TV We Love: Community

A Tellysquawks exclusive

In case you’ve not stumbled upon Community (and let’s be honest, why would you unless you make a habit of watching Viva, the MTV owned channel buried halfway to nowhere in the dusty basement of the satellite network) you might not be aware that it’s the BEST US COMEDY PROGRAMME OF ALL TIME.

Although by ‘all time’, I clearly mean ‘of the last year or so’. And by ‘best’, I obviously mean ‘not quite as good as 30 Rock or Arrested Development, but almost’.

Community focusses on the antics of seven mismatched oddballs who attend a community college called Greendale. If you don’t know what a community college is, it’s basically a diet university: a publicly funded, city run institution specialising in technical qualifications that give you academic credits you can cash in towards a degree.

As in Campus- the recent British offering from the creators of Green Wing set in a former polytechnic- the joke here is that these kinds of institutions are a bit…um…weird. They’re the underdogs of the academic world, full of misfits, odd goings-on, bizarre lecturers and classes that include Theoretical Phys Ed and Conspiracy Theories 101.

Incidentally, in real life there’s actually a Kellogg community college funded by the cereal manufacturers, possibly offering courses in bran management, corn science, history of breakfast and milk studies. Not to mention a extra credit class on what the hell ‘riboflavin’ actually is.

The great thing about the college setting is that it flings together people who would never, ever have encountered each other in real life: adult education is the great leveller.

First up, we have Jeff, the chisel jawed ex-lawyer. Such a good lawyer, in fact, that he successfully argued his way into a great firm, an expensive flat and a fancy car despite having a fake degree. He’s back at college to gain some academic credits and, of course (this being America) be turned to the light side by the heart-warming, moderately insane friends he meets along the way.

In the pilot episode our vain, amoral antihero Jeff throws together the study group entirely by accident, inventing himself as a Spanish tutor in an attempt to get in the pants of another student, Britta: named after a water filter and about half as interesting. Unfortunately for Jeff, she’s frostier than a snowman’s winkie and- ignoring his manly charms- invites other people to join too. This marks the start of the ‘study group gang’: a collection of people who even Ross Kemp would shy away from doing a documentary on.

Another of the mismatched group members is Shirley, an African American Christian single mother of two who occasionally ejects an unexpected battering ram of self assertion through her sugary sweet, slightly cloying ‘oh how lovely!’ exterior. A bit like the chest burster from alien, but with slightly more acidic spit.

Then there’s Pierce, a 67 year old rich guy played by Chevy Chase. Pierce has the empathy of Darth Vader and the all the lovable charm of Jeremy Kyle barking insensitively into the face of a weeping single parent. We like him.

Oh, not to forget Abed of course: the group’s unofficial narrator. An autistic film buff, he’s the cause of many of the ‘themed episodes’ that take their lead from a specific film genre or type.

One of the first of these genre-specific episodes was ‘Modern Warfare’, a post apocalyptic spoof. Jeff goes for a nap in his car and wakes to find the campus deserted and covered in paint. It turns out that the college overlord- crazy, sexually baffled Moby-lookalike Dean Pelton- has offered up the prize of priority registration to the winners of a paintball competition: a prize so appealing that the contest subsequently turned into all out war. It’s a great pastiche of films like 28 Days Later, Battle Royale and Die Hard…with the added bonus that you don’t have to see Bruce Willis puffing around in ducts wearing his dad’s string vest.

Of course, nothing in this world is perfect (apart from me, and possibly crisps. I love crisps) and Community is no different. The popularity of ‘Modern Warfare’ led to spoof after spoof, ending up with the lamentable stop motion Christmas episode where- and I kid you not- everyone turns into plasticine puppets and they travel through a Tim Burton-esque wonderland singing merry songs about the season. Obviously anything can be hit or miss, but ‘Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas’ didn’t so much miss as cause collateral damage to viewers’ brain cells.

However, its things like that that make Community so unique. They’re trying new things and pushing the envelope in terms of the group-based comedy. The characters are all pleasingly human: none are perfect and several- Jeff and Pierce in particular- are positively machiavellian. It can be a tiny bit cloying and emotional at times (dare I say…American)  but if you can bear that you’re in for a treat.

Now…where did I put my enrolment brochure for the University of Southport Pleasureland: Log Flume Campus?

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

One Response to TV We Love: Community

  1. So, second best TV series ever set in a location named Greendale? After the original Postman Pat, obviously.

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