In every sense of this statement, I believe Community is the greatest show to ever air on television, period. Yes Breaking Bad is the second best, and I’ll review that eventually, but really, Community is the greatest show of all time in my opinion. And here I am, setting enormous expectations, to convince you guys to go watch it!
So Community is a show that aired on NBC and was really the comedy to compete with. In a time where network television comedies were totally flatlined, seeing a show that was as original and creative as this one can just be so refreshing. This was of course at a time right after the first season, where the show wasn’t completely off-the-rails and NBC didn’t cancel any show with more than one episode. But let’s examine Season 1 to start, and why the show’s premise can be captivating.
So the Pilot of Community is actually my least-favorite episode of the entire show. The Pilot shows these really creative and quirky characters who come together and form a study group at Greendale Community College, setting up the show pretty decently. Only it is completely without laughs. I laughed like twice in this episode, and they were just chuckles. If you want a fantastic introduction to the show, the characters and lots of laughs too, watch Episode 2 of Season 1, Spanish 101, because this episode shows each character in their chance to shine. So Joel McHale is in the show as the main character, Jeff Winger. He’s a lawyer who was disbarred for faking a bachelor’s degree and then has to actually go back to school and earn one. So he’s gonna be kind of a grumpy character. Mix this with his extreme sarcastic attitude and extremely persuasive lawyer powers and you have one of the greatest lead performances in a comedy to date. And Spanish 101 also shows his relationship with supporting character Pierce played by Chevy Chase. So Chevy Chase plays this extremely rich old dude at the college who’s just having fun in what he considers his glory years. He’s the old, rich, racist guy, so yeah he’s gonna be pretty funny in his role. And it’s also cool that Chevy Chase still gets work. Meanwhile, we have the other supporting characters of the show, Annie and Shirley as portrayed by Alison Brie and Yvette Nicole Brown, who are working on this fundraiser and it just shows how their always cheery and upbeat attitudes keep the show’s charm and upbeat nature there. And working against them (in this episode) is Gillian Jacobs as Britta. Britta is like the most useless character in the show because at first she was Joel McHale’s love interest, then she’s just kinda in the group, but she does have the occasional hilarious one-liner. But speaking of hilarious one-liners, not only in this episode but every episode, Abed is awesome. Abed is the like the more extreme me. He’s always talking about movies and TV and referencing them, and then talking about pop culture. When I think of Community and a couple other network comedies, I think of them compared to live theater. Most shows are like scripted plays where the laugh track goes off at exactly the right time, but Community is like an Improv performance. It’s so quick and quirky and original and spontaneous, and that’s part of the humor styles from both Abed and Jeff. They’re always quick-thinking and fast. It adds a lot of replay value to the show. And then the two I missed were Donald Glover as Troy and Ken Jeong as Señor Chang. Donald Glover is Abed’s best friend and is often there for really clever humor to support Abed, Jeff and Pierce in case any of their lines miss, which really builds a character for him to craft. Then Ken Jeong plays a Chinese Spanish teacher named Señor Chang. I mean c’mon, that’s just hilarious!! And Jim Rash is sometimes there as the brilliant Dean Craig Pelton, and there’s a whole ensemble of more supporting characters and great guest stars. But those performances just set up the framework for the best and most unique TV ensemble I have ever seen. Now moving on to the rest of Season 1.
I liked Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 1 for the same reason I liked Community Season 1: it’s a show set in a certain environment, yet it still finds new ways to stay fresh. Community Season 1 really makes each episode different. My favorite episode of the show is in this season, but to masquerade exactly which one it is, I’ll talk about 3 episodes particularly. The first is this mob film homage, where the study group is making and transporting chicken fingers around the campus. And the whole thing is just done on such an absurd level, as I mentioned it’s done like a mob movie. They each have a particular job, and are saying how careful they need to be, and it just illustrates that this is the first of many more movie homages to come. Then there’s the legendary paintball episode. So in this episode, the whole campus is just playing a game of paintball assassin for the prize of priority registration. And, without giving away the whole charm of the episode, the show portrays it on such a grandiose scale. It looks like this paintball game has been going on for years, and people are acting like it’s a real war and there are alliances and casualties and it’s great! But speaking of great, my third favorite from Season 1 is the Phys. Ed episode. So this show is obviously meant to target the audience of young males. Being in high school, and being a male, I identify with this show. It pokes fun at the absurdities of Gym class and shows guy on guy competition, and it’s sure to make anybody laugh. Now when I say the show is targeted at guys, I don’t mean it the same way with How I Met Your Mother. Like HIMYM, women will be offended by. Community, guys just happened to watch it more (like that’s a Nielsen statistic), but I know girls who love it too.
