Community (season 4)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||13|
|Original release||February 7 –|
May 9, 2013
The fourth season of the television comedy series Community premiered on February 7, 2013 and concluded on May 9, 2013. The season consists of 13 episodes and aired on NBC on Thursdays at 8:00 pm ET as part of the network's "Comedy Night Done Right" programming block.
The season marked the departure of showrunner Dan Harmon and overall received mixed reviews from critics. In the series's fifth season, Harmon returned as showrunner, and the fourth season was referred to retroactively as "the gas-leak year."
- Joel McHale as Jeff Winger
- Gillian Jacobs as Britta Perry
- Danny Pudi as Abed Nadir
- Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley Bennett
- Alison Brie as Annie Edison
- Donald Glover as Troy Barnes
- Jim Rash as Dean Craig Pelton
- Ken Jeong as Ben Chang / Kevin
- Chevy Chase as Pierce Hawthorne
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||Prod.|
|72||1||"History 101"||Tristram Shapeero||Andy Bobrow||February 7, 2013||401||3.88|
|Jeff competes to earn the group places in the over-booked "History of Ice Cream" class, while Abed struggles with the inevitable end of their time at Greendale, causing him to enter a mental "happy place" which shows bizarre alternative versions of Greendale. Annie and Shirley pull pranks around the school.|
|73||2||"Paranormal Parentage"||Tristram Shapeero||Megan Ganz||February 14, 2013||403||2.76|
|After Pierce locks himself inside the panic room of his mansion, he calls on the study group to find the code that will unlock the room and let him out. The group searches the dark, scary mansion for the code, uncovering all sorts of secrets and oddities along the way.|
|74||3||"Conventions of Space and Time"||Michael Patrick Jann||Maggie Bandur||February 21, 2013||404||3.08|
|The study group attends InSpecTiCon, a convention for fans of Inspector Spacetime. Abed meets a fellow fan named Toby (guest star Matt Lucas), who causes a rift in Troy and Abed's friendship. Meanwhile, while Jeff is attracting a female Inspector Spacetime fan (Tricia Helfer), Annie creates an elaborate fantasy involving her and Jeff after the hotel staff begin calling her "Mrs. Winger". Pierce and Shirley join a focus group for an American remake of Inspector Spacetime.|
|75||4||"Alternative History of the German Invasion"||Steven Tsuchida||Ben Wexler||February 28, 2013||402||2.83|
|With the study group beginning their European History class, they are dismayed to learn that they will be sharing the class with the obnoxious German students that Jeff and Shirley dueled with over the foosball table the previous year. In addition, Chang returns to Greendale as "Kevin" suffering from amnesia (or "Changnesia"), which upsets Dean Pelton.|
|76||5||"Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations"||Tristram Shapeero||Steve Basilone & Annie Mebane||March 7, 2013||405||3.29|
|Jeff reunites with his father and meets his half brother. Shirley hosts a Thanksgiving gathering at her house with the study group, minus Britta, who has joined Jeff and his family. Abed narrates the group's time at Shirley's house in the style of The Shawshank Redemption.|
|77||6||"Advanced Documentary Filmmaking"||Jay Chandrasekhar||Hunter Covington||March 14, 2013||408||2.58|
|Abed films a documentary on Ben Chang's "Changnesia" in order to help Greendale secure a $40,000 grant from MacGuffin Neurological Institute. Jeff at first is against the idea, but then goes along with it publicly only to continue trying to find evidence that Chang is faking. Annie and Troy team up to find out that Chang had been working a trout farm for three months as unpaid labour. At the presentation to the institute Jeff shows footage of Chang calling and hanging up a number, which turns out to belong to Chang's wife, Alessandra. Upset at Chang's nonchalance at the reveal, Jeff kisses Alessandra in order to evoke a reaction from Chang, but still nothing. Seeing such skepticism, the institute decides to grant the money. The study group exiles Jeff at his dishonesty, but later forgives him.|
|78||7||"Economics of Marine Biology"||Tricia Brock||Tim Saccardo||March 21, 2013||406||2.95|
|Dean Pelton enlists Jeff, Britta, and Annie to help Greendale recruit a "whale", a lazy young man whose wealthy parents would be pouring money fruitlessly into his college education for a long profitable while; Annie and Britta are the welcoming committee on campus, while Jeff is tasked to keep Pierce occupied off-campus so that he doesn't show up and ruin the plan. Jeff is surprised to enjoy spending time with Pierce at an old-school barbershop, while Britta quits the whale effort and Annie is horrified when she realizes the lengths they're going to in order to reel in their target. Troy and Shirley enroll in a new "Physical Education Education" class where they are taught how to be P.E. teachers, where Shirley is a natural and Troy a complete failure, until they join forces to do a good turn for Chang. Abed starts a new fraternity, the Delta Cubes, in general defiance of the Dean's dislike for such groups.|
