Posts Tagged ‘ Community ’

Album of the Week 38-2017: Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”


Some people are so talented that it is borderline ridiculous. Donald Glover is one of those people. He first came to my attention as an actor in my favorite tv series ‘Community’, but is an outstanding comedian and writer himself and (as Childish Gambino) an interesting rapper and – as “Awaken, My Love!” proves – even a fine singer. With his trusted musical partner Ludwig Göransson – who also worked on ‘Community’ as the series’ main composer – he put together a surprising record full of psychedelic soul with hints of neo-soul and modern R&B. The hiphop influence is minimal, but that does not make the album any less impressive.

The closest reference for the sound on “Awaken, My Love!” is obviously Funkadelic. There are fuzzy guitars, spacey vibes and a production that sounds quite similar to that band’s mid-seventies heyday all over the record, but the record is more than a George Clinton tribute – despite prominently featuring a sample from ‘Good To Your Earhole’ in the frenzied masterpiece ‘Riot’. For starters, “Awaken, My Love!” is considerably more consistent than any Funkadelic record both in style and quality. In addition, there are some songs that can be considered a departure from the futuristic retro funk – I don’t know if that’s a thing – that defines the album.

First single ‘Redbone’ may be the most distinct example. With Glover’s falsetto – which I swore was pitchshifted until I saw a live performance of the song – over a smooth, sexy soul groove, memories of Prince are never far away. ‘California’ sounds incredibly sunny – maybe a little too sunny for a record with such a dark vibe – and the low-key ‘Terrified’ and the gorgeous closer ‘Stand Tall’ really bring to mind some of the Soulquarians productions of the late nineties, while the clavinet in ‘Baby Boy’ reminds me of a few of Allen Toussaint’s productions from the early seventies.

When “Awaken, My Love!” is in full psychedelic soul mode, however, the album is at its best, especially with the amount of variation on display here. Sometimes it’s a monstrous groove (‘Boogieman’), sometimes it’s the slow build up (the gorgeous ‘The Night Me And Your Mama Met’, which features Gary Clark Jr. on guitar) followed by a sudden burst of energy (opening track ‘Me And Your Mama’), but there is always something that gives the songs an idenity of their own. Glover’s vocal prowess is impressive too. Sometimes I think his acting background may contribute to his dramatic readings, most clearly on the awesome ‘Zombies’.

Although Glover – or Childish Gambino – was primarily known as a rapper in the world of contemporary music, “Awaken, My Love!” truly shows how much the guy has to offer. The album is a work of art that took me completely by surprise and sounds like a pretty spontaneous effort by Glover and Göransson to capture a certain vibe rather than desperately trying to fulfill certain expectations. This is truly progressive and forward-thinking music, despite the strong retro vibe on the record. And the sense of dynamics heard here is simply incredible. Highly recommended to fans of all genres and artists mentioned in this review.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Riot’, ‘Zombies’, ‘Boogieman’

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Sixth season. When’s the movie?


After months of waiting – I couldn’t get Yahoo! Screen to run properly due to region issues, then it went out of business and the DVD release got postponed more than once – I finally had the chance to see the sixth and final season of ‘Community’, my favorite television series ever. And though I initially had some concerns, most prominently the departure of Yvette Nicole Brown (who played Shirley Bennett) and Donald Glover (who played Troy Barnes), I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. It certainly is different from the first three seasons, but the thirteen episodes displayed all the quirks and intelligent sitcom writing I’ve come to love about the show.

What does jump out is that the different medium allows for a different pacing. Because the writers weren’t confined to the network mandated 22 minute limit, they could branch out a little in this season, though never over half an hour. That may seem a little off-putting at first, because the delivery isn’t quite as rapid-fire as it used to be, but once you get used to it, the extra breathing room actually enhances the emotional weight of the acting. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a bigger emphasis on the drama, but it doesn’t exactly hurt it either. And due to the season’s highly conceptual nature, I feel the extra time was needed. Some of the season 5 episodes with the same tendency (‘Geothermal Escapism’ most prominently) suffered from the time limitations.

One of the revelations of this season is the addition of Paget Brewster as the consultant Francesca ‘Frankie’ Dart. I must admit that I’ve been a bit of a fan of Brewster since her guest role in ‘Friends’ and this character is more proof of why she’s great for any sitcom: she has a dramatic gravitas without letting her comedic talents suffer from that. Perfect for a character who functions as sort of a voice of reason. Albeit flawed, because we are dealing with Greendale Community College here. In fact, Frankie’s struggle to adapt to the cast’s ongoing insanity is the source for a majority of this season’s comedy, although Ken Jeong’s surprisingly restrained and heartfelt performance as Ben Chang isn’t far behind.

