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    Community: The Complete Fourth Season DVD Review

    DVD Sony Pictures TV Reviews

    Aug 01 2013 10:26 AM | Cameron Yee in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    The fourth season of NBC’s cult comedy revealed how instrumental ousted showrunner Dan Harmon was to the series. As the new executive producers did their best to replicate Harmon’s efforts, it only highlighted their lack of understanding of the program and its quirkily complicated characters.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Sony
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 480P/MPEG-2
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DD
    • Subtitles: English SDH
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 4 Hr. 38 Min.
    • Package Includes: DVD
    • Case Type:
    • Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
    • Region: 1
    • Release Date: 08/06/2013
    • MSRP: $45.99

    The Production Rating: 2.5/5

    For a series that’s always been on the cancellation bubble, the dismissal of Community creator and showrunner Dan Harmon at the end of the 2011-12 TV season seemed to seal its fate. Though the show had been picked up for another (albeit shortened) season, the absence of its comedic mastermind, as well as the departure of several other writers and producers, suggested the cult NBC comedy would not die quickly, but instead suffer a slow, painful death. When the network pushed back the season’s premiere date from October to February, turning the show into a midseason replacement, it only seemed to confirm everyone’s fears.

    More optimistic fans held out hope, however, pointing to the experience of new showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port (Aliens in America), as well as the strength of Community’s endearing cast. Without Harmon’s self-professed difficulties playing nicely with others, the show would also, in theory, have a more...erm...harmonious creative environment in which to progress.

    When the fourth season eventually debuted on February 7, 2013, the reception by both fans and critics was mixed, at best. Though all the beloved characters were back for the most part (Chevy Chase made limited appearances because of his own issues with the show), along with some Community-esque themes and antics built around the study group’s final academic year together, something was decidedly off. For one, and perhaps most tellingly, the show just wasn’t as funny; participants in HTF’s discussion thread regularly commented to that effect after each, increasingly befuddling episode.

    As the weeks went on, a pattern emerged indicating the new showrunners and writers only had a superficial understanding of what made the program tick, and seemed to be working through a laundry list of established Community tropes in a misguided attempt to make it seem unchanged from past seasons. In some ways this was worse than making wholesale revisions, as fans quickly caught on to the show’s now synthetic qualities. The other byproduct of this attempt to basically clone the show and pass it off as the original, was that characters like Abed (Danny Pudi), who had shown some significant growth over the years, regressed into caricatures of their former selves (e.g “History 101” and “Conventions of Space Time”). At the same time, the writers seemed overly enamored with the idea of character dissection and deconstruction, resulting in an almost maudlin, navel-gazing air to many of the stories (“Intro to Felt Surrogacy” being the epitome). By my count, out of the season’s 13 episodes, only one or two came close to matching the tone and tenor of past, Harmon-produced efforts. The rest are examples of how imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but deadly dull compared to the real thing.

    Community: The Complete Fourth Season includes the 13 episodes that aired on NBC between February and May 2013:
    • History 101
    • Paranormal Parentage
    • Conventions of Space Time
    • Alternative History of the German Invasion
    • Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations
    • Advanced Documentary Filmmaking
    • Economics of Marine Biology
    • Herstory of Dance
    • Intro to Felt Surrogacy
    • Intro to Knots
    • Basic Human Anatomy
    • Heroic Origins
    • Advanced Introduction to Finality
    The fifth season of Community is slated for NBC’s midseason lineup in the coming season, meaning it will debut sometime in early 2014. Surprisingly, Harmon has been hired back as the showrunner, which promises a return to form for the show, but also sets up fans for another round of disappointment if things can’t be put back on track. Despite my misgivings about the fourth season, I’ll be tuning in to see if the show can course correct for its more than likely final run.

    Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA

    Though the sets two DVDs aren’t as filled to the brim as the third season’s, each disc packs in the material with seven episodes on disc one and six episodes on disc two, along with all their associated extras. Video quality seems on par with the previous release, meaning viewers will notice occasional moiré in fine pattern areas, compression noise in swaths of background areas, and softness or haziness in wide shots. But color, black level and contrast are uniformly solid, suffering only a little under the dimmest of light levels (which are relatively infrequent). There's also a touch of edge haloing from time-to-time, though not enough to distract.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    Surround activity in the 448 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track provides support for the music soundtrack, and sometimes some crowd noise and other types of environmental effects. The mix isn't subtle, but it gives the show more dimensionality than a straight stereo mix would. Bass response is also very solid and center channel dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible.

    Special Features: 4/5

    With a commentary track for each episode, a gag reel, deleted and alternate scenes, and behind the scenes featurettes on two major episodes, the bonus material offers a wide range of material for fans, even though they may have had problems with the season itself.

    Commentaries: Each episode includes an audio commentary featuring various combinations of the cast and writing team.
    • “History 101” with Danny Pudi, Moses Port, Andy Bobrow, and Tristram Shapeero
    • “Paranormal Parentage” with Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Megan Ganz, and Tristram Shapeero
    • “Conventions of Space Time” with David Guarascio, Maggie Bandur, Steve Basilone, Hunter Covington, and Michael Patrick Jann
    • “Alternative History of the German Invasion” with Maggie Bandur, Steve Basilone, Hunter Covington, Adam F. Goldberg, Gene Hong, Tim Saccardo, and Ben Wexler
    • “Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations” with Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Steve Basilone, Adam Devine, and Tristram Shapeero
    • “Advanced Documentary Filmmaking” with Joel McHale, David Guarascio, Steve Basilone, and Tim Saccardo
    • “Economies of Marine Biology” with Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Jim Rash, Zack Pearlman, and Tim Saccardo
    • “Herstory of Dance” with Danny Pudi, Moses Port, Jack Kukoda, and Tristram Shapeero
    • “Intro to Felt Surrogacy” with Yvette Nicole Brown, David Guarascio, Gene Hong, and Andy Bobrow
    • “Intro to Knots” with Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Andy Bobrow, and Tristram Shapeero
    • “Basic Human Anatomy” with Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jim Rash, and Beth McCarthy-Miller
    • “Heroic Origins” with Yvette Nicole Brown, Maggie Bandur, Steve Basilone, Hunter Covington, and Tim Saccardo
    • “Advanced Introduction to Finality” with Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Megan Ganz, and Tristram Shapeero
    Outtakes (6:27): Onset antics are sometimes funnier than the actual episodes.

    Inspector Spacetime: Inspection (9:43): Behind the scenes of the sci-fi convention-themed third episode.

    Deleted Scenes, Disc One (3:02)
    • Annie’s Appletini
    • Why So Sour Kraut?
    • Dinner Roll Therapy
    • I Really Blasted Him
    • I Haven’t Slept in Three Days
    • Boy, You’re Good At That
    Extended Alternate Scenes, Disc One (4:35)
    • Reading My Pun Book
    • Sleep Like A Baby
    • This Is Your Legacy
    Adventures in Advanced Puppetry (15:36): Behind the scenes of the puppet-themed ninth episode.

    Deleted Scenes, Disc Two (2:11)
    • There’s Another Cloud
    • Little Annie Adderall
    • Bring On Summer/Winter
    Extended and Alternate Scenes, Disc Two (:50)
    • Fake A Heart Attack
    Previews
    • The Kings of Summer
    • This is the End
    • Bless Me, Ultima
    • White House Down

    Overall Rating: 3/5

    Though Community’s fourth season had some serious issues, the DVD release offers a solid standard definition presentation along with a sizable collection of extras. Fans who were particularly turned off by the season may actually skip this one, but completionists will likely find it hard to turn down given more budget pricing.

    Reviewed by: Cameron Yee
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