To start off I have to admit I had never watched a single episode, maybe even a single minute, of NBC’s Community until recently. I can’t remember what exactly made me search for Community’s homepage, it might have been a combination of things but once I saw the latest episode was done in a Ken Burns style about a pillow fight I knew I had to check it out. I was confused and alarmed by what I saw. I had no clue what was going on, no clue who the characters were or why any of this was important. However, I was hooked nonetheless. I needed to know how this pillow fight began and who these people are. Since I have crammed all 25 episodes of Community’s first season into my bran sac and have got one thing to say. It is amazing.
I’m not going to get too deep into it, this isn’t going to be some academic critique. Community is great simply because the archetypal characters, and the casting of those characters, work so well. Not every character is lovable, in fact you probably won’t like a few but it works to the show’s favor. In fact, much like a real group of friends, each character doesn’t necessarily like every other character in their group on the show. When you couple such well defined characters with utterly silly or ridiculous situations you’ve got comedy gold.
The show also benefits from building something over the season. We aren’t talking anything to intense, this isn’t Mad Men or The Wire here, but having a direction for the season as a whole helps keep the show interesting. Unlike The Simpsons, South Park, or most of Seinfeld, each season has an overarching plot and each episode moves along that plot (no matter how incrementally it may do so). Knowing that each episode has to move the season arc along allows for each episode to settle into a nice structure. Each plotline ends up fitting into how the episode furthers along the season’s arc and it works very well in the show’s favor.
And the jokes. My goodness the jokes. Employing the shotgun method of joke telling (or the wet spaghetti method, Italian heritage son) where they basically throw every conceivable joke out and see what gets hit/sticks to the wall, means the Community doesn’t get too wrapped in all the “plot” I mentioned above. This also means that not every joke is going to be funny, especially if it comes from a character you don’t particularly like. However, most of the jokes invoke, at the least, a chuckle if not more.
Because Community is such a character driven show (not to mention incredibly self-referential) Season 1 is a must. You need to go through it and grow along with the characters. It is great to be introduced to all these guys and see how they end up growing together.
All-in-all Community is just a really fun half-hour of TV. Not every joke or episode is going to be uproarious but it will almost always be a fun time. Spending time with the eight characters on the show is just a really good time. Sure they get in silly and goofy situations. Sure some of the characters can be annoying (I personally can’t stand Shirley) but each character adds a certain needed dynamic to the group and without one the show would not be as good. I can see why the fans of the show are such staunch supporters of it, despite the rumors of Community always one step away from being canceled. Every great show let’s their viewers become friends with the main characters, and Community might do this better than any other comedy on TV right now.