NBC’s ‘Community’: Worth Joining



If you haven’t seen “Community” yet, stop what you’re doing and go watch it. NOW. I don’t care if you have to pay for Hulu+, that Netflix isn’t streaming it or that it’s getting harder to torrent by the day. Find a way. This is a show that demands being watched.

“Community” is about disbarred lawyer Jeff Winger (played by Joel McHale) who is forced to go to Greendale Community College when it is discovered that his college diploma is less than valid.

Eventually Jeff meets Britta, a hot, blond adult student in his Spanish class whom he tries to get closer to by creating a study group. The plan backfires when Britta invites other students into the study group, including a Jesus-loving mother of two (Shirley), a former jock (Troy, played by Donald Glover), an anxiety-ridden 19-year-old (Annie), an autistic young man who communicates almost entirely via pop culture references (Abed) and a racist old guy (Pierce, played by Chevy Chase). Eventually these disparate people become a sort of surrogate family, dealing with each other’s flaws and becoming better people in the process.

But what is so special about this show? Mainly, it’s the characters, each of whom is distinct, funny and original. There is Abed, who is funny with his metatextual musings (and realization that he’s a character in a TV show), but who is also a fully-realized, three-dimensional character on the show. There’s also the morally ambiguous main character, Jeff, whom we see grow slowly from manipulative asshole to lovable rogue. Or the Dean, Craig Pelton, who has an unhealthy love of Dalmatians, and Jeff…

Those are just a few characters that really stick out, but every character is interesting and fun, even background characters like the crotchety Leonard, who reviews frozen pizzas, the lackadaisical Starburns (who has star-shaped sideburns), or Señor Chang, the crazy Spanish teacher played by Ken Jeong (of “Knocked Up” and “The Hangover” fame).

Furthermore, these characters, while sometimes over-the-top and verging on cartoonish, are still fleshed out and real. This is expertly realized in the famous season two episode “Mixology Certification,” where the gang goes to a bar to celebrate Troy’s 21st birthday. Here, we see them out of their element — no longer in school — and dealing with their flaws and insecurities straight on. It’s almost a drama (with the exception of Abed’s fascination with “Farscape,” underscoring his isolation and inability to communicate) and other great scenes (like Jeff and Britta arguing about which bar to go to … even though they’re describing the same one).

Some episodes are “concept” episodes, which deal with recreating a genre or specific film. And while that’s always fun (there’s an episode that mimics the stop-motion Rankin/Bass Christmas cartoons in “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” and a post-apocalyptic action film in the famous “Modern Warfare” paintball episode), each of these episodes still have a central, emotional core to them. The Christmas episode, for instance, is about Abed’s inability to move on after he realizes his mother has a new family and won’t visit him for Christmas. In response, he recreates the stop-motion worlds of his youth to cope. The paintball episode deals with Britta and Jeff’s relationship head-on, relieving their sexual tension when they finally get dirty on a Greendale desk (but adding other problems). There’s even a “My Dinner with Andre” homage (“Critical Film Studies”) that deals with Abed trying to get closer to Jeff, while communicating through his continuous pop culture dialogue.

What makes this show great are the risks that it takes. They don’t always pan out, but the result is still entertaining, endearing and funny. You’ll never not laugh at this series, and you can’t help but fall in love with these quirky and relatable characters. Like with “The Simpsons,” or “Cheers,” or any other number of great comedy shows, it has the right mix of funny, endearing and real. You’ll want to spend time with these characters whenever you can, even if their school is a piece of shit and their dean is downright creepy.

Are you watching it yet?

 

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>