I absolutely love Community: it very quickly became my new favourite sitcom (because I don’t have legal access to 30 Rock at the moment), and we get double episodes of it each week on Viva – no, it’s not a channel with which I am very familiar either (it’s owned by MTV, if that helps) – so I’m very grateful to this bizarre free-to-air channel for this gift they have bestowed upon us.
Community is supposed to be about Jeff (Joel McHale), a former lawyer forced to go to Greendale Community College after the dubious nature of his law degree was discovered, and how he becomes a better person via his association with the Spanish study group he inadvertently forms when he tries to charm his way into the affections of Britta (Gillian Jacobs). However, it quickly becomes apparent that this is a real ensemble comedy. The other members of the group are: Abed (Danny Pudi), the pop culture-obsessed, borderline Asperger’s Syndrome film student; Troy (Donald Glover), the former high school quarterback; Annie (Alison Brie), the prim and proper girl who had a crush on Troy in school; Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), a recently divorced mother; and Pierce (Chevy Chase), a former tycoon who has been married seven times, who says some of the most casually racist and inappropriate comments in the show. Together they form a fantastic cast who all get laughs in their own way.
Abed gets most of the big laughs with the references to film and television, as well as the meta humour when he refers to himself as if he was a character in a television show (“That’s sort of my gimmick, but we did lean on that pretty hard last week. I can lay low for an episode”). The riffing on pop culture is a big aspect of the show, and I’ve got no problem with it, especially when the show does it so well. It’s a very difficult balance to get right, but Community seems to do it with consummate ease. The other aspect is the really sharp dialogue, delivered with exquisite precision and speed, with the characters zinging off each in perfect harmony. Even Chevy Chase is funny, as a pathetic character who is often the butt of jokes, rather than his usual approach of being cocky and falling over.
The show is laugh-out-loud funny on a regular basis (such as Troy’s advice to Jeff while preparing him to fight: ‘Then you give him the Forest Whitaker eye’, before doing that distinct askew look that Whitaker has), but it still manages to have a ‘hugging and learning’ plot line that doesn’t feel trite or annoying, at the same time as ridiculing the mechanics of television shows. That’s an amazing ability, and it’s down to the writing and the cast; the writing is just amazing, with great lines and silliness, and the cast make it work, both in the humour and caring about them. I adore this sitcom and all the characters in it, and I can’t wait for each new episode.