|79||8||"Herstory of Dance"||Tristram Shapeero||Jack Kukoda||April 4, 2013||407||2.32|
|To distract from Greendale's drinking fountains being removed by the CDC, Dean Pelton plans a "Sadie Hawkins" dance. Britta organizes a competing "Sophie B. Hawkins" dance in protest, confusing her with Susan B. Anthony. At the dance, Abed goes on two dates, set up by Annie and Shirley. But after he is found out, Abed realises that he enjoys spending time and has more in common with the coat check girl who aided in his night's mischief.|
|80||9||"Intro to Felt Surrogacy"||Tristram Shapeero||Gene Hong||April 11, 2013||413||2.84|
|After a traumatic balloon ride leaves them stuck in an awkward silence, Dean Pelton helps the group come to terms with events through the new technique of "puppet therapy". After Shirley admits to the terrible secret that her paranoia over Andre's fidelity put her kids in danger, the rest of the group ends up telling their own psychedelically-induced shameful disclosures (Jeff broke up with a terrific woman because she had a kid, Troy accidentally started a major forest fire, Annie let Professor Cornwallis rub her feet in order to get a better grade, Britta has never actually voted for anything but The Voice, and Pierce only made out once with Eartha Kitt and never slept with her, while Abed has no secrets beyond his earlier puppet-rendered comment that his father is "withholding"). This episode feature several musical numbers and the cast are animated with puppets.|
|81||10||"Intro to Knots"||Tristram Shapeero||Andy Bobrow||April 18, 2013||409||3.13|
|The study group holds a Christmas party at Jeff's apartment. Annie secretly invites Professor Cornwallis (Malcolm McDowell) in order to get on his good side so he will give them a good grade. At first thinking he was going to grade them with an F, Jeff is pleased to hear that they will get a C-. But after Cornwallis overhears Jeff arguing with Annie about Jeff's dislike for the professor, their grade drops to an F. The group hold Cornwallis hostage, not letting him go until he grades them with a C. Or, as Annie would like, an A in order to achieve valedictorian. After failing to have the group turn on each other, Cornwallis relents and gives the group a C+, confessing that he was willingly their hostage as he is otherwise alone during Christmas.|
|82||11||"Basic Human Anatomy"||Beth McCarthy-Miller||Jim Rash||April 25, 2013||410||2.33|
|Annie and Shirley are being somewhat snide to each other over the valedictorian race, but they are united in disgust that Leonard is currently #1 in the class, until they bust him for having taken just one letter-grade class since 1968. Troy and Abed re-enact a scene from the original Freaky Friday that leads them each to act like they've really switched bodies. However, Abed is pretending that happened in order to support Troy, who is avoiding dealing with his deteriorating relationship with Britta after they both forgot their one-year anniversary. Through dialogue with Britta and Jeff, Troy and Abed come to terms with painful truths and the need to stand up for what's right.|
|83||12||"Heroic Origins"||Victor Nelli, Jr.||Steve Basilone & Annie Mebane & Maggie Bandur||May 2, 2013||412||2.67|
|Abed pieces together the study group's past and reveals that their lives have always been intertwined. Chang attempts to destroy Greendale for good.|
|84||13||"Advanced Introduction to Finality"||Tristram Shapeero||Megan Ganz||May 9, 2013||411||3.08|
|Jeff now has enough credits to graduate and contemplates his future; the darkest timeline again comes into play.|
The series was renewed for a fourth season of 13 episodes on May 10, 2012. On May 18, 2012, after returning to California from a cross-country flight, series' creator Dan Harmon received a text message alerting him that he had been relieved of his position as Community showrunner by Sony Pictures Television. Reportedly, Harmon's erratic behavior (such as his drinking, his tardiness, his falling asleep at work and his disappearing in San Francisco for a few days during the SF Sketchfest) and leadership style (namely the “tug of war between his perfectionist tendencies and his procrastinator nature”) were the reasons that the studio fired him. To replace Harmon, Sony Pictures Television hired writers David Guarascio and Moses Port, the co-creators of the short-lived CW series Aliens in America. Sony Pictures Television claimed that Harmon would serve as a consulting producer, but Harmon affirmed via his Tumblr that he would not return in a position without executive prerogatives. Regardless, Harmon was credited as an "executive consultant" for the season, despite not working on a single episode.
The fourth season saw other behind-the-scenes changes, as well. Executive producers Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan, writer/producer Chris McKenna and actor/writer Dino Stamatopoulos all departed following the third season. Frequent episode directors and executive producers Anthony and Joe Russo also left in order to direct Captain America: The Winter Soldier. McKenna, Stamatopoulos, and Joe Russo later returned to work on the show's fifth season.
