As a fan of surreal humor I can’t believe I missed this little gem for four seasons. Now I’m left in the uncomfortable position of recommending it as it goes into a fifth season with a major revamp.
I’ll have to plead that it is after all on network television, NBC to be exact, and who watches that anymore?
It has garnered much praise from film and TV critics but who reads them anyway?
I stumbled across it as NBC was running episodes back to back to get people up to speed for the fifth season, and was so intrigued I looked up the series website and caught a few more on streaming video.
However I had the time to do all this because I was home sick with one of those sinus infections that knocks reality slightly out of kilter and leaves you in the mood for surreal humor. So maybe it won’t be funny when I’m better.
Maybe it won’t even be there at all, maybe it exists only in the Darkest Timeline where the evil dopplegangers of the major characters live.
The major characters are:
Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), a lawyer who lost his job at his firm because he falsely claimed to have a BA from Columbia. In fact, he doesn’t have a BA at all and somehow got through law school anyway.
He enrolls in Greendale Community College, a two-year college where he’s going to complete his bachelor’s degree and go back to being a scumbag lawyer.
He attempts to seduce a beautiful co-ed in his Spanish class, Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) by inviting her to a fictitious study group. She’s an anarchist activist and cause junkie.
Either through accident or design, she invites another student to study, Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), a Polish-Palestinian film student and all-around weirdo who sees life as a script.
Before you know it the group is real, the “Glendale Seven.”
Joining them are Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown) a divorced mother of three and typical church lady, except there’s nothing typical about her.
Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), a high school football star who was on his way to a pro career via college when he separated both shoulders doing a keg flip. He’s Abed’s only friend.
And there’s Annie Eddison (Alison Brie), major brain and overachiever who was on her way to the Ivy League but developed an addiction to Adderall during finals week, gaining her the nickname “Adderall Annie” and a stint in rehab.
Annie was so unpopular in high school crossing guards used to direct her into traffic. She’s such an overachiever she was voted president of the Campus Crusade for Christ- and she’s Jewish.
Hovering on the outside of the group is Senor Chang, an unfrocked Spanish teacher turned student. Chang does a wicked Gollum imitation on occasion and appears to be reporting on a regular basis to a super-villain headquarters.
Then there’s Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase) a millionaire who goes to community college because he’s bored.
Chevy Chase is leaving the series, but the fact is this crew of newbies has it covered.
“Community” is like “Scrubs” goes back to school. There’s a lot of riffing on pop culture references and it gets away with a lot of un-PC humor played with just the right light touch.
Barnes starts a blog called “Old White Guy” where he posts the most pompous statements Hawthorne makes on a regular basis. Then after he comes to see Hawthorne as a real human being he humbly apologizes and says he’ll take the blog down.
“What, 16,000 followers are you kidding? We can make money at this!” Hawthorne replies.
Dean Craig Pelton (Jim Rash) is an occasional cross-dresser and has the hots for Winger. He’s also obsessed with wanting Glendale to be more like a “real” school. The study group are nonetheless his favorite.
Of course this crew of misfits bonds over the course of the series, and gets a lot of the rough edges polished off their personalities. Winger for example, seems to have developed a conscience and actually cares for the group he’s become the de facto leader of.
Each character seems to have an evil counterpart in the Darkest Timeline, which Winger insists isn’t real. Or is it?
There’s lots of pop culture references and hilarious sendups of academia in general and certain majors (education, psychology) in particular.
What gives the humor a certain edge in this reviewers humble opinion, is that while community colleges are still considered low-rent education, the open secret these days is that you’re more likely to graduate with a job and without a crippling debt load than at the more prestigious “real schools.”
And maybe that is what’s behind the surreal world-turned-upside-down humor of “Community.”
Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.