Community, Season 4

In Praise of the Dean
Talking television.
April 8 2013 11:51 AM

Community, Season 4

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

In praise of the Dean.

Community8brittadeanjeff
Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) as "Deana Reed"

Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC

There was a great moment in last week’s pleasantly entertaining “Herstory of Dance,” when the normally cheerful Dean Pelton went on a sarcastic rant against Britta and her competing Sophie B. Hawkins Dance. “Oh yeah, a LARGE percentage of Greendale students sort of gave up in the mid-‘90s, so for many of them, Sophie B. Hawkins is the most recent music they’re aware of,” he smirked, as Britta’s face dropped. Of course, he continued, if Hawkins should not make an appearance, those students just may question whether “life is worth living at all.” It was the Dean at his acerbic best, annoyed with Britta’s contrarian ways and eager to see her fail. It was also a reminder that no matter the situation, watching the Dean is always a pleasure. In fact, through the great, good, and so-so episodes of Community’s four seasons, the Dean has never failed to be deantastic.

The Dean doesn’t need any family members or significant others to flesh out his character background. He serves one purpose on Community: As a passionate advocator for Greendale’s very existence, he fights against everyone who puts it down or resents what it stands for. (“E pluribus anus!”) Whether he’s promoting school pride via an intense paintball session (and unwittingly vandalizing the school in the process), or resorting to desperate measures to convince a wealthy kid to enroll so Greendale can get more money for facilities improvements, the Dean’s heart is usually in the right place.

And watching him flail about has been a ray of light in a rather rough season. While other characters have taken creative beatings in Season 4, the Dean has remained consistently spot-on in both delivery and material, perhaps in part due to his relative one-dimensionality. Whether tangoing with Jeff in the Season 4 premiere or consistently taking cheap, great shots at Britta (“I hate to say ‘I told you so,’ but I’m gonna say it to Britta’s face”), it’s impossible not to appreciate how much reliable fun the Dean supplies to Community. The broad humor of his character was always just a little taste of what NBC apparently wanted from the show as a whole for this fourth season—more slapstick and middle-of-the-road silliness. It’s ironic that the character closest in comedic style to superfans’ biggest fears for the show once NBC ousted Dan Harmon is the one who’s provided the most reliable laughs in the show’s post-Harmon era. Community’s remaining writers excel at giving the Dean funny things to do, even as they struggle to replicate the intricacies and meta flourishes of Harmon’s best work.

Of course, it helps that Jim Rash does such a great job of bringing his character to life. (And it’s incredible to remember that this ridiculous educator is played by the same guy who won an Oscar for writing The Descendants.) Sure, we expect every episode to feature at least one outlandish Dean costume, but the comedic impact of witnessing him in a new outfit in all its glory has hardly diminished after four seasons. (Last week’s grey-painted “Deana Reed” was quite clever.) And the Dean will forever be in love with Jeff, much to his object of affection’s chagrin, but his shameless attempts to flirt with him never get old.

So let’s raise a glass to the Dean, a constant source of dean-lightfully silly humor.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company

Science

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 18 2014 10:42 AM Scalia’s Liberal Streak The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 11:25 AM Gays on TV: From National Freakout to Modern Family Fun
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 12:03 PM The NFL Opines on “the Role of the Female”
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 11:48 AM Watch the Hilarious First Sketch From Season 4 of Key & Peele
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 10:07 AM “The Day It All Ended” A short story from Hieroglyph, a new science fiction anthology.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.