackled the show’s uncertain future head on, but this one is clearly designed as the end of an era and it could comfortably take a place in the annals of great sitcom series finales. But in a world where somebody wanted an Entourage movie enough to make that happen, if we all wish hard enough…
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