But then moving onto Season 2, there’s so much more slapstick and clever writing in this season, it starts to show us the program that Community will be remembered as. So in the first episode of the season, the group is having an argument (no spoilers) and Betty White is guest starring as their insane Anthropology teacher, and Abed is making pop culture references and it’s such an ensemble of humor, it works in every way possible. I’ll talk about, like, 3 more episodes from this season because those are the ones to hook you on the show. So in another kind of homage is the episode Cooperative Calligraphy, where Annie’s pen goes missing and the study room is on lockdown until it’s found. The episode shows the characters each going slightly more insane, and by the end of the episode they’re all completely bonkers, which shows that when the show isn’t doing grand pop culture parodies, it can still be funny just with this fantastic ensemble of characters. But then the pop culture parodies continue in the next episode, Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design. This episode is meant to parody, well, conspiracy theories! It also does a whole bit on confusing twists and double-crosses in thrillers and also shows the fantastic chemistry that Joel McHale and Alison Brie have together on-screen. And then the last one, another one of my favorites from the show, is the third-to-last episode of Season 2 called Paradigms of Human Memory. You guys know how sometimes shows will do those flashback to old season episodes, usually right before they end? Community does that here, only to memories we have never seen before! These are just like 6 second memory clips that each show the insane adventure of the ensemble that aren’t in the show, making you feel like you’ve just watched a bunch of different mini episodes by the time one is over. And yeah Jeff’s speech compilation, every fan of the show has that memorized.
But continuing with my favorite episodes, you get to Season 3 where EVERY episode becomes your favorite episode. Seriously, right after Breaking Bad Season 5, Season 3 of Community is the greatest season of TV to ever air. It has now reached full insanity level, both on and off screen. The scripts are getting far more zany and the audience is loving it, meanwhile the show is facing a 4-month hiatus before it returns again, and cancellation rumors are 90% positive to be true. The show was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for one of its episodes this season (I’d tell you about it, but the whole premise is ruined if I do). The increased zaniness and just all around laughs and witty dialogue this season showed how fantastic Community has evolved to be, and that it was a force to be reckoned with. Now like I said, there was a 4-month hiatus and cancellation rumor of the show because of this zany script writing. For this reason, NBC fired the showrunner, creator, producer and one of the writers Dan Harmon. Harmon was the guy that seriously got this show going. It’s his project entirely, and telling him he can’t participate in it anymore must have devastated not only him, but the cast that he was establishing all of these characters for.
So then we have Season 4, which is widely called “The Gas Leak Year”. Without Harmon, the show got sappy, to say the least… The characters didn’t really feel like themselves and the charm and quirks of Community Seasons 2 and 3 felt completely lost. These new showrunners kinda gave the impression they were recycling old material and previous gags to phone-in a final season of the show. Now the show does running gags extremely well, but not in this sense (and I’ll get to those gags in a bit). Like I said it felt very recycled, but hey recycling can be good for the environment right? I agree Season 4 is definitely the bottom of the show, but I don’t hate it. It’s creatively lower, but there were two or three episodes I really thought were well-written and had potential. The others did feel a bit filler, but never got to the point where they bored me. I think people give this season a lot of undeserved crap, though I do agree it wasn’t the same without Harmon. During this season, Chevy Chase also began the withdrawal process from the show, and eventually left it entirely at the end of Season 4. Well after these flukes, at least the show would be cancelled, right? Right?
Wrong! NBC renews Community for a fifth season! Now I’ll talk a little about the show’s social media campaign. In Season 2, Abed said that every great show would be done with “six seasons and a movie”. At the end of Season 3, when they were expecting cancellation, the final shot of the episode was “#sixseasonsandamovie” written on the screen. Final scene of Season 4, Six Seasons and A Movie was written on the blackboard behind the Dean and Jeff when they were doing little monologues. Wow. Twitter was blowing up with positivity about Community and how everyone, especially the cast, wanted #sixseasonsandamovie. I had just caught up to the show a couple weeks before and was blowing up Instagram with #sixseasonsandamovie posts. And NBC listened! They renewed Community for a Season 5!
