May is upon us, which means that season and in some cases series finales are about to start rolling out as the 2011-2012 television season wraps up and the cable networks prepare to take over the summer airwaves with shows like The Newsroom, True Blood, Breaking Bad, The Closer, Perception, Leverage, andWeeds. With scores of shows attempting to draw viewers in for a last ratings push and a finale ending designed to pull people back in the fall, which finales should you bother tuning in for, and which are likely to be a snoozefest?
I know I’ll be trying to catch at least seven finales, each for entirely different reasons.
It’s hard to say exactly when I figured out Whitney. I’d been dreading it since this summer, when I heard that Whitney Cummings — a spectacularly hacky stand-up who trades in tired “women are different from men” jokes, plus “edgy” sex — was getting her own sitcom. My dread level rose when Cummings took to the Internets to defend it. She announced that it was “basically about balls and sex and that sort of dumbness,” and that “all we do is talk about sex and vaginas and vejazzling [sic] about how [sic] the Kardashians are sluts and I’m in a freaking nurse costume trying to have sex with my boyfriend and he’s getting a concussion.” So, you know. Witty stuff. Then there were the promos — endless shots of Cummings leaning forward, mouth agape; kissy faces at the camera; “jokes” like “The Silent Treatment: Punishment Or Reward?” — and the certainty that Whitney was, indeed, going to be awful. But it wasn’t until the pilot episode, and the rape joke — the revelation that, on this show about the quirks of a long-term relationship, one of the “quirks” included Whitney’s lovable-doofus boyfriend having possibly raped her on their anniversary while she was passed out on sleeping pills — that I finally got it. Whitney is the Outsourced of gender.
Dan Harmon’s hit Community is wrapping up its second season tonight with the other half of the finale, a Western send-up that has given our characters a fabulous excuse for skulking around campus with paintball guns, forming a series of shifting alliances. Deliciously, Community has managed to reference not only iconic pop culture but itself with this reprise of last season’s equally paint-splattered ‘Modern Warfare.’ Let’s hope they don’t try for a third year, or a clever reference might become a tiring tradition.
I was slow to catch on to Community. I watched the pilot last year despite my general dislike of comedies, and didn’t pursue it, although it kept floating across my radar. People just wouldn’t stop talking about it though, so I recently took it up again to see what all the fuss was about. The show is a slow burner that doesn’t usually grab viewers with flashy theatrics: you have to be into Community to enjoy Community, and judging from the following the show is starting to pick up, more and more people are into it.
This is a show steeped in pop culture designed to appeal to pop culturalists of a certain bent, which is part of why some people may find it inaccessible, and why it may be destined for underground fame, as the one thing we love more than pop culture is referencing pop culture. Sure, it’s still funny, but it’s funnier when you catch the layers of references going on. The show is to some extent a parody of itself but it can be difficult to pick up on that when you can’t read the subtext. Community, in other words, is a half hour comedy that requires users to do their homework and come to class prepared for discussion.