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Sunday, April 11, 2021

TV Rewind | Community: Meta humour that has aged well

Community fans are still hoping for the day when their wish for 'Six seasons and a movie' is finally granted. Until then, the show's fandom is only getting bigger.

Written by Sampada Sharma | New Delhi |
February 27, 2021 8:09:06 am
tv rewind communityCommunity ended its run in 2015.

Way before streaming services became mainstream, a lot of pop-culture addicts relied on recommendations to watch the best shows and films that introduced us to newer content. The recommendations were hardly ever reliable, but in those days when lightning-fast internet was still a dream of the future, and there were no listicles to suggest ‘Top 50 TV shows’, it was a game of hit and trial that led us to our new-found favourites.

It was during those years that I stumbled upon Community and realised that there was an entire genre of comedy that was unlike mainstream sitcom television. It was unique and different, and also did the job of making me feel smarter. For all the pop-culture references it threw at me, Community made me watch so much more content, just to get on the same page as Abed, and got me up-to-speed with the changing face of television. Community might have had a small audience back in its day but as the world has evolved, it has gotten the right kind of attention it always deserved.

Starring Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong, Chevy Chase and Jim Rash in main roles, Community was created by Dan Harmon and aired from 2009-2015.

What is Community about?

Community is set in a fictional community college where a group of people come together for a study group. The group slowly develops a friendship, not the sappy kind, as they try to achieve their personal goals while delivering some great meta humour to the audience in the process.

What’s different about Community?

For the six seasons that it aired, Community had a very niche audience but since its original airing, has developed a cult following. Much like Arrested Development, Community was the show that was a little ahead of its times for the regular TV-watching audience.

Community rests on the smart shoulders of its sharp comedy. The show’s humour largely relies on pop-culture references and it is these references that get you to rewatch many episodes, and still find them funny. No wonder Community did not have a great run during its TV days because, in an era when laugh track was a must for a TV comedy, Community was a game-changer and the world, probably, wasn’t ready for it yet.

donald glover community After Donald Glover left the show, there was a significant vacuum left behind.

The absence of a laugh track wasn’t just the only thing that made Community stand out (The Office and Modern Family were also popular sitcoms from this era), the show also tried to squeeze in as many references and jokes as possible in a single episode. So unlike the two aforementioned shows, this one required the audience to actually listen to the dialogue closely while watching the show.

For the initial seasons of Community, it was the show’s characters (and the actors who played them) that made it a must-watch every week. Their diverse behaviour – Troy and Abed’s lovable camaraderie, Shirley’s mom-like nature, Annie’s over-achieving approach, Pierce’s problematic and orthodox thinking, Britta’s courage and Jeff’s charm, brought life to the show as it gave these characters enough opportunity to clash and resolve their issues. Ken Jeong’s Ben and Jim Rash’s Dean Pelton were fantastic too.

The best of Community

Fans of this show don’t revisit Community for its story arcs but they do it for the many unique episodes that the makers dared to put up.

The paintball episodes, which became an annual affair after the first season, were some of the most intricate, yet some of the most well-executed episodes of the entire series. The Russo Brothers had revealed in 2016 that it was actually after Kevin Fiege watched the paintball episode of the second season, they were called in to direct Captain America: Civil War.

Season 2’s ‘Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas’ in another well-executed episode where everything can be seen in stop-motion animation. Not only was it unique, but also touched upon subjects like loneliness and mental health.

In my opinion, Season 3’s ‘Remedial Chaos Theory’ is one of those episodes that everyone needs to watch, just out of respect for good content. Remedial Chaos Theory unravels in different timelines. As the group sits around a table and rolls a dice to see who has to get the pizza from downstairs, we see different outcomes depending on who has left the room.

Some of the other noteworthy episodes of the series are – the Season 3 episode which is a parody on Law and Order ‘Basic Lupine Urology’, the bottle episode ‘Cooperative Calligraphy’, the episode where they are practically just sitting around a table for almost 20 minutes ‘Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’, the 8-bit characters in ‘Digital Estate Planning’

What happened to Community?

After delivering three great seasons to NBC, Community’s showrunner Dan Harmon was fired by the network. The backstage drama of the show affected its future at the network as new showrunners were brought in for Season 4. Ratings were never in the show’s favour but the critics and fans, who had supported the show through the first three seasons, rejected the show in Season 4. Thus, the new showrunners were fired and Dan was brought back for Season 5.

By this time, the Russo Brothers, who were one of the show’s co-producers and often directed some of the episodes had also left the series to direct Marvel movies.

After Season 5, Community was cancelled by NBC but in a surprise move, the show was taken in by Yahoo! Screen for sixth season. While the episodes weren’t exactly bad, the platform was so obscure that the show just went into oblivion. Community wasn’t cancelled by them but the show was never renewed, and Yahoo! Screen also ceased to exist.

Since then, there have been a lot of chatter about a movie for Community as the show’s supporters have been chanting ‘Six seasons and a movie’ for almost six years now. Many of the show’s cast members and the creators have never shut that door but it looks like there will be a long wait before we hear anything substantial in that department.

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Community is streaming on SonyLIV.

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