So Season 5 also marked the return of showrunner Dan Harmon. And this season, he rolls out some of the quirkiest and most absurd scripts he had been saving up. The first episode “Repilot” re-establishes all of the characters’ relationships to each other and the school, and really cements the show in place for its future (hard with no spoilers…). And then the next four episodes really showcase the return of Dan Harmon. The second episode is like Season 1 because it’s kinda of normal, but has some absurdity. Then the third episode is a David Fincher-esque movie trope, which has its total slapstick included. Then episode 4 they all are having a polygraph test which reminds you of Cooperative Calligraphy from Season 2, and then episode 5 is a straight-up paintball-type episode where they play Hot Lava at the school. This episode also marks the departure of Donald Glover. So up to this point we had lost Chevy Chase, lost and re-gained Harmon and now we were losing Donald Glover? I mean Pierce (Chase’s character) was pretty easily forgotten upon the arrival of criminology professor Buzz Hickey (Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks), but Troy’s personality and gags would really be a hit to the show. So he did leave after that episode, and Season 5 continued. There may have been like one or two filler episodes in this season, but they were pretty easily forgotten because of how clever they were. Then we get to the season finale and I loved it. Basic Sandwich is probably in my Top 10 episodes of the show (which is extremely hard to choose, and I haven’t really done episode for episode, but just use as a figure of speech). But I think that it is really meta (a word that show often uses) in every sense. If you re-watch this episode as much as I have, you really pick up on everything. And this entire episode is just symbolic for the existence of the show Community! There’s a line where Annie says, “if we save Greendale, what Greendale will we be saving?”. And that’s a line that summarizes, if Community actually gets a sixth season, what kind of season will it be? Glover and Chase are gone, will Harmon leave again? Will the show be put on hiatus like in Season 3, or pushed to midseason like Season 4, or not even be on the NBC schedule like Season 5? What show would it turn out to be? And then the scene where they go to the cafeteria at the end, that entire thing, well, you’ll see how symbolic it is for the whole show. J Annie and Abed’s closing dialogue is my favorite “dramedic” dialogue ever on TV just because of how meta and ironic it is, and that closing tag is the best closing tag to anything ever. Yep, move aside Nick Fury at the end of Iron Man, this is better, especially if you know the show’s history. If not, read up on it and you’ll enjoy it more, trust me.
So then, as every year, the stars and fans take to Twitter, this time for about 3 weeks before NBC’s cancellation or renewal decision and campaign for #sixseasonsandamovie to become a reality! And it’s so close, we can almost taste six seasons and a– cancelled. What? I was steaming when I read online that Community had been cancelled. I mean, weren’t you? So the show is: put on hiatus, has the showrunner fired, miraculously gets renewed, digs its own grave of a season, miraculously gets renewed AGAIN, re-hires that same showrunner, produces some of its best scripts yet and is then cancelled before its entire prophecy as a show can be completed? Am I getting this right?
You know, I wasn’t even going to do this review because there have been talks over the past few weeks that Hulu may pick it up for a sixth season, like Netflix with Arrested Development. But then I realized, if I put this out and you guys (a pretty decent number of viewers) start watching the show (every season is on iTunes and Hulu Plus), then maybe you’ll start talking about it too, and then this small website might spark just a couple more fans of what I consider to be the best show ever. But regardless, I’ll do another post when the show’s fate is ultimately determined.
I guess what really makes this show the best program ever is how fan-engaging it is. Sure, every TV show has a Twitter and Facebook now so the fans can be engaged. Yeah, there’s always a “Bones Fan of the Week” every week. But it doesn’t even begin to compare to what Community did. The loyalty of Community’s fanbase is equal to, if not greater than all of the Whovians out there, despite being significantly smaller. So at the end of the day, people who fight for what they want to see on TV can determine what actually is on TV. Top this off with the best ensemble cast ever assembled, put the greatest, most clever and smart humor ever even higher up on that, and you get a show that is, without a doubt, the greatest show to ever air on television. Period.
So guys, those are my thoughts on NBC’s Community. Have you guys seen Community? If not, honest to God, go watch it. And what is the best written comedy ever? Movie, TV whatever that is, leave me a comment down below with your thoughts. And as always, thanks for reading guys. #sixseasonsandamovie