Keith David, the other “new kid” who plays Elroy Patashnik, has a bit of a weird dynamic with the rest of the main cast. David is a class act for sure, but you could see that the writers were a little too committed to making him a substitute for both Troy Barnes and Pierce Hawthorne (portrayed by Chevy Chase, who left the fold quite some time ago) to play to his strengths. Him being the only African-American actor on the main cast does offer a proper canvas for Greendale’s hilarious political hypercorrectness – which consistently borders on racism, of course – but I feel David’s character doesn’t quite get the development it deserves. Then again, there are some moments that suggests he was meant to be sort of a shielded personality and I love David’s acting.

It’s quite obvious that the crew decided to go all-out one more time now that they were working with more creative freedom than ever. The end tags are really something else this time around, often litterally. ‘Grifting 101’, which features large portions of Matt Berry (‘The IT Crowd’) just the way we love him, is an even weirder brother to the brilliant season 2 episode ‘Conspiracy Theories And Interior Design’ and as such would have been too bizarre for network television. In a similar way, I think ‘Modern Espionage’ would have at least suffered the pressure to emphasize the paintball element more. ‘Laws Of Robotics And Party Rights’ features some laugh-out-loud silliness that shouldn’t work, but does. All combined with the heart that is so important ‘Community’. In a way, that combination makes this season a little thank you gift to all the fans that have stuck by the show’s side for six seasons.

Naturally, we can’t discuss a final season without talking about the finale (‘Emotional Consequences Of Broadcast Television’) and I can only say it is exactly what we could have asked for. It’s funny, the season 5 finale failed at its attempt to translate the general wonder what the story would be if there’s no more story, but it’s exactly that sentiment that is played out so perfectly this time around. With a short guest spot for a surprisingly slender Yvette Nicole Brown to make it feel more complete. It’s a very wordy episode with very little gags or jokes, but it’s perfect. I can see why the big Winger speech, this time delivered by Abed Nadir (as always expertly played by Danny Pudi) made the cast cry and seeing Jeff Winger (synonymous with Joel McHale’s development as an actor) actually care deeply about anything is the perfect way to round the story out. It’s a tearjerker for sure, but not as depressing as you might expect.

Ultimately, season six is directed at hardcore ‘Community’ fans obviously and those of you who are – including yours truly – will enjoy it immensely. A few episodes fall flat – I’m not too fond of ‘Intro To Recycled Cinema’ and ‘Wedding Videography’ is decent, but the concept has been done better before – but all in all, it’s a great season to round out what I consider the most brilliant show ever to have appeared on television. Now all we need is that movie that the series promised us. In fact, it does it again at the end of the finale. Please, Dan Harmon, if you won’t do it, I will, and we all know no one would want that.

Six seasons and a movie!


“All stories are about death and resurrection.” These wise words from Abed Nadir in the season 2 episode ‘Messianic Myths And Ancient Peoples’ have become all too true for all of ‘Community’ itself. As have the words “six seasons and a movie”. About two months ago, NBC announced the cancellation of ‘Community’. Unsurprisingly to many, because the series seemed to be on the brink of extinction throughout its existence. Why is beyond me, because it is still the most intelligent and just simply funny show on television. Ever.

Which is why the news that reached us at the beginning of the week was the best news I’ve heard in a long time. Yahoo! announced that it would be streaming the 13 episodes of season 6 on Yahoo! Screen. Honesty forces me to say that I’m not familiar with the medium, but any medium giving ‘Community’ room to air – even NBC, with its dubious position when it comes to their greatest comedies – is a good one in my book. Sony Pictures deserves a lot of credit for not giving up on the show either. Both media probably know that they should give Dan Harmon and his crew room to be as creative or crazy as they like. It’s what got the show its hardcore fans, such as yours truly.

Harmon promised us around the time the cancellation was announced that a sixth season would also mean the movie from the earlier quote would be made. That has also piqued by interest. Especially because season 5, despite being hilarious and warmly true to the show’s premise, prove that the series may have outgrown the TV format. The enormous escapades as seen in ‘Geothermal Escapism’ and the heartwarming – as I’m a fan of the literary genre – dystopia tribute ‘App Development And Condiments’ were almost limited by the 22 minute restriction. It would be interesting to see how a 90+ minute feature film would turn out if Harmon could get someone like Justin Lin, who directed the first paintball episode ‘Modern Warfare’, to direct it.

The main cast of Joel McHale (as Jeff Winger), Danny Pudi (as Abed Nadir, TV’s most brilliant character ever, thanks in part to Pudy’s incredible portrayal), Yvette Nicole Brown (as Shirley Bennett, who has been somewhat underused lately) and the gorgeous Alison Brie (as Annie Edison) and Gillian Jacobs (as Britta Perry)  has already been confirmed to be on board for season 6. If I interpret the credits correctly, that means Jim Rash (as Dean Craig Pelton) and Ken Jeong (as Benjamin Chang) will also be a part of season 6. This is a good thing, because these people have proven they are funny, but also able to carry the gravitas to deliver acting-wise. I also hope Jonathan Banks will be able to reprise his role as criminology teacher Buzz Hickey, as he was a fantastic addition to the show. An extension of Jon Oliver’s return as psychology professor would be pleasant as well.

