At this point, for me at least, Community is definitely a hangout show more than anything else. I enjoy catching up with the Greendale crew* and spending time with them, but they don't really surprise me any more. It's rare that I am uproariously shocked into laughter by any given joke this season, and by rare I mean I'm pretty sure it hasn't happened. On the one hand, that's not terribly surprising, because for crying out loud it's the sixth season and any show under any circumstances would be hard-pressed to continue being radically innovative. On the other hand, in the past when I would absolutely lose my mind over Community it was usually about (or during) the really high-concept episodes where they went all out on alternate sets and costumes and special effects and so forth. In the new Yahoo era, they haven't really gone there, with the arguable exception of the extended Karate Kid bit. I suspect this has a bit to do with budgetary concerns, and I get it, really. Then again, it may be that they are biding their time and slowly building up to that kind of old-school extravaganza; I may even be speaking contrary to fact right now, since we are about two episodes behind at this point.
But since we've seen five out of seven episodes, there is one thing that is really blowing my mind in its absence, and it's not the lack of paintballs or the Dreamatorium. But to explain, let me back up:
- So it's season six, right? For years now Community fans have been rallying behind the #sixseasonsandamovie hashtag and its implication that if the show was about to be cancelled, it would be too soon. I've heard some crazy rumors that there might even be a movie, too, at some point. But the point is, we made it to season six, woohoo!
- Why six seasons, as opposed to seven, and why a movie? Because "six seasons and a movie" is an Abed quote from back in season 3. That season was when NBC premiered a new original superhero drama called The Cape, and Abed was into it. Jeff tried to tell Abed that the Cape wouldn't last three weeks, and Abed retorted his own prediction as to how long The Cape would last. So that's the in-universe antecedent, as it were.
- I admit that I, myself, never got into The Cape. You'd think it would be right up my alley, since I love not just specific superheroes but all the trappings and tropes of the superhero concept, and that's exactly what The Cape was riffing on, right off the bat with the title. It also was about circuses and sideshow performers including a strongman midget, and had Summer Glau (River from Firefly) as an uber-hacker with a ridiculously literary handle of "Orwell" and just in general was bonkers in the best possible ways. The thing is, even back in 2011 I only had but so much free time and I had already adopted a wait-and-see attitude about trying new pop culture things. If The Cape had become an institution and I had heard lots of good things about it, I might have gone back to the beginning via Netflix or something and taken it all in. But as it turned out, Jeff's prediction was far more accurate than Abed's. The Cape only filmed 13 episodes and NBC only aired 10. Which is why I'm explaining all this stuff in so much detail, because I assume few to none of you all remember the short-lived show in question.
- But guess who was on The Cape, as a cast regular named Max Malini, serving as a mentor to the eponymous superhero? Keith David.
- I asterisked "Greendale crew" up above because of course it's not really the same core group that we all knew and love din the early seasons. Chevy Chase's Pierce, Donald Glover's Troy and Yvette Brown's Shirley are no longer attending Greendale in season six, so there have been some replacements brought in. The Dean and Chang get more time in the study room around Table Mark II, and Paget Brewster joined the cast as Frankie Dart. Another addition is eccentric RV-dwelling virtual reality expert and cranky old IT guy Elroy Patashnik, played by ... Keith David.
So a one-off gag about The Cape became the encapsulation of the fans' desire to see the show keep going and going, which it improbably enough has done. At the same time, an actor who used to be on The Cape has now, in the same season explicitly referenced by the hashtag, joined the cast of Community. And how many jokes have there been about The Cape this season? NONE. OK, maybe The Cape is an NBC/Universal property and now that Yahoo is producing Community they can't just make NBC/Universal references willy-nilly. But how many tv bloggers have made any reference to the Keith David Cape/Community connection? NONE! None that I've seen anyway. I don't know, maybe it's too obvious, maybe there's nothing really to say beyond what I just dragged out over an excessive number of bullet points. Still, I'm gonna keep hoping for an episode somewhere down the line where Abed reprises his Christian-Bale-as-Batman impression and Elroy looks at him and says something like "Nice cape."