Few shows currently on television are as funny, intelligent and innovative as NBC’s Community. Week after week, creator Dan Harmon and his brilliant writing staff turn sitcom conventions upside down and toy with the very nature of television comedy. Whether crafting episodes that are an amalgamation of tribute to and spoof of classic cinema (“A Fistful of Paintballs,” “For a Few Paintballs More) or setting almost an entire episode in several alternate realities (“Remedial Chaos Theory”), Community is consistently entertaining and mentally stimulating.
The show follows a motley group of friends who attempt to navigate the strange world of Greendale Community College which is overseen by Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) whose implied sexual proclivities are both fascinating and disturbing. Former lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) is the study group’s de facto leader since his magnetic charm is too strong for anyone to resist. Each week, the show either cleverly attacks a sitcom stereotype (“Cooperative Calligraphy”) or traces the absurdity of the college experience and what it means to be an adult.
However, much like another inventive show that was ahead of its time (Fox’s Arrested Development), Community is in severe danger of being cancelled. After a four-month hiatus, Community has returned to its Thursday night timeslot (up against CBS’ behemoth The Big Bang Theory) to finish Season Three, but NBC is yet to confirm whether or not the show will get a fourth season. If you aren’t already a loyal viewer, here are five reasons you should be watching Community each and every week.
5. Troy and Abed
Easily the biggest breakout stars of the series are Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) and Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi). These two unlikely best friends are usually the source of each episode’s biggest laughs. Troy is a former high school football star who ends up at Greendale because he broke his throwing arm right before leaving for college. Abed is, well…detached. He understands the world best through references to television and film and isn’t great at reading facial expressions.
Troy and Abed have inspired numerous additions to the pop culture lexicon, but the faux morning show they “host” at Greendale is one of the funniest running jokes on Community.
4. The Many Costumes of Dean Pelton
Even though he recently won an Academy Award for co-writing The Descendants, Jim Rash’s best work is on Community as the flamboyant and sexually adventurous Dean Pelton. Though it is always entertaining to watch Dean Pelton find a way to touch Jeff in every episode, it is his endless parade of ridiculous costumes that makes his character invaluable to the show.
3. Alison Brie as Annie Edison
What else needs to be said?
2. Season-Spanning Jokes
While most sitcoms are made up of self-contained, single episode jokes, Community has become known for setting up punch lines over multiple episodes or even multiple seasons. Here is just one example of how the writers are able to spread a single joke over an entire season. Watch the background carefully.
One of the show’s greatest supporting characters is Leonard (Richard Erdman), an elderly student at Greendale who is living the college life to its fullest. The recurring outburst of “Shut up, Leonard” followed by some insight into the senior citizen’s character is the highlight of any episode.
1. The Writers
Dan Harmon has amassed the most talented writing staff working in television today. Each episode contains hilarious jokes and brilliant dialogue with which no other show can compete. From the racist/sexist/ageist insults of millionaire businessman Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase) to Shirley Bennett’s (Yvette Nicole Brown) caring Christian/slightly judgmental worldview, Community is the most reliably funny show since Arrested Development.
The writers are also wonderfully talented at creating “meta” episodes that either examine existing entertainment archetypes or the show itself. Websites created by fans take joy in dissecting the show’s endless references to pop culture and film as well as to past seasons or episodes. However, one of the series’ most crowning achievements is “Paradigms of Human Memory,” which is a flashback episode comprised of events that we’ve never seen before. According to the numerous alternate stories we see, at one time or another, the group was held captive by terrorists, committed to a mental asylum and trapped in a haunted house. If this one episode doesn’t make you a believer in Community, then nothing will.