More hopes and wishes I will not have. Because if history has proven us one thing, it’s that anything that Dan Harmon and his crew come up with is good. The vast majority of it is even pure comedic genius. Through this way, I just want to thank everyone involved for the sixth season that this show deserves. Despite breaking all the rules of TV logic. Or maybe even because of that.

Looking back: Community season 4


Frequent visitors of this weblog may have already noted my music obsession. Those of you who know me personally are most likely aware of my obsession with NBC’s ‘Community’, which is in my humble opinion the best TV show ever made. For the music freaks, this may be a bit of an annoying departure, but I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the controversial fourth season of the brilliant sitcom.

A quick summary of what it was that made the season so controversial for those unfamiliar with the story: series creator Dan Harmon was sideroaded by Sony Pictures for reasons that are still unknown. Harmon wasn’t the show’s sole writer, but the vision was his, so many fans, including myself, didn’t quite know what to expect of these series. Especially since several other key figures of the ‘Community’ crew also departed, among which writer and producer Chris McKenna and the directing brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, all of whom have been vital to many of the series’ key episodes.

Now that the series have finally aired in Holland – I know I could have watched online, but I think the wait and excitement are part of a series experience – I can finally have an opinion on it. And I must admit: it wasn’t as bad as some reviewers have lead me to believe it would be. Granted, the season was short (13 episodes instead of over 20) and Harmon’s influence was certainly missing, but I still found it to be an enjoyable season. It did have the general air of a tribute band with original members – you’d be surprised how many of those exist – because while the brilliant actors were still there, as was the general idea of the series, but there was something lacking. I’ll try and explain.

I don’t think season 4 will have the replay value of the earlier seasons because the humor of this season lacks the subtlety of earlier seasons. When I revisit those earlier episodes, I still discover new things that are incredibly funny – keep in mind that I have watched those a ridiculous amount of times – but with these episodes, there aren’t many surprises even the second time around. It’s not necessarily a problem, but I do think the replayability adds to the general quality of a show. In addition, much of the show’s genius meta-humor and popculture references appear to be in the episodes because they need to be, not because they’re spontaneous strokes of brilliance.

Also, the comic talents of Gillian Jacobs, who plays Britta Perry, were severely underused. In some ways, I’ve always thought it may have been a burden on her that she’s a good looking blonde woman, as several interviews I’ve seen with her prove that she is truly naturally funny. In addition, some of the writers seem to have mistaken the naivity of Troy Barnes, played by the superb Donald Glover, for stupidity. On the other hand, the popularity of the Abed Nadir character, brilliantly portrayed by Danny Pudi, caused the writers to enlarge his role, which isn’t always to the series’ benefit, as his sudden appearances are part of his character’s charm. And where both season two and three had brilliant animated episodes (respectively the stop-motion Christmas episode ‘Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas’ and 8 bit game animated ‘Digital Estate Planning’), the Muppets-like ‘Intro To Felt Surrogacy’ ultimately fell flat, favoring shape before content.

Having said that, the season does still have the general ‘Community’ vibe and a bunch of fantastic episodes. And these aren’t necessarily the episodes done by the house writers of the show. For instance, actor Jim Rash, who plays Dean Craig Pelton in the series, debuted as a writer with the episode ‘Basic Human Anatomy’, which is one of the best episodes of the season. The ‘Freaky Friday’ homage is a bit obvious, but applied very well to the general story and containing several moments of clever humor. New writer Jack Kokuda contributed to ‘Herstory Of Dance’, which I found strong story-wise, while Abed’s story was simply charming.

While the Halloween episode ‘Paranormal Parentage’ (written by veteran Megan Ganz) may not have been aired in time for the holiday, I found it really funny – anarchist vegetarian Britta dressed as a ham is downright brilliant – and well-written. And I’m not quite sure how the Thanksgiving episode ‘Cooperative Escapism In Familial Relations’ was aired in relation to the holiday, but it was a very enjoyable episode. Abed’s ‘Prison Break’ reference may have been the best joke of this season. Using Yvette Nicole Brown’s character Shirley Bennett in a funny matter rather than the group moral was a good choice as well. The two episodes closing the season may have been a tad overdone, but they were good nonetheless.

In the end, questions will remain. Would Dan Harmon have wanted Jeff Winger – portrayed by the never disappointing Joel McHale – to actually meet his father? Would the end of the season be what he had envisioned? And more importantly: now that Harmon has agreed to be back on board for a fifth season, did these series provide him a satisfying starting point? I’m just glad that Harmon is back. His presence was missed, but after all: a mediocre season of ‘Community’ is still streets ahead (pun intended) of many a sitcom’s good season. The fifth season is prospected to also consist of 13 episodes, which I consider the ultimate stepping stone to six seasons and a movie.

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