Sometimes Getting What We Want Turns Out Worse Than Not
“To me, the idea of wanting to defy death is just an inherent, almost mythological, iconic notion. It’s something we can relate to . . . a universal longing.” Marti Noxon
The reviews are in, and they universally suggest Community‘s return is going to be like reuniting with your college flame to find out he has a terrible haircut, bland political opinions, and still listens exclusively to Yellowcard and Coldplay.
It’s not the only cult darling making a comeback. Arrested Development is coming, but there’s not a chance it will be the same creature. You can’t resurrect something and expect it not to be a zombie. On the other hand, you can’t blame one for trying. If Community 4 is another (Gilmore Girls 7, Angel 4, The L Word 5.5-6, Glee 2-current, Weeds 4-current, The Office debatable-current, etc), was it worth it?
Some shows get better with age – New Girl, for instance. Other shows fade from true brilliance but retain flashes amidst solid enjoyability, and even evolve into other things – prime example, How I Met Your Mother. A few have high points through their last episode, but were extended too long and could have fit all the good and ditched the bad by being curtailed a season or three – ALIAS,* LOST, The West Wing. The only two saved from extinction to come back and do something really solid are Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Friday Night Lights, and both of those (like JAG, which became a juggernaut which spawned spin-offs which spawned yet more spinoffs) had to be rescued by another network which allowed the show runners to have their heads. Community has taken the opposite direction.
But better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. The chance at money is good enough for the network, and the chance at one more decent season, one more Britta-ism, one more gut-wrenching journey in the Dreamatorium, is good enough for me. There’s always the chance I could be singing a different tune come May, but if we have a chance for dinner with that old flame, aren’t we also spending a little time with our old selves? Is a couple hours too much to pay for that growth and the chance they’ve evolved into something better, too?
Wonderfalls, Freaks and Geeks, and Firefly are all examples of things that could/should have gone further, but instead remain canonized and perfect in their brevity. I had the advantage of coming to all these shows after the fact, and much as I wish there were more episodes, I see the darkest timelines of possible ruin, too,** and I’d rather have my one box set then have had that happen. I think of shows I’m deeply invested in now and wonder if I’m being objective enough about their runs. (Hint: I’m not.) So we’re back to, is it worth a try? I must say yes, because I’m an eternal optimist. But a tiny part of me says, going out on top and being immortalized on DVD for me to yearn after a could-have-been that’s better than what-actually-would-have-been, isn’t such a bad thing. Having three seasons of Arrested Development or Community on my DVD shelf for all eternity*** may be all one can hope for in this crazy world.
*I will not entertain bad thoughts about ALIAS. But JJ Abrams does not often know when enough is enough.
**Almost all those timelines start with network tinkering for ratings. We all know that’s where Freaks and Geeks was headed. While Dead Like Me got more episodes and bigger backing, its network catering brought it far short of Wonderfalls.
***I’m sorry, if we can’t watch TV in heaven, what is the point again, exactly?