In the vast airspace that is American sitcoms, there is little like Community. How many shows can you think of that had a genius team of writers, a hilarious ensemble cast and,at times, was simultaneously a science-fiction musical comedy. Set at Greendale Community College in Colardo, the show follows a group of misfits that first come together for a Spanish study group, and follows them through scenarios that increasingly challenge Ryan Murphy's Glee with ridiculous plotlines.
Community was the original awkward sitcom, shows like New Girl and Superstore following in its footsteps. It received criticism for relying on the irony in potentially offensive jokes (see Screen Rants article, 'Community: Ten Jokes That Have Already Aged Poorly' posted four years after the show's cancelation.) These jokes were truly just in the sarcastic nature of Dan Harmons writing, and there is a mutual understanding that it wasn't for everyone. Despite its ratings dropping when Harmon was fired from the show pre-season four, the first three seasons were a comedy gold-mine, a hidden gem amongst the sitcom-boom of the early 2010s.
When it comes to sitcom comedies, it's really the cast that determines whether it will be iconic or be unfortunately forgotten by mass audiences. Whilst the main characters of Joel McHale's Jeff Winger, Gillian Jacobs' Britta Perry, Alsion Brie's Annie Edison and Yeveettte Nichole Brown's Shriley Bennett are exceptional, Donald Glover and Dan Pudi's duo as Abed Nadir and Troy Barnes are probably the most memorable for their ying and yang-like, nerdy approach to comedy.
The constant intertextual cultural references to things like Star Wars, Doctor Who and various video games by these characters really reflect everyone's inner-nerd, plus, you know a sitcom duo is good when there are constant rumors around them being a couple. Despite Chevvy Chase's controversy as Peirce Hawthorne, and an infamous dislike for his role, he still performs it beautifully problematically (perhaps due to the unfortunate rumours that Chase acted accordingly to Hawthorne's character on set).
Jim Rash, Ken Joeong and John Oliver, although playing more minor characters, are really the stand-out cast members for Community's community (pun-intended); they diffuse any tensions that are bound to happen in ensemble-centric plots with either insane villainy, see season three, episode twenty-one's 'The First Chang Dynsasty' and Ben Chang's channeling of Napoleon (yes you reas that right, told you it was Glee-like in plot), or soings that battle SNL parody on quality. As a British person, John Olivers' extremely stereotypical portrayal of Britain through Professor Ian Duncan, panders unbelievably well to how I imagine Americans think of us, that I cannot be mad at it.
Community is an ensemble comedy that manages to highlight the hilarity of each character despite harnessing a large cast, the true mark of casting brilliance.
From left to right: Donald Glover, Dan Pudi, Gillian Jacobs and Chevvy Chase at ComicCon July 2010
Dan Harmon, up until his departure in 2014, was the mastermind behind Community, obviously specialising in taboo and controversial television, writing Adult Swim's hit adult animation Rick and Morty in 2015, but Megan Ganz has been the stand out writer for me. Ganz has been integral to the sitcom world, writing for the award winning Modern Family and the hilarious Its Alwas Sunny in Phildielipah (one of the best shows to ever grace my watch history).
Ganz wrote 35 total episodes for Community from 2011-2013, one being 'Advanced Documentary Filmmaking' where the disease of 'chang-nesia' is introduced - a plot with just the right amount of ridiculousness that became expected of the show.
Community is certainly up there as one of the best written comedies, following in the footsteps of sitcoms like Arrested Development, but like Arrested Development, fell flat when its best writers, Ganz and Harmon, left the show (Harmon fired and Ganz leaving post-season four to write for Modern Family). Although the show still managed to hold its own in it's final seasons, mostly due to the brilliance of the cast, its rating fell flat and resulted in its cancelation.
This was partly due to the uninventable ending of network seasons in the wake of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. However, two of the best television writers at the time leaving the sitcom, definitely started to drain the life of a once groundbreaking show.'
Dan Harmon, Comic Con 2016
The bops, the flops and why should I watch? - Advice from the biggest Community fan I know
Over time, television has become one of my love languages, watching TV with friends or family being the best place I know. Therefore, I thought I'd ask for some pointers from the biggest community fan I know - my teenage brother. He himself first introduced me to the sitcom and has received mech at least every other birthday or Christmas. I asked him a couple of questions and although it took some pressing, Mario Kart being far more interesting apparently, here are his answers.
What are some of the show's bops?
- 'The First Chang Dynasty was good, and it was a nice twist on the paintball gag.' The paintball episodes are like The Office's party episodes or Brooklyn 99's 'Halloween heists', classic repeating bits that are guaranteed to be entertaining.
- 'Geothermal Escapism.' This is where Donald Glover/ Troy Barnes' leaves, 'It was sad but in a good way... Troiy becomes his own person.'
- 'The Deans Peanut Bar song... it was so random and doesn't make any sense, he just spirals.' By the way, 'Peanut Bar song' is both exactly what and not at all what it sounds like.
- His favourite character: 'Abed, I guess because he's a movie geek and struggles socially.' He basically sees himself in Abed as a wholesome introvert, as I'm sure many do.
- His favorite running gag: 'The Dean's crush on Jeff... like when he screams at him because he's wearing sunglasses, 'even his shadow!' These two were the power couple too strong for the world.
And the flops? Which ones do you skip when binging for the one hundredth time?
- 'The big one is season four, which I don't watch that much overall... Dan Harmon leaving meant the characters weren't written the same. It was like they were new people.' They even make a joke about this in the next season, blaming the obvious changes on a 'gas leak'.
- 'The puppet episode was too gimmicky... it was a good concept but I just wasn't a fan.' Season four, episode nineteen's puppet episode, was criticized fan-wide for feeling like a joke for joke's sake. Despite this, he really struggled for flops, emphasizing just how great the show is overall.
Community won 19 awards and had 71 nominations, which is insane considering it slipped under so many people's radars. Why do you think it was so undderated?
- 'I don't think Dan Harmon was well known at first, same with some of the cast.' Community really did boost the casts' careers, resulting in lower ratings in the earlier seasons.
- 'It blended a lot of genres... it targeted a weird audience and I don't think many people were ready for it.' Sci-fi, comedy, postmodern and video game (just to name a few).
- 'I only watch Netflix now... I don't know any TV shows that are on the channels.' Streaming definitely took its effect in the 2010s and is now in full swing, particularly with younger audiences.
What would you say to someone to convince them to watch it?
'It's got a really unique set of humor, and it covers a lot of different genres of TV and cinema.'
- Favourite quote: 'Cool, cool, cool.' You could say this if your nervous or because you are indeed 'cool'. Shows like Brooklyn 99 and New Girl have since also adopted this versatile and relatable phrase.
So there you have it, a simple guide to persuade you, not force you, I promise, to watch one of network television's final gems. Community's cast, writing and unmatched 'meme-abilty' were sure-fire elements of a successful show, but like most treasures, it has become much more appreciated since its departure from our screens. The fans are currently waiting for the movie rumored to be in the works (to close the running joke of 'six seasons and a movie'), the sitcom is still collaborating and coming together for events like the 2020 charity table reading for 'World Central Kitchen & Frontline Foods', with everyone's favourite dystopian heart-throb Pedro Pascal making an appearance.
My final message, therefore, is what are you waiting for? Community is currently available on Netflix worldwide (rumored to be leaving in 2024), so start binging today and discover the magic of sitcom comedies underated gem.