I gave Community a pass when it first aired, and I can’t really remember why. I think I just wrote it off as another lame comedy trying to be the new The Office. But on the urging of friends I decided to check it out and realized that it is awesome. Why is it so awesome? Because it dares to be different, it dares to be out there, and yes, it dares to be stupid. But while its doing all this daring, it does so with a smart, sophisticated sense of humour.
The premise sees 7 unlikely friends form a study group in community college. The relationships and interactions between Jeff, Brita, Troy, Abed, Shirley, Annie and Pierce is the anchor to this show which can sometimes drift way off into uncharted waters. Therefore, its a crucial anchor and makes us actually care about these characters rather than just laugh at them (though there is a lot of that as well).
What sets Community apart is the show’s willingness to come up with crazy concepts and commit to them. Examples include three episodes revolving around a paintball battle, a war documentary between people making a pillow fort and people making a blanket fort, and a Goodfellas spoof using chicken fingers instead of drugs. OH yea, and don’t forget an episode made entirely in Nintendo 8-bit graphics.
Season 1 – The freshman season of this series is where it is perhaps the tamest. Many episodes had relatively normal story-lines for a TV sitcom, only with a lot more wit and grace than most other sitcoms. Contemporary American Poultry and Modern Warfare are when they start experimenting with pop culture spoofs very successfully. Modern Warfare, a spoof of action films where a paintball game has taken over campus, may still be my favourite episode of the entire series.
Season 2 – The sophomore season is when Community really started to embrace its wacky side, though there was still a good mix of down-to-earth episodes as well to keep it all in balance. And so goofy concept episodes like the zombie Halloween episode is balanced with the more character centric episodes like Comparative Calligraphy where they try to figure out who took Annie’s pen. The highlights this season are Advanced Dungeon’s and Dragons,Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design, and the two-parter paintball season finale Fistful of Paintballs and A Few Paintballs More. I did ‘t like the full claymation Christmas episode as much as other people, maybe because I hated the original specials they were based on.
Season 3 – As Community continued, the crazy concepts got more intense. This was probably the height of Community’s comedy reign. One of the best episodes is Remedial Chaos Theory, where a dice roll to determine who pays for pizza branches the group off into 6 different timelines. Pillows and Blankets pokes fun at war docs with a schoolwide pillow fight. Basic Lupine Urology is a brilliantly made Law and Order spoof. Digital Exploration of Interior design includes a much more subtle take on Orwell’s 1984 with Subway in place of Big Brother. This is a brilliant season, with an interesting dramatic storyline at the end where they are all expelled. Communtiy goes of the rails in season 3, but in the best way possible.
Season 4 – Season four arrived amidst much off screen turmoil which saw the show runner Dan Harmon fired. Therefore, many fans were iffy about this season and for good reason. It seemed to loose some of its creative spark which earned it such a reputation in the comedy world. In the premiere, they tried to address this by making fun of people’s worries by showing what Community would be like as a typical sitcom. It ended up being a short season with not a lot of highlights.
Season 5 – Another year in turmoil with Dan Harmon returning to the show, but Chevy Chase and Donald Glover both leaving the cast. And while Harmon’s creativity is back, the show doesn’t really recover from the turmoil. It just wasn’t the same as it once was. For one thing, they decided to replace Pierce with the guy who played Mike from Breaking Bad. He did not fit in at all, and his characters insertion was very forced. It did have highlights however, including a David Fincher style episode and App Development and Condiments which sees a new social media app create a strict social class system at the college.
Ranking of the Seasons:
Favourite Character – Honestly there are a bunch of great characters, and I found it tough to pick a favourite. Jeff is a great main character, Abed is a clear fan fav, but I went with who I find that I’m cheering for the most and who I think is underrated in how funny she is, Britta. I really liked Britta and Jeff’s relationship in the first season, and I like how she can be the most grounding yet most out-there characters at the same time.
Final Thoughts –Community is a show with a very vocal and dedicated fan base… just not a large one. It always seems to be on the verge of cancellation. Even this year was supposed to be its last, but now there are news reports that the 6th season will be picked up by Yahoo (however that’s supposed to work…). However, with the Harmon drama and the loss of Pierce and Troy and the general sense of not really having a direction anymore, I kind of just wish this show had been put to bed yesterday. Its really too bad that they couldn’t have held things together for a great fourth season and ended it there. That would have been the natural stopping point, considering it is a show about college.
But regardless, Community is one of the freshest sitcoms that television has seen in some time, and while not everyone appreciated it or bothered to check it out, those who did love it. The Greendale Seven gave us three excellent seasons with another 2 decent ones thrown in. I don’t know whats going to happen with season 6, if it does happen, but hopefully they can end things with a bang. Troy and Abed ending this pooost!