Three years and a month ago, I wrote about what the #sixseasonsandamovie hashtag meant following the Community season 3 finale. That was supposed to be the end of Community, but NBC brought it back, just without creator Dan Harmon. Then came season 5 with Dan Harmon, and Season 6 on Yahoo! Screen.
Season 6 proved to be very unbalanced. While it brought out great paintball and documentary film making episodes late in the season, earlier episodes lacked that Community vibe.
Then came the Season 6 finale of “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television”. This episode felt like Dan Harmon is finally ready to say good-bye. The Season 3 finale, “Introduction to Finality”, felt like Dan Harmon telling NBC to go fuck itself. There was a hostility to it, an oddness and irreverence in how outside the box it was. Almost a “fuck you, NBC, for not allowing the audience to see what happens to these characters.”
But their story lived on for three more seasons. And so “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” is not about clinging to the people (i.e., TV show) we love but letting them (i.e., the TV show) go. (While twice dropping the F-bomb!!!) We had lost Pierce, Troy and Shirley. This episode says good-bye to Annie and Abed—the youngest members of the group—who go off to find their own futures. Only Jeff and Britta remain at Greendale.
Because that is life. While Abed has been Dan Harmon’s sensibilities, Jeff has been his insecurity. “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” shows Jeff, who presented himself as a badass in the series’ first episode, at his most emotionally raw. A throw-away moment in “Geothermal Escapism” when Troy leaves Greendale is when Jeff confesses he has never set foot outside of Colorado, where Community is set. This season (series?) finale hearkens back to that. Jeff, like Harmon (like me) is a middle aged man terrified his best days are behind him. Terrified his younger friends will find opportunities better than he ever did (and that he can ever offer them) and leave him. While he wants them to succeed and loves them enough to let them go, he worries that in 1, 5 or 10 years he will be stuck in the same place while his younger friends excel beyond anything he ever could have hoped to.
We’re still talking about Jeff Winger, right? A fictional character? (Because I am totally cool, here. Yup, no problems at all.)
Because we are all searching for our show—it’s premise, main characters, central conflict. But it’s that search—not the answers—that makes life. We’ll never find it. Like Billy Joel said:
So many faces in and out of my life
Some will last
Some will just be now and then
Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes
I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again
“Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” is that middle-aged realization that sometimes a Tuesday night with some friends where you raise a glass is the greatest thing ever. Not the wild, drunken Saturday night when you were 21 where you stayed up to see the sun rise or a crazy road trip at 26. It’s that slight pause where you look at what you have and where you came from and it all just fucking comes together in one, perfect moment.
I was devastated after watching Season 3’s “Introduction to Finality” because I didn’t want Community to end, but I can now let Community go with “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television”. Like Star Wars (was supposed to be), this was about the rise, fall and redemption of Jeff Winger. Jeff has finally accepted middle age—it sucks. But at least you have your friends in a moment that will last for as long as you have them. And since this is Dan Harmon being meta, it’s also about us letting go and enjoying what we had.
So if we don’t get #AndAMovie or Season 7, I can live with that. The greatest timeline ends with Jeff, Britta, Dean Pelton, Chang and Frankie in a bar. Everyone is home. Everyone is as fine as they can get. They saved Greendale and they saved themselves. (Take that, Lost, you fucking piece of shit waste of time!)
But I love you more than words can say.