Jan 20, 2011

[TV] Community: Season 1

Community: Season 1Starting with a new TV show is always a bit of a gamble. It's always hard to "figure out the odds" of you really liking the show or not and we tend to grasp for some sort of basis for our decision to watch. It can be the franchise as a whole, hence why I will give any new Star Trek series a chance to prove itself to me. It can be one or more actors whether we appreciate them physically or in terms of their actual acting skills. It might be because of the executive producer, the director, the head writers - whatever it is, you're bound to come up with some sort of a reason.

In this modern world of DVRs and streaming media websites, we now get to rely on the impressions of TV critics and reviewers more and more and thus we double back and acquire the previously broadcast episodes when it seems more sure. That kind of behavior does nothing to support a new show until the viewers start to come on board and really commit to the program.

I have to admit though that I sort of did that when it came to this show. I wasn't immediately sure about it since I only knew one or two of the principal actors (and knowing them doesn't mean loving them). So I waited for some initial reviews and votes of support from social media contacts before I got fully on-board.

And it's definitely a good thing that I did. Better late than never, right?

Community is a half-hour comedy series created by Dan Harmon whose previous television projects include The Sarah Silverman Program.

NBC's Community, co-produced by Case alumni An...Image via WikipediaInitially, the show focuses on almost-disbarred lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) whose lack of a valid college degree is discovered by the state bar association. He manages to negotiate a deal for him to go back to school and earn his degree instead of simply disbarring him. Thus he signs on for Greendale Community College. There he meets other students of different backgrounds and eventually seven of them find themselves in a study group together.

The group consists of Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) for whom Jeff created the study group in order to sleep with her, Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) who is a wannabe film director who spews out a steady stream of meta references based on pop culture, Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown) who is a devoted Christian and mother of two, Annie Edison (Alison Brie) who is young and studious member of the group, Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) who is a former high school football quarterback and Annie's crush, and Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase) who is somehow a moist towelette tycoon that has returned to college for social contacts and to somehow become popular.

At first the show largely centered around Jeff and his experiences at community college. And this generally worked since the supporting cast got a lot of screen time and we all had fun. But somewhere along the way as this first season progressed, the writers must have realized they had a lot more than just a "Jeff Winger and Friends" kind of show and it evolved into a true ensemble comedy.

Beyond that, another item that the writers eventually embraced is their penchant for meta-humor. It all probably started as just the seemingly nonsensical prattle of Abed as he'd compare the group's experiences with popular TV shows and movies. Or maybe it was the in-credit sequences featuring the antics of best friends Abed and Troy recreating a lot of popular movies and TV shows with little more than their imagination to support them. By the second half of the season, more and more did the stories actually incorporate parodies of popular culture with Abed as our commentator and all the others pretty much oblivious to the obvious parallels.

And then you get the random funny bits with the seemingly insane faculty at the school. You start with Dean Pelton (Jim Rash), who comes up with the most bizarre marketing ploys for the little community college. Then there's Dr. Ian Duncan (John Oliver) who is the professor of psychology (but sort of a hack) and whom Jeff once defended as a lawyer. And of course we have "Señor" Chang (Ken Jeong), who is the closest that you could get to an antagonist as the group's seemingly insane Spanish teacher.

I was a bit skeptical about the show at first but by the end of the season I was definitely hooked. The show totally embraces a lot of geek humor coupled with loads of meta-references, an irreverent disregard for the fourth wall and excellent use of cameos and guest stars.

Community is the geek show hiding in plain sight and one that more people ought to give a chance should you have the time. This first season gets 4 crazy Troy and Abed moments out of a possible 5. In case you don't have a DVR, you can catch the complete first season on DVD or via video on demand.

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