Saturday, May 10, 2014

Oh, Home. Let Me Go Home. Home is Wherever I'm With You (Goodbye, Greendale)


How do you properly say goodbye to something that has been a large part of your life for five years? I think that the only way you can learn to bid adieu to something so close to your heart is through remembering what was great about your relationship. When I began watching Community, I only knew Jaime within the fandom. She had been my best friend for years and I trusted her judgment enough to watch the show. Slowly, I began to find more people to connect with who were fans of the show – I met Kim and Sage through it and now barely a day goes by when I don’t talk to them over GChat about their lives. I’ve gained amazing people in my circle of friends – people who are there to send me good vibes and prayers when I’m going through medical issues or interviewing for a job or having a crappy day. These are the people who I’ve also witness encounter their own struggles and triumphs. I cheer when something goes right for them, no matter how small. I offer hugs and condolences when they’re hurting. The funniest part is that I’ve met hardly any of these people in person.

Community has been my longest fandom and it’s the one I’ve been most involved in. As season five drew to a close, I felt more distant from the show that I previously worshipped, but not from the people who were fans of it. I’ll never experience the same sort of bond that I’ve shared with this fandom. And while I was ready for Community to end, I know that – in my heart of heart – I’ll never really lose the people that I’ve grown close to through the sitcom. When Dan Harmon created this series, I would place money on the fact that he never anticipated that this little show would draw people together, people from all around the world of all nationalities and social classes and religions. What Community was as a sitcom will always be special to me, not because I always agreed with the writing choices and not because I think it’s the best sitcom to ever air. Community will always hold a special place in my heart because of the people I’ve met through it.

In order to say goodbye to Community, I thought that I would do my best to write a giant thank-you letter to the people who have poured years of their lives into it. The cast and the crew of this show always astounded me with their positivity and accessibility to fans. They always cared about US and so I thought the best way to say goodbye to Greendale would be to show them how much I care about them. If you’re ready, grab some tissues and settle in because we’re going to bid some delightful Human Beings farewell.


For Joel McHale (Jeff Winger):


Joel McHale has always gone far above and beyond for his fans, and since he was never awarded an Emmy for his role (he’ll have to settle for a Most Handsome Young Man trophy!) as Jeff Winger, I thought I would try to articulate how much his presence on this series has meant to me. Joel has always deeply cared about and appreciated the fans of Community. He loves us, even when – or perhaps especially when – we are overzealous and profusely love the show. When we first meet Jeff Winger, he’s a charming and smarmy ex-lawyer with no real moral compass. He delivers long-winded speeches in order to try to get what he wants from everyone. He cares about winning and about himself. But slowly, Jeff began to open himself up to the idea of friendship – of real and lasting friendship that revolved around sacrifice and compromise and love. The impeccably nuanced way that Joel developed the character of Jeff throughout the years always causes me to lament his lack of nominations for awards.

It’s one thing for the writers to create a character on paper, but it’s another entirely for an actor to bring life to that character and to dimensionalize him or her. Joel developed Jeff Winger from a snarky, smarmy man with no moral conscience to someone who selflessly and deeply cared about the people who surrounded him. I don’t think that anyone understood Jeff Winger and his motivations better than Joel did. I don’t think that any other actor could have played him so believably well as Joel did. And I honestly don’t think anyone could have worked harder than Joel did with this character.

Jeff Winger was always supposed to be the hero of this show – the one to always save the study group and save Greendale with a Winger speech. Over the years, Jeff delivered many monologues, which I will always love and cherish. His monologues evolved from self-centered and manipulative to genuine and impassioned. You can tell the care with which Joel put into this character by how hard he worked to impeccably deliver each of these speeches. Slowly, Jeff began to show his tenderness and care for the group, for Annie, and for the school. I attribute the admiration and affection that I developed for Jeff Winger – a character I never thought I would empathize with – to Joel McHale’s portrayal. Moreover, it’s one thing for an actor to care about a character they’re playing on a series, but it’s another for that actor to really understand that character’s motives. With each season, it’s clear that Joel grew more attached to Jeff and more invested in his emotional journey (“Cooperative Escapism and Familial Relations” is still Joel’s finest work on the series, in my opinion) and thus, we did too.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about what Joel McHale and Jim Rash did in order to gain Dan Harmon back. Joel put time, effort, and energy (which I am sure he does not have an infinite supply of) into rehiring Harmon and McKenna as co-showrunners for Community’s fifth season. He did this because he believed so strongly in the vision of this show that he was willing to put everything he had into fulfilling that vision. He cares deeply about the Community fans. I have literally never seen or heard anyone laud a fandom the way that Joel does. That, quite frankly, delights my heart. And it’s something that I could never repay, as a fan of the show. I guess that this post is my attempt to return the undeserved favor.

