Reviews are an odd art form in the age of spoilerphobia. It’s a near impossible task to describe why something is good without really describing it. A moment in a show can be really good, and you can describe all the things that make it awesome to help make a case as to why a show is worth watching. But then you might spoil an important plot point. It’s easier and harder with comedy. With comedy, you’re less likely to spoil something important, but then your delivery will always be inferior to the actual funny moment. Anyway, it means I have no idea what I’m doing when I’m describing these shows and then saying they’re worth watching. I probably should’ve written them to myself as if I was reminding myself why I loved the show.
Community / Parks and Rec
These shows both ended this year. The seasons were great and had their funny moments, but overall, they didn’t match the peaks. Community had to deal with another cast member leaving (Shirley), after they had already lost Troy and Pierce. In season five, I really enjoyed the addition of Jonathan Banks as Buzz Hickey, the surly criminology professor. When he handcuffed Abed to the cabinet, I liked how tense those scenes were, and how we got to see the darker side of Abed. His character had a weight to it, as if he already had a full backstory. Season six added two new cast members who both had great, funny moments, and knocked it out of the park, but I didn’t feel like they had the same weight as before. Keith David’s unceremonious good-bye kind of summed it up. It didn’t feel special or all that emotional, but it was still great and perfect in its own way. Season six, having moved to yahoo screen, was given more space, some of which was used on wacky, out-there post-credit endings, like the one with the Japanese kid pranking the Dean. Those were actually some of my favorite scenes in season six, but that’s kind of unfortunate when I really enjoyed the chemistry between the characters in previous seasons. I felt like losing so many cast members was just too much to overcome, and there wasn’t enough natural conflict between them. Yet the season was still streets ahead of gas-leak season four. What I liked about season five was the bitterness behind it and the fuck-you’s to season four. Season six was a little more mellow. But overall, it was a great good-bye to the characters we loved. It dealt with it the only way it could, meta to the end, trying to see how the show could stretch to further seasons and knowing that it couldn’t. We couldn’t have another season artificially keeping these characters together. It resisted shipping Annie and Jeff. It was fitting, and we got the best season of Community we could considering the circumstances. Definitely worth watching if you’ve loved the show from the beginning, I think. Every season, I wanted Community back, but I made peace with it ending, happy with what I got, but sad there wasn’t more. It kept rising from the dead. Season six wrapped it up, and I felt like I made peace with it ending, but on the show’s terms. It didn’t need to rise from the dead anymore. I don’t even need the movie.
Parks and Rec I felt had a little more success. The time-jump helped keep it a little fresher, and provided a great avenue for silly jokes about the future (especially the pop-culture stuff from Aziz’s character). (Footnote: Sorry, I switch back and forth haphazardly between character names and actor names.) The previous season or so felt like it was running out of steam, kind of running out of new stories to tell with these amazing characters. The last episode had flash-forwards showing us what happened with all the characters. It tied it all up and was super satisfying, especially with the hints that Leslie was president. The most optimistic show didn’t undercut it. I loved that this show existed and I’m happy I got to watch it.
It’s sad that both these shows, two all-time great sitcoms, are done. I thought the sitcom was dead, but then there’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine and You’re the Worst to fill the void.
Master of None
There isn’t really a thematic way to link this show with those two previous shows. The only real link is Aziz Ansari, a very talented comedian with a unique voice.
When the show won a Critics’ Choice award, Alan Yang said, “Thank you to all the straight white guys who dominated movies and TV so hard, and for so long, that stories about anyone else seem kind of fresh and original.” That about sums up why you should watch the show. It tells different stories (and feels fresh, compared to everything else on TV.) The second episode is particularly good, telling the stories of two characters’ immigrant parents. It also felt good to feel represented, as a child of an immigrant.
It’s great to see these shows, and if you wanted to be wrong, you could make an argument about progress. In Seinfeld, some Asians have obviously fake accents played for comedic effect. In Parks and Rec, Aziz gest to be part of the main cast but is still a more secondary character. In Master of None, he’s the main character and gets to critique what Seinfeld did. Representation is getting better. You could also point to Community where Troy and Shirley are main characters in an ensemble class, which is a step up from having just one black person or black people only as side characters. And then in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, we get perhaps a more diverse cast, with two Latina women and two black men (one gay) as part of the main cast. But black representation was better before on TV, and then blacks practically disappeared from sitcoms. That we can have shows with unique views doesn’t mean those unique views won’t disappear. So watch these shows, promote these shows, discuss these shows, and if they’re good, make sure that networks know that we want more shows like them.