Community Season One

If you haven't heard of Community, shame on you. The Fan Can looks at the best sitcom on TV that no one's watching.

 

5 stars

 

 

The Community crew

 

Starring: Joel McHale, Ken Jeong, Chevy Chase

Released: Out now

 

Jeff Winger plays nude pool.

Back in 2006, discerning comedy fans wailed at the cancellation, after only three seasons, of Arrested Development, a series cherished by the few, but unloved by the many. But just a week before Netflix announced it was bringing that series back for a much belated fourth season, then another three-series-strong critics fave looked perilously close to where Arrested was five years ago.

 

Community is arguably the best sitcom on American television right now (30 Rock can fuck right off). The crits love it, and it has a following that borders on religious, but ratings have remained stubbornly low for NBC since the show's birth in 2009.

 

The series is centred on a motley band of adults who have returned to education at Greendale Community College in Colorado. It's a classic sitcom set-up, but what sets Community apart is its relentless pop culture references, its loving genre pastiches and its occasional surreal touches. Two And A Half Men don't do Christmas episodes in claymation or play with parallel reality during a housewarming.

 

To even know of Community in the UK, you'll have had to be one of those channel flickers who go right up to the 900s on Sky. Only one season has ever aired over here, tucked quietly away in the shadows of Sky Digital on Viva (no, we hadn't heard of it either). Though - finally - it's now found its way to DVD over here.

 

Senor Chang takes on the paintball challenge

It's one of those series made for box-set immersion. Not necessarily for its moreishness (though it's definitely in the crack cocaine category of sitcoms), but because every line, reference and visual gag can be properly digested.

 

It closest sitcom kin is probably Spaced, a similarly fringe delicacy that remains out of reach of most people. Spaced felt like being whispered to by someone whose DVD shelves groaned with the same sci-fi classics, and Community knows its audience is one mired in television and film trivia.

 

A fine choice cut is the episode Modern Warfare, which has a paint-ball match played out against a catalogue of war film cliches. Community demands a certain level of media literacy, whether it's referencing Stephen Fry or Doctor Who or throwing out meta references like when Asperger's super-nerd Abed admits, "This is starting to feel like a bottle episode."

 

No wonder a show lobbing out geek-friendly references to bottle episodes (click here >BOTTLE EPISODE< if you've got this far in the article without knowing what that is) has had trouble finding love outside of its core audience of savvy telephiles. Community almost comes with a "no jocks allowed" alert, warning those who that this is a show for people who prefer the indoors.

 

Chevy Chase in Community

Like all the best - and some of the worst - US sitcoms, it's a ensemble piece. The nominal lead is Joel McHale as disbarred lawyer, Sam Malone-a-clone, Jeff Winger, but it's Chevy Chase who's steals the most column inches in the media.

 

Unfathomably ignored by Hollywood for more than the last 20 years, Community makes you wonder why he's not still a go-to guy. As "moist-towelette millionaire" Pierce Hawthorne, he's given lots of freedom to indulge some of that brandname physical comedy we've not seen since the eighties, but also hogs some of the best lines ("How long was I out? Is Napster still a thing?").

 

On a comic par with Chase is Abed, played like a mixture of Commander Data and Rain Man by Danny Pudi. A shameless freebaser of popular culture who, through his love of TV tropes, gives the series its post-modern edge, he's super-intelligent, but a social fuckwit who says the unsayable about his friends because he's incapable of understanding how relationships work in the real world.

 

Community's future isn't necessarily doomed. It was benched mid-way through its third season last month to make way for an early return for 30 Rock. Quite when the the remaining episodes will air is anyone's guess, but it's clear that Community isn't NBC's proudest son.

 

If it is killed, expect a lot of media bawling. But also expect it to one day return. Series like Community don't die and stay dead.

 

Steve O'Brien

 

 

 

Click here for a slice of Community action:

 

 

Commmunity Season One
blog comments powered by Disqus
Follow us on Twitter
Interview - Matt Berry
Find us on Facebook

 

Feature - Doctor Who's Thickest Villains
John Levene's Barmiest Commentary Moments
Feature - Ghosts in the machine - TV's best and worst small screen spooks
Interview - Tom Baker
Revisitations 3 on DVD review
Feature - 10 TV characters that time forgot