With season 4 of Community just past its halfway point, and approaching the only week off in its 13-episode schedule, it’s time to look back on some of the most divisive episodes of the TV season.

Almost no art or culture can exist in a vacuum. To a certain extent everything owes a little to what came before it. On television, some shows do their best to keep their influencers hidden or to present as singular a vision as possible. Community was never one of these shows. Dan Harmon and the other writers of the show’s first three seasons decided to acknowledge that pop culture played such an integral role in their own and their characters lives that it would futile not to acknowledge it.

They started doing episodes that were direct homages to other art (“Contemporary American Poultry” and Goodfellas), then they moved on “doing” different genres (“Modern Warfare” and all testosterone-soaked action films). And throughout it all they had at least one character (almost always Abed) aloofly pointing out the sitcom conventions in their day-to-day lives.

Acknowledging that the show could not exist in a pop cultural vacuum is part of what made it so watchable and occasionally great in the first place, but it also might be what is curbing some fans’ enjoyment of it in this post-Harmon, soon-to-be post-Chevy Chase season.

Life outside of context: all the behind-the-scenes drama, the departures, the rehirings and reshuffling would do very well for season 4 of Community. But Community fans are too culturally-savvy and perhaps too invested in the inner-workings of the show to be able to watch it without context.

Community taught its fans to watch the show very closely for three seasons: for easter eggs, running jokes and pop cultural homages. And now those fans are watching season 4 so closely that can’t help but notice subtle differences. Maybe the Dean is just 2% more flamboyant or Jeff Winger’s speeches feel 3% less inspiring or the Troy and Abed relationship is 1% less authentic. But those small differences can feel enormous when you watch something so analytically while also loving it so dearly.

And it’s a shame because these seven episodes have not only had their excellent moments but have also been very invested in preserving all of the qualities that Dan Harmon instilled in the show: off-the-wall humor, cultural consciousness and true ambition. It’s noticeably not the Community of old, but it’s also not exactly a pale comparison.

It’s also worth noting that it took Community more than seven episodes initially to develop all of those qualities that we now hold dear. Late season 1 and seasons 2 and 3 are usually what comes to mind when we think of Community‘s brilliant moments. If anything season 4 seems most similar in tone to early season 1 of the show, with more stories revolving around the school itself and the machinations of the study group. It’s missing the manic touch that Harmon was able to bring to the show’s later episodes, but it’s not for lack of trying.

Sadly, we can never know what it would be like to watch season 4 out of context. As helpful as it would be to lock a TV critic and fan in a dungeon for a year then let them emerge to watch season 4, not knowing that anything changed behind the scenes, it would also be highly illegal. It would also be helpful if we could bend space and time to have season 4 immediately air after season 1 to a test audience and see if they noticed a dramatic difference. But obviously we can’t do that either (and if you could bend space and time, please be sensible and kill Hitler first, rearrange Community seasons later).

New showrunners Moses Port and David Guarascio deserve fair praise for turning in something close to Community. But until we can watch season 4 in another timeline, it’s always going to feel a little like a bodysnatcher.

Disney’s released a minute-long clip from Beauty and the Beast, and it’s a great one: Emma Watson performing “Belle.”

Belle skips around town as the townspeople observe the “funny girl” in this uplifting sequence from the movie. You can’t help but get excited for Beauty and the Beast after watching this, and Emma sounds great!

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Disney’s released a minute-long clip from Beauty and the Beast, and it’s a great one: Emma Watson performing “Belle.”

Belle skips around town as the townspeople observe the “funny girl” in this uplifting sequence from the movie. You can’t help but get excited for Beauty and the Beast after watching this, and Emma sounds great!

In related news, the cast and crew kicked off their press tour today in Paris. Disney released the following adorable photo of Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Josh Gad, Luke Evans, director Bill Condon and composer Alan Menken as they start publicizing the movie, which opens in theaters March 17:

Can’t wait to see it!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 brings the L.M.D. storyline to a truly wild end. Here’s what to expect from “Self Control”!

You don’t know what’s coming

Yeah, there’s a synopsis for “Self Control” — “Suspicion turns to paranoia when the team doesn’t know who can be trusted as more LMDs infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D.” But that’s the equivalent of saying that Iron Man is about a goateed man who can fly.

Sure, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 answers a lot of questions about who is and who isn’t a robot. More profoundly though, the episode goes in for a final knead and punch of the ideas that have been floating around all season.

Read full article

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 brings the L.M.D. storyline to a truly wild end. Here’s what to expect from “Self Control”!