Thank you, Joel. Thank you for the years of laughs. Thank you for the years of hard work that you put into this character, this show, and this fandom. You’re too humble to ever say this yourself, but you’re a hero to a lot of people. You carried Community and your cast and somehow managed to do movies and The Soup and balance a family (are you sure you’re actually human?). You gave us Jeff Winger and you are the leader of our study group – of our fandom. Thanks for the DMs and for always treating my friends with care and respect.

For all this and all you’ve done… thanks, McHale.

For Gillian Jacobs (Britta Perry):


I honestly never thought that I would fall in love with Britta Perry, but here we are – five years later – and I’m completely enamored with the blonde. She’s nothing like me: she’s a bit wild and defiant and challenges the people around her. When we meet Britta Perry, SHE is the one that is calling all of the shots. I’ve said it numerous times but I’ll say it again: it was Britta’s study group before it was Jeff’s. SHE invited HIM into the group. Over the years, Britta has learned to start trusting people again. When she began the series, she was a bit calloused because of how jaded she was. And though I didn’t always love everything that Britta did or how she treated the people around her, I never hated her. I always tried to understand why she behaved the way she did; why she butted heads with Annie so often. At the end of our journey, I think I realized that Britta had grown into someone who learned that it was okay to not have her life figured out. Gillian Jacobs understood Britta – she understood that she was more than just the butt of a joke and more than the blonde who slept with Jeff and dated Troy.

Britta was always the anti-Winger, even though Jeff and Britta were more alike than either would be willing to admit. The study group NEEDED Britta because they needed the levity that she brought. When the group was trying to avoid their grief, Britta knew that they couldn’t avoid their feelings forever. She was the one whose seeming absurdity and psychological tactics actually helped the group. And the truth is that Britta, in spite of her jaded past, needed the group because she needed to learn how to be a friend. The blonde had been so used to being disappointed and being on her own that I think she forgot how to be needed and how to need others. Gillian Jacobs always played Britta with this knowledge. Beneath the occasional snark was someone who really wanted to be a part of something bigger than herself. I’ll always appreciate and admire Gillian for tackling this complex woman with poise and power. Gillian knew that Britta was more than an occasionally airheaded and misguided blonde. She knew that Britta was more than a bartender and more than a former anarchist.

Gillian translated the complexity and beautiful intricacies present in the character of Britta Perry from the pages of her script to our television screens. And I will forever be grateful to her for the fact that she did.

For Danny Pudi (Abed Nadir):


Abed Nadir is such an intriguing character and perhaps one of the most unique characters to exist on television in recent years. I owe my appreciation of him to the incomparable Danny Pudi who is nothing like Abed Nadir. That’s how I know Danny is an astounding actor, really. In interviews, he always has this boyish smile and natural, joking rapport. He’s animated and lively, while Abed is calculated and reserved at times. And Abed has changed significantly from the pilot episode. Danny’s portrayal of his character in that first episode reminded me of how Jim Parsons portrayed Sheldon Cooper in the pilot for The Big Bang Theory (yes, I mentioned the ‘B’ word). The pilot hadn’t quite established who either of these characters were, beyond their quirks and abnormalities, but as Community progressed, we were able to see glimpses of Abed’s humanity and his vulnerability.

That’s what I always appreciated about Danny, really. Everything that he did with the character of Abed was nuanced and deliberate, from the way that he delivered lines to physical ticks (like tilting his head or the movement of his fingers). Danny put so much effort and thought into the way that he conducted Abed as a character and he completely and totally understood the filmmaker as a person. I know that Danny is nothing like Abed, but the fact that the former completely and totally understood every emotional layer of the latter always blows my mind. Abed Nadir is not an easy character to portray, by any means. How do you convey the complexity of a character who has issues relating to other characters without becoming an overkill or delving into clichés? And yet, in spite of the difficulty of this task, Danny always managed to understand Abed and portray the character in a way that made him relatable on some level to all of us. That’s all that an actor can hope for in the end, isn’t it?

Danny did this all with a grateful and good-natured attitude. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an interview with him where he ISN’T smiling or thanking the fans of Community. So thank you, Danny Pudi, not just for tackling the portrayal of this complex character with grace and ease, but for the way that you have always been kind to us. We will never forget the impact that Abed Nadir and you had on this show and on us.

