Adam Clarke urges you to forget your classes, forget Big Bang Theory, and enroll in the Community cult.
Ah, the Fall semester brings back many memories of university. Yes, those halcyon days wherein the noble panty raid was seen by sororities as a rogueish jape instead of a campaign of fear and overt sexual harassment. The days when the campus was openly segregated between snobs, slobs and nerds. The days when all of us had a diverse group of friends who only had one definable characteristic. In my punk rock days, I shared a dorm with a downtrodden alcoholic and a finicky gay man. Collectively, we were known as Rum, Sodomy and The Clash…
Wait a minute! Those aren’t memories, those are just cliches I pieced together from such indie hits as Revenge Of The Nerds, Animal House and Van Wilder 2: The Rise Of Taj. None of those things happened to me.
Aside from the crippling depression, my actual university years were pretty awesome. I think. Regardless, my confusion in the first paragraph brings us to the topic at hand, as this blend of warm fuzzies and pop culture references is the bread and butter of the NBC television comedy series Community.
Community, which begins its third season on September 22nd, centres on an eclectic group of misfits who befriend each other as they endure the humiliation of attending Greendale Community College. All of the students and staff are there only because they’ve screwed up their lives in some way, starting with spikey-haired alpha male, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), a former lawyer who was disbarred after it was discovered that he bluffed his way into his firm without a law degree. Winger has relied on his charm to skim through life, but manages to join a study group with a socially awkward pop culture obssessive, a dimwitted ex-quarterback, a racist moist towelette magnate, a directionless do-gooder, a high school drop-out, and a cheery, Christian single mom.
Somehow this set-up leads to John Woo/28 Days Later-inspired paintball wars, a stop-motion holiday special in the Rankin-Bass tradition (Remember the stop-motion Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?), Levar Burton showing up to serenade boyish Troy (Donald Glover) with the Reading Rainbow theme and an episode in which the hopelessly out of touch Pierce (Chevy Chase) has a massive drug trip while dressed as Beastmaster.
For the uninitiated viewer who hasn’t heard this, Community might seem like pretty traditional sitcom territory on paper. The casting of Chevy Chase, the least talented member of Saturday Night Live’s original cast, might make you presume it’s on par with Chase’s latter-day film work like Snow Day or Man Of The House (starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas!), and you probably see no reason to stop watching the immensely successful Big Bang Theory, Community’s timeslot competition.
Well, there are a bunch of reasons why you should be watching Community instead of Big Bang Theory. First of all, Big Bang Theory’s writing is so bland, it could more accurately be renamed Sheldon & Four Other Characters You Don’t Care About or This Show’s About As Funny As Sophie’s Choice. Community, on the other hand, is one of the best-written comedies on TV nowadays. The series can boast that each of its main and recurring characters are funny, and that it builds many of its jokes using meta-humour and pop culture riffs.
Then again, I have a love-hate relationship with Community. On the one hand, it’s the funniest, smartest sitcom since Newsradio and Arrested Development. On the other hand, it rescued Chevy Chase from obscurity where he belonged. Still, I can’t fault the show when the writing’s so good that it even makes the moldy antics of Chevy Chase seem fresh. Pick up the first season or the September 6th release of the second season on DVD. Community is an ideal source of procrastination, if you’re looking for that sort of thing this school year.
Recommended episodes: “Social Psychology”, “Introduction To Statistics”, “Contemporary American Poultry”, “Modern Warfare”, “Basic Rocket Science”, “Cooperative Calligraphy”, “Conspiracy Theories & Interior Design”, “Mixology Certification”, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”, “Paradigms Of Human Memory”, “A Fistful Of Paintballs”, “A Few Paintballs More”.