For my last A&E article ever (yikes!), I decided to write about my favorite comedy show of all time: “Community.” This show is seriously so dear to me.
I typically don’t like sitcoms much. Sure, they’re good for bingeing, and they offer the occasional opportunity to guffaw or chuckle aloud, but most of the ones I’ve watched are pretty bland. “Community” is anything but.
Set at Greendale Community college, the show begins with a collection of semi-familiar stereotypes: the sweet, overweight black lady; the type-A white girl; the racist old guy; the black guy who’s a stupid jock; the socially inept Arab; the hip, edgy white girl; and the charming, handsome, witty lead guy. What a random, ragtag bunch, brought together by a difficult Spanish class!
“Community” showed promise early on. It was a sweet, honest look at what failure means””and how to redefine it. It mocked the idea of love while singing praises to its potential. It was silly and perhaps overly witty and very charming. It supported viewing the world in a different way; sarcasm can feel sustaining, but in the end it is baseless without real joy and earnestness.
So it’s safe to say I was hooked early on. The show managed to embrace both my sarcastic tendencies and my secret optimism, so I avidly kept watching (especially since “The Office” was really sucky at this point). Then, they did something crazy. Something extraordinary. “Community” began to test the boundaries of what is possible in the medium of television. As season one was winding down, we were given “Celebrity Pharmacology,” an episode about a chicken-finger smuggling ring””but done with the air of the classic gangster film “Goodfellas.” The music, the cuts, the voiceover””it was blatant.
Then a few episodes later, “Modern Warfare,” a paintball-themed episode that paid homage to action films like “Rambo,” “Terminator” and “Die Hard,” aired to stunned and gleeful viewers. “Community” was now officially on the map as one of TV’s weirdest and smartest shows.
But it never lost its earnestness. And see, that’s the kicker with “Community”: it doesn’t mock things, at least not often (with the exception of “Glee,” which is so derided there’s even a themed episode about it). It’s a show that pays homage to a film or film genre, a specific TV show or a game (in the case of the “Dungeons & Dragons” episode).
For a fan of popular culture, this show has impressed me beyond belief. Their non-themed episodes are good, too””the writing is witty and sarcastic, but it’s ultimately optimistic no matter the backdrop.
But “Community” does best when it so carefully and precisely pulls off an episode that is funny and completely referential. It simultaneously pays homage to something well-established and famous while offering something original and new and often beautiful.
Everything is taken seriously, yet at the same time nothing is.
Examples of episodes include a pillow war set in a Ken Burns Civil War documentary, a mashup of “My Dinner with Andre” and “Pulp Fiction,” a “Zodiac”-style thriller about someone called the Asscrack Bandit, a G.I. Joe cartoon, an “Apollo 13″ tribute about a KFC space simulator, a zombie apocalypse set to the tunes of ABBA, a full-blown “Law & Order” tribute about a smashed yam and so many more.
“Community” is for those of us who are often described as “off-beat,” “quirky” or “unique.” Just like the characters of “Community,” all we want is to find someone who understands us and accepts us as we are in all our nerdish glory.
In the end, I think maybe that’s why I love “Community” so much: I feel like it understands me.