After all, #sixseasonsandamovie.

For Alison Brie (Annie Edison):


Oh lord, where do I begin with Alison Brie and Annie Edison? Praise be to Alison Brie for bringing to life the light of my television world and my favorite female character – perhaps ever – in a sitcom. I’ve never cared about a character as deeply or defended as passionately as I did with Annie Edison. What I’ve always admired about Alison is how genuinely she understood this overachieving young woman. Alison always knew that Annie was more than a go-getter: that she was strong because she HAD to be strong, that she was vulnerable because she believed in people so much, that she was a romantic because of how idealistic she was. Annie Edison deserved everything great and wonderful in life. She started out as this fragile, insecure and hesitant teenage girl and developed into this strong and self-possessed woman. She went from being defined by her past to forging herself a new future. The series ended with the Ace of Hearts delivering her own Winger speech. I cannot think of anything better than that.

Over the years, Annie has often been dismissed as a child and her feelings have been trampled on by people around her, including Jeff Winger. And Alison has played this growth in Annie Edison so beautifully. Alison truly understands why Annie acts the way that she does. Alison has also always understood the relationship between Jeff and Annie so well and why there is this pull of her character toward his. What I’ve truly admired about Alison’s portrayal of Annie Edison and Annie as a character is this: she is proof that being a strong woman doesn’t mean that you have to be jaded or outwardly tough. A strong woman can wear brightly patterned skirts and cardigans. A strong woman can have doe eyes. A strong woman can be gentle. Being strong and feminine are not mutually exclusive and I think that Alison’s portrayal of Annie Edison is the greatest evidence of this. Though the writing of her character has not always been even, Alison has always exceeded at bringing these attributes of her character to life on our screens.

I could write a novel about how much I love Annie Edison (and I have, practically) but I would like to just say this: thank you, Alison Brie, for portraying such an amazingly delightful, strong, and sensitive character. I cannot thank you enough for all the work you put into bringing her to life. Just know that your love for this character shone through and did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

For Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley Bennett):


Shirley Bennett has always been one of the most underappreciated female sitcom characters, which is a shame because she is amazing. In addition to going to school, she raised a family. She kept a study group grounded. She poured every little bit of herself into both areas of her life, and that’s extremely admirable. If Annie Edison proved that you can be a strong female character while still wearing skirts and batting your eyelashes, Shirley reminded us that you can be a strong female character who is not defined by one label. You can be a mother and a student and a friend and a confidante. You can be fierce and gentle. And Shirley taught us all that you can have that all and have faith, too.

When I started watching Community, I only knew of two of the cast members – Joel McHale, because I had been an avid viewer of The Soup and “that woman who was on Drake & Josh.” I had enjoyed Yvette as Helen on the Nickelodeon sitcom and knew that I would love her on Community, too. I can honestly say that out of all of the people I follow on Twitter, Yvette has always been the most gracious, humble, and kind. She genuinely loves and appreciates the efforts of the fans and I hope that these few paragraphs can articulate why I appreciate HER and Shirley Bennett. Yvette took a character who could have very well been one-dimensional and grew to love her. You can tell, in interviews, that Yvette has such a fondness for Shirley. She cares about what happens in her life. She cares about how well she’s doing in classes and how the children are. Shirley wasn’t just a character that Yvette played: she was like a good friend. And the fact that Yvette always cared deeply for this character meant that she was so emotionally connected and attached to her.

I’ll always appreciate Shirley Bennett. I’ll always admire her because her faults just reminded me that it’s okay to be imperfect. Her comforting and mothering presence reminded me just how deeply she cared for her friends in the study group. Her determination was palpable, as was her fear. I cheered when she succeeded and hurt when the group treated her like an afterthought. Shirley, you’ll never be an afterthought to me. You’ll always be Big Cheddar – a strong, loving, gleeful woman whom I will miss. Thank you, Yvette, for caring so much about this character and bringing her to life.