You don’t know what’s coming

Yeah, there’s a synopsis for “Self Control” — “Suspicion turns to paranoia when the team doesn’t know who can be trusted as more LMDs infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D.” But that’s the equivalent of saying that Iron Man is about a goateed man who can fly.

Sure, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 answers a lot of questions about who is and who isn’t a robot. More profoundly though, the episode goes in for a final knead and punch of the ideas that have been floating around all season.

Free will and humanity. Sacrifice and love. The nature of reality — and even of life itself. Beneath the plot, surprises, and pain, that’s what’s really going on in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spring finale.

That, and the characters who get caught in the middle.

Jed Whedon is Not. Playing. Around.

Executive producer and showrunner Jed Whedon is the man behind the pen and the camera in “Self Control,” and he’s there for a reason. Whedon’s first try at the director’s chair on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is operatic, incisive, and perpetually gut-clenching.

Yes, there are lovely and disturbing vistas, an artistry that comes from a deliberate and careful eye. But more important is the unshakable Whedon impulse that animates Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15, that builds through the episode like a cresting tide.

You know that unmistakable sense that someone is laughing behind the scenes? Yeah. That’s why Jed Whedon is here.

What’s next?

Well, that’s a very good question. “Self Control” leaves us with a few razor-like possibilities, all of which lead down spiky corridors of questions. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 is here to leave us thirsty for the season’s final seven episodes, and that’s exactly what it does.

Oh, and to answer your next question…

Cliffhanger?

Uh, yes. Cliffhanger.

Oh boy, cliffhanger.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15, “Self Control,” airs Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.

What are your top theories for ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 4×15?

Have President’s Day off? Here are some movies, TV shows, and soundtracks with which to celebrate President’s Day.

‘Hamilton’


Even if you were somehow lucky enough to have already seen the musical, you might as well celebrate today with another listen to the soundtrack. In case you have been living under a rock, Hamilton is a hip-hop, rap, musical about Alexander Hamilton. Yes, Hamilton never became president, but the musical does include multiple would-be presidents. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and even birthday boy himself George Washington are heavily featured in Hamilton. Based on the biography by Ron Chernow, you can get a history lesson while you listen to great music.

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Have President’s Day off? Here are some movies, TV shows, and soundtracks with which to celebrate President’s Day.

‘Hamilton’


Even if you were somehow lucky enough to have already seen the musical, you might as well celebrate today with another listen to the soundtrack. In case you have been living under a rock, Hamilton is a hip-hop, rap, musical about Alexander Hamilton. Yes, Hamilton never became president, but the musical does include multiple would-be presidents. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and even birthday boy himself George Washington are heavily featured in Hamilton. Based on the biography by Ron Chernow, you can get a history lesson while you listen to great music.

‘Liberty’s Kids’


Liberty’s Kids aired in the early 2000s on PBS. Liberty’s Kids follows three teenagers from varying backgrounds throughout the American Revolution, mentored by Benjamin Franklin. It is geared for children but is still pretty enjoyable for adults. In each episode, the teenagers encounter a significant person or event from the revolution, giving a concise and entertaining history lesson. The show features many important figures throughout the revolution, showing even more presidents than in Hamilton. As one can imagine, Washington is among these.

‘Lincoln’


Lincoln is a 2012, Oscar nominated movie, directed by Steven Spielberg based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals. Instead of a biopic of Lincoln’s entire life, Lincoln is specifically about his passing of the 13th amendment. Essentially directed between each of his science fiction blockbusters, Spielberg also made many significant historical movies, Lincoln among them. Lincoln not only shows his power as a president, but also humanizes him through an Oscar winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis.

‘1776’


Hamilton is not the first musical about American history. Thankfully, though, because this way there are other options, one of which is 1776. Even more conveniently, the musical 1776 was adapted into a movie in the early 1970s. Heavily implied by its name, 1776 is about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 1776 definitely has a more classical musical theater vibe than Hamilton. The strange combination of American history and musical theater allows for a humorous yet educational experience. However, as reflective of the history of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Washington is not a character in the musical; yet, it obviously includes many other significant historical figures.

‘The West Wing’ or ‘The American President’


Unlike the other items on this list, these two are about fictional presidents. But it would be nice if they were real. Of the many politically charged movies and television shows by Aaron Sorkin, these two are specifically about presidents. If you have the day off and want to attempt to binge watch seven seasons, then you may want to check out The West Wing. The West Wing follows President Bartlet and his staff and advisors during their time in the White House. If you want a movie to help you transition between Valentine’s Day and President’s Day then The American President is worth watching. It is a romantic comedy about President Shepherd, who falls in love with a lobbyist.

How else will you celebrate President’s Day?