Alright, so I do listen to you guys more often than you’d think, especially when you’re telling me to check out games/shows/movies I haven’t experienced yet. Among my friends I’m media-consumer-in-chief, and have inhaled thousands of hours of this stuff over the years, but I know there are still good things out there I haven’t discovered yet.
One of these things is Community, a show I wrongly dismissed after watching it once or twice when it didn’t make me burst out laughing at any point. But more and more people swear by this show as time goes on, so this weekend I consumed every episode so I could report back with my thoughts this week. Before you mourn my lack of a social life, realize that 28 episodes of Community is only about 9 hours, and split among three days, I would have spent more time watching football like most of my friends.
I like it, I really do. And miraculously, it’s one of the only shows I’ve ever encountered where I could never say, “man, what a terrible episode.” For 28 episodes straight, it’s astonishing I didn’t get sick of it or the show didn’t at least have a few major slip ups along the way. I tried something similar with ABC’s Modern Family which is supposed to be the new Arrested Development, but I got about 10 episodes in before I quit out of fatigue.
“Whaaat, Paul likes a new show?”
Modern Family just tries SO HARD to be funny that it isn’t, and actually, surprisingly, I’ve found that by barely trying at all, Community has a lot more in common with my beloved Arrested than Modern Family ever will.
No, it’s not endless amounts of pure writing and acting genius like that show was, but creating a cast of misfits that balance each other out and having none of them annoy you is extremely hard to do. Community also has a knack for recurring jokes like AD (my favorite is the Human Beings mascot), though sometimes they try and fail (Starburns is no Steve Holt for instance).
But I’m already wondering what I’ve missed, as the show also employs many AD-style stealth jokes you might not even see on your first go-through. For example, last week, Abed spent the entire episode talking to a pregnant woman and ultimately delivering her baby in the back of a station wagon. But this was all out of focus and in the background, and only came up when Shirley asked him what he was up to all day, as he wasn’t involved in any of the week’s plots. “Not much,” he says. I didn’t realize shows were still trying to be this clever anymore.
Bra-vo. Way to put in some real comedic effort.
My favorite part of the show, which reminds me of AD from near the end of season 3, is how often it breaks the fourth wall. In fact, there’s an entire character devoted to doing just that. Abed is borderline aspergers, and relates everything in life to TV and movies, the latter part of which I can relate to. This creates many hilarious references only people like me understand, but also it allows him to comment on Community as a show, bringing up tired sitcom cliches, plot twists or “special episodes” in reference to the study group, and is the driving force behind why it feels the show doesn’t take itself too seriously and constantly has a feeling of being self-aware.
I’m also a big fan of Joel McHale, who we should now stop referring to as “The Soup Guy.” McHale’s sarcastic and apathetic Jeff reminds me a lot of myself (extreme narcissism aside), and it helps me relate to the show more. The other characters balance each other out (Chevy Chase’s Pierce starts off goofy but grows on you over time), and the show’s guest stars never seem forced like say, Chuck.
It’s a bit hard to remember specific episodes I loved in particular outside of one. “Modern Warfare,” where campus is ravaged by a paintball competition to win early registration, is one of the most well done TV comedy episodes I’ve EVER seen. Its references to The Warriors, Battle Royale, 28 Days Later and John Woo films were brilliant, and I applaud NBC for not axing the idea for the episode as I’m sure there were gripes that it felt like a flashback to the school shootings we’ve seen pop up around the country in recent times.
This was incredible.
The show isn’t perfect though. Sometimes its pop culture references seem too forced, like in a recent episode where Troy’s plotline perfectly recreates the inverse of Good Will Hunting, a one episode arc which ultimately seemed too easy to write and just there to fill time. And I’ve never really seen any legitimately compelling dramatic moments in the show; the season one finale where Jeff’s teacher and Brita both confess their love for him at a big dance seemed exactly like the kind of tired sitcom cliche the show always tries to avoid, and didn’t make sense for Brita’s character especially. Nor did the kiss between Jeff and Annie moments after all this. Drama for the sake of drama, but not even particularly good drama at that.
But for the most part, Community is a really good balance to NBC’s other Thursday shows. 30 Rock is all about quippy, extremely smart one liners. The Office (at least used to) feature more dry humor infused with actual drama (back in the lovelorn Jim and Pam days). Community is light and airy, rarely laugh out loud funny, but well written, acted and with a cast that feels like family over time. It’s like eating Fig Newtons. Just one Fig Newton won’t knock your socks off with deliciousness, but it’s enjoyable and you can eat an entire sleeve without even thinking about it or feeling sick after. Yes, this could be perhaps my greatest analogy of all time.
It’s a solid show, and though it might not make me roll around on the floor, I still respect it for its consistency of quality, something you’ll rarely find in a series with 25 episode seasons. Time to update my DVR, as I now have one more thing to record on Thursday.