For Donald Glover (Troy Barnes):


When  Community first began, Troy Barnes was a naïve, childish post-high school graduate who cared more about maintaining his popularity and status than cultivating friendships. Once the show discovered the dynamic between Troy and Abed, though, we began to see the character take small steps toward becoming a genuine and selfless friend to those around him, especially his best friend. (Hum “Somewhere Out There” to yourselves as you continue to read.) Troy began to soften and care less and less what the people around him thought of his choices. We saw Troy evolve from this insecure character to one who was a genuine leader. “Mixology Certification” was such a shining example of Donald Glover’s talent and how deeply he connected with Troy’s emotions. In that episode, the young man wrestled with what it meant to be an adult. As he discovers in the episode, adulthood isn’t a number and it’s not based on how much life experience you have, nor how many countries you’ve traveled to or alcoholic drinks you’ve consumed. Adulthood is dictated by the way you treat the people around you and how you view them in light of your own life. Troy placed the needs of everyone else above his own in that episode, which exemplified how much he had grown since the pilot.

It was revealed that Donald Glover would not be present for all of season five and, truthfully, the series wasn’t the same in his absence. What Donald brought to this character was something that no actor could have done. All of Troy’s snappy one-liners, perfectly executed jokes, hilarious facial expressions, and wonderfully dramatic breakdowns were all thanks to Donald. He not only brought a hysterical and exuberant character to life, but he also portrayed a layered character, too. Troy Barnes was the pure-hearted leader, un-tainted by the negativity of the world, that Jeff Winger could never be. Jeff was jaded, but Troy was always the one with the heart of a lion. And Donald managed to portray this character’s journey from boy to man so brilliantly and flawlessly.

I will miss you, Troy Barnes. May you continue to sail the open seas with Levar Burton and find all the adventure and happiness you deserve.

For Chevy Chase (Pierce Hawthorne):


Most people were glad that Pierce Hawthorne died because they detested his presence in the study group. And while Pierce was a racist, curmudgeonly old man… I loved him. I loved how much he needed the study group. I loved that his presence proved that you’re never too old to need friends and acceptance. I loved how much he loved Annie Edison. I love that he saved the group and the school in “For a Few More.” I love that, even though they couldn’t admit it to themselves, the whole group really loved and desperately needed Pierce in their lives.

Chevy did pretty fantastic work with this character. He got the opportunity to do pratfalls and deliver sarcastic and biting one-liners. He got to play the befuddled old man character. But there were times when Chevy really and truly impressed me and made me feel for Pierce. His speech to Jeff about failure in “Beginner Pottery” is my favorite of the entire series. His moments with Annie and the group in “A Fistful of Paintballs” and “For a Few More” are pretty exceptional. Jeff and the rest of the group often dismissed Pierce as a nuisance. And I think that, if we are all being honest with ourselves, we tended to do the same thing. We thought of him as a burden or a weight that dragged the group down.

But that’s never who Pierce was. He was always the person that the group could never admit they needed. He cared about every single person in that study group in his own way. He was desperate to befriend Jeff in the first season because he saw so much of himself in the younger man. He loved Annie like a daughter – she was always his favorite. He respected Britta and Shirley and wanted them to be happy. He never understood Abed but he also was the only one to stay by his side until the end in “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.” He saw the endless well of potential in Troy and cared about the man reaching that potential. I’m sure that it is not easy to portray a character that nearly everyone dislikes on principle. But you know what? Chevy did wonderful things with the character of Pierce Hawthorne and I, for one, am thankful that he was a part of this show. Thank you, Chevy. I mean it.

For Dean Pelton (Jim Rash):


You know what’s amazing? Dean Pelton evolved from a character we briefly saw flickers of in the hallways of Greendale to a significant character in the development and growth of the Greendale Seven. While Dean Pelton’s obsession with the group was initially played for laughs, I think that his genuine care and concern for them was such a highlight for this series. What Jim Rash managed to do not just comedically but also emotionally is admirable. The dean developed from a one-dimensional joke to a character that exemplified the truest form of dedication and faith that the show could offer.

Dean Pelton always believed in the study group and he always believed in Greendale. There was a lot in his life that he couldn’t fix, you know, but the one thing he always cared about more than anything else was his school. It was broken and messy and full of weird, dysfunctional people. But I think that’s WHY the dean loved it so much. It was a collection of everything and everyone that the world dismissed as unimportant and insignificant. But to Dean Pelton, Greendale and its students were everything. They were already accepted. The only job he had was to make them realize just how accepted they were.

Thank you, Jim Rash for wearing ornate and absurd costumes and for bringing a character to life who cared so much about Greendale and its students. Thank you, too, for caring so much about this show that you and Joel McHale fought to bring Dan Harmon back. I will forever be grateful to you for all you’ve done for us. And every time I hear “Come On Eileen,” I promise I will sing “Come on, I’m dean.”

