So I Watched 28 Episodes of Community in 3 Days

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.

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  1. Modern Warfare was absolutely genius imo. I have a few friends who wouldn’t watch the show for the sound of it and forced them to watch this episode. It was well worth it.

    I love community. I thought (at the beginning) it would be bit to “made for TV buffs” for most people and wouldn’t have got a second season, but I’m so very glad it did.

  2. Modern Warfare was pure genius. Although I have to admit I was hooked on the first episode where Abed thinks he’s gone deaf because everyone was only mouthing words. I LOLed and have in every episode since. My wife thinks I’m nuts and doesn’t get it. We’re still together though. I just watch it on Hulu later. 😉

  3. Well this is insane because i watched 30 episodes in like 3 days as well. Very good show. The only episodes i didn’t care for were the two or three i’ve actually caught before when they actually aired. Parks and rec is still better though.

  4. @appsbyaaron
    ditto. i watch on Hulu while I work late at night (freelance graphic designer) and find it hard to not wake up the kids falling out of my chair laughing. Truth be told I would love an Ahbed/Troy show. Their mini-scenes at the end are the highlight of the show for me. The one with Betty White was EPIC!!!

  5. Lol I have the first season on my iPod and I’ve probably cycled through the entire season at least 4 times (not including when I originally saw the episodes on tv). And I hear so many critics complain about the finale last season, but everyone I’ve talked to loves it.

    Avoiding drama is what’s bringing down season 2; in a deliberate effort to avoid cliches and cheesiness, the show has essentially gone static. The underlying drama is all but gone, and now it’s something even worse than being cliche: amazingly predictable.

    I hope this week’s Apollo 13 homage/parody will turn things around. AND THE CHRISTMAS EPISODE THIS YEAR IS GOING TO BE STOP-MOTION 😀

  6. Glad you like it though. It’s my favorite comedy on tv right now, though if it were up against season 2 or 3 of The Office, it would probably be in second.

    Also, Alison Brie is soooooooo hot. I honestly don’t know why Jeff thought Britta was the attractive one, Gillian Jacobs is kinda skeletal.

  7. Want talk about losers with no social lives? I watched an entire season of buffy in 48 hours. Those are 40 minute episodes hombre, total of about 15 hours. Not sure if I should be proud of that. . .

  8. No, you shouldn’t be. Also you how can you make a living doing free-lance work if you have a family? Community is a great show, but Parks and Rec is BETTER. Don’t know why Outsourced is on the air, can’t wait till mid-season.

  9. In regards to drama, I think the scene with Pierce listening to his mom’s CD was rather heartfelt only to be undercut with trademark ‘Community’ humor right after.

    I think now that we recognize these characters as not just a community, but a family, we’ll get some really tender moments throughout the series. Or at least I hope that’s what happens ’cause that worked wonders in ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Futurama,’ and ‘Arrested Development’ (to a minor extent, oh-ho-ho).

  10. Also, I’d really like to comment on the hotness of the entire cast (though Chevy isn’t exactly my type, at least not these past two decades). Not only are they impeccable comedic actors, but Joel McHale can get shirtless any day! Ooh la la! Also, Alison Brie’s breasts jiggle optimally.

  11. i watch community because it’s ok, but i very much prefer 30 rock and parks & recreation (COME BACK!)…. community is just kind of bland in my opinion.

  12. Judging by the comments, either no one dislikes this show; or they couldn’t be bothered to click on a post about it.

    Perfectly watchable comedy, my favorite gags being mocking someone for using a Discman and that whole exchange leading to “-Check your email -I’m marking you as spam -Who the hell is Pam?”… can’t even remember the character’s names, but I don’t forget the way they nailed that one.

  13. community is a great show, id say second best on nbc.
    Parks and rec is supposed to come back mid season, it had better. The second season of Parks and rec was easily the best nbc had last season. the office has dropped off drastically.:(

  14. The constant references to AD are quite annoying. hehe
    Seriously though, I know that the Russo brothers had a hand in both shows (something you coulda mentioned Paul, instead of waxing philosophical about the merits of AD), but this happens to be a different specimen.
    Sure, they have parallels (AD narrator/Abed, main character of sarcasm and wit, trying to pull his life together to the former glory it once was, family issues and resolutions, real world referencing, etc.), but it’s unfair to use one or the other as a point of comparison.

    I say to just enjoy both shows for what they have to offer. Community stands strong enough on it’s own, and AD is a classic that no other show should try to emulate completely.

    That is all.

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