If you're a bit of a film geek (that means you, probably), congratulations — you’ve likely just discovered your new favourite show. At first glance, though, that may not be immediately apparent. Dan Harmon’s ensemble comedy brings together a seemingly uninspired group of stock characters (the jock, the nerd, the creepy old guy etc.). Headed by Joel McHale’s disgraced lawyer (below), they’ve all taken a wrong turn in life and found themselves studying at Greendale Community College. There’s the temptation early on to write off Community as either smug or derivative, but it’s still finding its feet as the characters evolve. Stick with it beyond the first few episodes and you’ll reap the rewards.
Once it knows what it wants to be, Community takes flight. Lacking the crutches of a mockumentary format, flashbacks or laugh track that many of its contemporaries lean on, it simply peppers you with gags. What initially came off as smug is clearly just confidence, and as that confidence grows, the show has more and more fun playing with the sitcom format. Never is that more apparent than in Modern Warfare, the infamous paintball episode directed by Justin Lin (Fast Five). Staying within the show’s established reality, Lin perfectly balances action and comedy in redefining what a 30-minute sitcom can realistically achieve — referencing everything from 28 Days Later to Die Hard along the way.
Like The Simpsons’ golden age, Community’s meta-humour, homages and high concepts work because they’re underpinned by great characters bolstered by inspired casting. It’s near-impossible to pick a favourite: Donald Glover’s hilarious, Alison Brie’s adorable, Gillian Jacobs is gloriously unfunny... Chevy Chase is Chevy Chase. After just one season Community established itself as one of the best shows around, and it only gets better from here.
Reviewed by Joe Cunningham
Released: 15 November 2011
Featurettes, deleted scenes, outtakes and mini episodes are all good fun. The cast and crew commentaries on every episode are a must-listen, with Dan Harmon’s obsession over the show’s minutiae and frank assessment of its shortcomings refreshing. Best of all are the occasions when Chase graces the recording booth: “I’m not interested in the show... I don’t understand why I’m here at all.”