Returning writers for fourth season included co-executive producer Andy Bobrow, producer Megan Ganz, and staff writer Tim Saccardo, who had been with the series since season two; and co-executive producer Maggie Bandur, and writing team and executive story editors Steve Basilone and Annie Mebane, who joined the series in season three. New additions to the writing staff in the fourth season included co-executive producer Ben Wexler, co-producers Hunter Covington and Gene Hong, and staff writers Issac Gonzalez and Jack Kukoda. Cast member Jim Rash (who won an Academy Award for co-writing The Descendants) wrote the eleventh episode of the season. Tristram Shapeero, who directed several episodes during the first three seasons, was promoted to an executive producer and directed the majority of the fourth season's episodes.
Filming for the season began in August 2012, and the series was initially scheduled to premiere on October 19, 2012, airing in a new time slot on Fridays at 8:30 pm. In early October 2012, NBC delayed the premiere. NBC.com released a video of the cast of Community in character addressing the delay of the season premiere; this video humorously claimed that October 19 is merely a "state of mind". On October 30, 2012, NBC announced that the fourth season would premiere on February 7, 2013, returning to its original time slot of Thursdays at 8:00 pm.
Chevy Chase's departure
During the filming of "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking", Chevy Chase became angry at the racist direction his character was heading. While venting his frustrations, he used the slur "nigger"; episode director Jay Chandrasekhar argued that Chase's use of the word was a "political comment," and an attempt to point out how racist his character had become. Regardless, the slur upset cast members, and Chase walked off of the set. He later returned to film some additional scenes, but later announced on November 21, 2012 that he had left the show.
As a result of timing and the agreement made, Chase's character Pierce is absent for two episodes—he did not appear in tenth episode, "Intro to Knots", or the twelfth episode, "Heroic Origins". He also appeared in a voice-only role in the episode "Intro to Felt Surrogacy", which was the final episode produced for the season, and as part of his agreement to leave the show, Chase was required to record all audio for the scenes where his character, alongside the other characters, appeared as a puppet. The season finale, which was filmed out-of-sequence, as it was the eleventh episode produced, marked the final on-screen appearance (based on production order) of Chase as a regular cast member.
The season premiere, "History 101", was seen by 3.88 million viewers and scored a 1.8 in the 18–49 demographic. This meant that its ratings were up when compared not only to the third season finale (which was seen by 2.48 million viewers and received a 1.3 in the 18–49 demographic), but also the prior season's premiere (which was seen by 3.93 million and received a 1.7 in the 18–49 demographic). The premiere's ratings were enough to generate cautiously optimistic speculation that the show would be renewed for a fifth season (speculation that was later confirmed). However, as the season wore on, the ratings began to dip, which led some to wonder if this would be the show's last season. The season's final episode, "Advanced Introduction to Finality", was viewed by 3.08 million viewers and scored a 1.3 rating in the 18–49 demographic.
The fourth season received mixed to positive reviews from critics, and is considered to be the weakest season of Community due to Harmon's absence. The fourth season scored 69 out of 100 based on 17 critics on Metacritic based on episode 1 and 3, indicating "generally favorable reviews". On Rotten Tomatoes, it was reported that 65% of critics gave the season a positive review. Verne Gay of Newsday stated, "Still defiantly Community, still good and still uninterested in adding new viewers." On the other hand, Hitfix's Alan Sepinwall stated, "It feels like [Moses] Port, [David] Guarascio and the other writers decided to reverse-engineer the [Dan] Harmon version of Community, but couldn't quite manage without the missing ingredient of Harmon himself." Mike Hale of The New York Times has stated that the series "has been dumbed down, its humor broadened past recognition, and the two episodes provided for review...have fewer laughs between them than a single good scene from the old Community." At the end of season 4, The A.V. Club's Emily VanDerWerff confessed, "I never thought I would say this, but I just don't care anymore."
In an episode of Harmontown — a weekly live-comedy podcast — Harmon initially said that, while the season was an "impression, and an unflattering one," it was merely "not [his] cup of tea." Later in the same interview, however, he likened it to "'flipping through Instagram just watching your girlfriend blow everyone' and seeing a friend 'Like' a photo of your ex-girlfriend with her new boyfriend on Facebook." Harmon also described the season as like "being held down and watching your family get raped on a beach". Later, in a Tumblr blog post, Harmon apologized to fans of the show, its cast and crew and the writers. He apologized for the rape comparison and for using the phrase "durpy durpy dur" in a joke about the season, saying that the phrase is "language used to dehumanize the developmentally disabled". Sony later expressed an interest in having Harmon record commentary tracks for all the fourth-season episodes, although this did not come to pass.
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