For Ken Jeong (Benjamin Chang) and John Oliver (Ian Duncan):


Thank you both for bringing to life two of the weirdest, most eccentric, delightful, hilarious, and amazing characters that Greendale ever had the pleasure of knowing. Thank you immensely for caring about the fans of this show and for caring about your characters. I appreciate all of the hard work that both of you put into this sitcom and I will never forget Senor/Student/Security Guard/Changnesia Chang, just like I’ll never forget Duncan’s rap.

For every other person who has ever been a cast member on this show: Thank you Charley Koontz, Danielle Kaplowitz, Erik Charles Nielsen, Luke Youngblood, Richard Erdman, Dino Stamatopoulos, Greg Kromer, David Neher, Brie Larson, Marcy McCusker, and everyone who has ever been a part of this show. Thank you guys for bringing the non-study group characters to life and for making me fall just as in love with them as I did the Greendale Seven. You all are the actual best. Pop, pop!

For the writers, past and present (Bobrow, Saccardo, McKenna, Ganz, Basilone & Mebane, etc.): I don’t even know what I can say to you all for all of the sleepless nights and caffeinated days’ worth of work you have put into this sitcom. You’ve poured years of your life into these characters and these actors and Greendale itself.

I guess all there is left to say is that you guys are streets ahead. Thanks for it all. 

For Dan Harmon: I guess now it is time to thank Dan Harmon. Where do I begin? Dear Dan, thank you for giving me a group of fans-turned-friends-turned family. I know it sounds unbearably cheesy, but the namesake of your show translated to the fandom: we became a community. In spite of our numerous differences, our physical locations, and our ages… we became friends. Isn’t that amazing? I’ve never met a vast majority of these people but in so many ways, they feel closer to me than people I’ve known since middle school. You gave me something irreplaceable and immeasurable when you gave us this show. I’ll never truly be able to express my gratitude for that. You unintentionally gave me one of the best and most rewarding adventures of my adult life thus far with this blog. And for that, too, I’ll never really be able to articulate my gratitude.

Community may not have ever been popular with Nielsen, but it resonated in the hearts of so many people, like a little secret message tucked in the pocket of our jeans or some secret symbol stamped on our hands. I’ve grown as a writer and a person because of the messages I’ve learned from this show. 

I don’t honestly know how else to express how much you have unintentionally done for my life because you created Community. You gave me the people who I didn’t know I needed and the friendships I now cannot picture my life without. Even though this show has ended, your impact because of it has not: this show has spawned so much creativity and generated so much discussion, so much PASSION that I know it will live on for years to come, whether or not Hulu or Netflix picks up that fated sixth season and a movie.

Look, I haven’t always agreed with you, Dan Harmon. I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t. I’ve always tried my best to understand and respect you. So I say this, genuine and heartfelt: thank you. Thank you for caring about your cast and for working for years on this project that was essentially your child. Thank you for giving your characters a home and for giving us one as well. Thank you for making the thing that brought people together. Thank you, thank you. 

Thank you.

For you: And now, it’s your turn. I haven’t forgotten to thank you, dear readers, fans, and friends. I have known some of you for years now, and are just getting to know others of you. Though you are hurting and though it seems horrible and unfathomable that a network would cancel something so beloved, take heart, because we aren’t going anywhere. The bonds that we have forged because of this show will not diminish just because Community is off the air. Hiatus proved that, didn’t it? We are a strong fandom and we are a fandom built upon love and acceptance in the island of misfit toys. We’re all so different. We each have different gifts and talents and personalities. And yes, sometimes we clash. We don’t always agree. And it’s okay to argue. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be dismayed that this show is over and it’s okay if you’ve accepted it and can move on. It’s okay to want to try to save the show and it’s okay to stay silent.

I love you all, honestly and truly. You guys have been there to live-tweet with me and you’ve been there when I needed people to vent and cry to. Thank YOU for what you have meant to my life. Thank YOU for providing laughs and sharing your talents and for being one strand of thread in this amazingly intricate tapestry of the Community fandom. You are beautiful and unique and special.s

And if I can’t say it today, when can I say it?

I love you guys.


4 comments:

  1. This was beautiful. I refuse to believe it's over, but I love everything you've written here. <3

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    1. Tate, thanks so much for reading! I don't know if this is the end or if something will happen to deliver a sixth season, but I sure am grateful for all of the people who made the show possible when it was on NBC. :)

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  2. I am one of those fans who still refuse to believe it's over but thank you for putting into words what others can't. Really, thank you!

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    1. Thank you for the compliments, Adina! <3

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