This past season was probably my least favorite overall. The season before that was slightly better, with season three being better than that, and so forth. The show just doesn't have the same flair that it did with the first two seasons, in my mind. While I'm all in favor of pushing the boundaries and trying new things, I feel that sometimes creators get too caught up with the idea of change being better by default, rather than how change can sometimes make things worse. Mind you, this is not something that ails only Community, but it happened with Scrubs, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and other shows that lasted several years. Two and a Half Men is unbearable now, and the final season of How I Met Your Mother strayed too far from the normal formula, which hurt it drastically.
So, with that being said, how can Community bounce back with season six? Here's a list of ten things that I'd personally like for Dan Harmon and the rest of the crew to keep in mind when going about crafting the next set of episodes:
1. Less Wacky Hijinks - More Grounded Stories
You can still go crazy every once in a while, but part of the charm from the first two seasons was that the characters felt like they were real people in real situations. The show went from dealing with stories like chicken fingers being the only good thing to eat in the cafeteria (a realistic idea) to the entire campus being in total anarchy with robots buried in secret catacombs and other lunacies. This is a sitcom about a group of friends, not a high-concept experimental fantasy. Why couldn't the school have been in danger of being sold without having to stumble upon a giant conspiracy? Couldn't there have been funny things happen with just a normal fundraiser?
This is your exception when it comes to zany. Perhaps it's an instance of running to the well too many times, but it's worth a try to have at least one more paintball episode, unless it is the subject of the supposed movie that follows this season. If there's no paintball, then something needs to take its place and not be too crazy. A perfect example of an alternative that comes to mind is "Pillows and Blankets", episode 14 from season 3.
What could they do for a paintball gimmick? Well, since we can scratch off urban warfare, Star Wars, the old west and the mafia, the only thing that springs to my mind is a generalized military setup, if not just to keep it basic. I'm sure there are other suggestions that people can come up with, so if you have an idea, pass it along!
3. More Focus on Background Characters
One of the things that made the Dungeons and Dragons episode so great was that it dealt with the group's response to an outsider. The same applies to dealing with "the Todd problem" in relation to the principal cast. Why not give us an episode about Magnitude or Leonard? I could use more Star Burns, couldn't you? Perhaps Rich can get another episode dedicated to him and have the roles reversed in his rivalry with Jeff. Fat Neil quickly became a real person in this world after playing Dungeons and Dragons with our protagonists and the same can be applied to others.
4. The Return of Troy Barnes
Simply put: come back, Donald Glover.
5. Who Loves Abed More? Rachel vs. Troy
Just because I want to see more of Troy doesn't mean that I want Rachel to leave to make room for him. In fact, I think there's a great story arc that can happen through a full season where Troy and Rachel fight over Abed's affections. Not really knowing any better, Abed can use this to his advantage and manipulate the two of them and they can even end up bonding in a way over a few idiosyncrasies in Abed that they find mutually annoying.
6. The Return of Pierce Hawthorne
Speaking of bringing Troy back, I want Pierce to return, too. This is a bit trickier, as his character was killed off. Keep in mind, though, that Pierce has a history of attempting to manipulate people. He tried to convince everyone that he was dying just to get sympathy before, so it isn't beyond him to have gone out of his way to fake his death. What if he were to come back with a "gotcha" and then realize that all of his assets have truly been taken away from him after he was declared legally dead? Classic fuck up Pierce is great.
Of course, there's an issue of whether or not Chevy Chase would want to do it or if anyone would want him back. Since only the parties involved know the true story behind those bad feelings, all we can do is speculate. In a perfect world, I would like to see everyone bury the hatchet and for a renewed vigor to bring people back to the first season's mentality. Realistically, I'd be happy with Pierce becoming an infrequently seen character along the lines of Ian Duncan. A little Pierce can go a long way, and a complete lack of Pierce is greatly missed. Considering all the crazy things that have happened on Greendale's campus, I'm sure they can retract their banishment of Pierce.
7. More Family Members
A large portion of the family members related to our main characters have gone unseen. If my memory serves me correct, there's only been one member of Troy's family that we've seen. Abed's mother can still make an appearance, as can Jeff's, possibly in a confrontation episode where his father returns. Annie's parents have yet to show up. Britta's family is a mystery. What if Dean Pelton really does have a sister and what if Jeff can sleep with her?
8. Shipping Jeff and Britta, Not Jeff and Annie
It was fun to get some storylines out of Jeff and Annie, but there's always been an underlying creepiness to the two of them getting together that has not sit well with me. Consistently throughout the series, there have been hints that Jeff and Britta would actually be a good couple if they could just get past a few insecurities and stubborn blockades. Their competitive nature gets in the way of their happiness, but despite their bickering, they never fail to show that they truly care about each other. Notable examples in their relationship include their drunken proposal to each other, their sexual escapades (while Jeff and Annie have only kissed a few times), Britta asking Jeff if he wants kids in the future, pretty much the entirety of the first season (including the idea that this whole group started because of their mutual attraction) and several episodes of this past one as well.
The relationship between Jeff and Annie seems like more of a forbidden fruit lust rather than a foundation of any romantic love. When Annie looks out for Jeff, she ends up scolding him and trying to change him away from the "bad boy" persona that she's clearly attracted to. Britta, on the other hand, may bust Jeff's balls and attempt to influence his personality, but she tends to do it with a more helpful intention. After all, Jeff himself admits that someone like Professor Slater makes him feel like the person he wants to be, but Britta makes him relaxed and reassures him that being himself is good enough to be loved—something the character has consistently struggled with for the entirety of the series.
9. Smarten Britta Up
Britta started off in season one being a bit of a bitch, but able to handle herself. Over time, she became the village idiot. While she shouldn't just drastically change and go up several dozen IQ points, they can bump her intelligence at least marginally back up closer to the level that it used to be. Pronouncing "bagel" in a weird way is a far cry from being literally told that she is the stupidest in the group and nobody would want to partner up with her on projects.
10. Give Annie a Real Boyfriend - Possibly A Teacher
Annie's love interests have all been very superficial, which was okay for a while, considering her age. Now that several years have gone by, the character should have matured more. Why not have her get into a serious relationship with someone who is actually on her intellectual level and represents a newfound sense of adulthood? My main suggestion for that would be hooking up with a professor who teaches a class she's in. Maybe down the line, there's an ethical conundrum where she wants to break up, but fears that it will hurt her grades.
These are just a few things that I would like to see in the newest upcoming season of Community, and I'm hoping that there will be even more stories that blow my mind that I'd never have thought of on my own. One way or another, as a fan of the show, I just want this to be as good as it possibly can be. Considering the first two seasons and some episodes from the three others sprinkled here and there, I'm sure that the creators have it in them to pull it off. They've given a lot of enjoyment to the fans over the years and, as such, the fans have given back and helped save the show from extinction time and time again.
"We're at the mercy of each other and ourselves. That's why there has to be forgiveness on both sides." - Abed Nadir