Quite often, Facebook feeds reference a little-known show called Community, praising its quirky style, clamouring for its survival in the competitive world of U.S. network television and dismissing the top brass at its American distributor NBC Television for its infamously poor-handling of its time slots. What’s all the fuss about?
After a solid year of seeing some close friends glorify it to the extreme, I decided to give it a go, while in search of something amusing to keep me ticking over in the midst of the doom and gloom of post-undergraduate unemployment. Truth be told, I wasn’t impressed straight away. The first handful of episodes complies with the standard formula of misfit characters, will-they-won’t-they romances, zany plots and heart-warming developments. I concluded that while it’s entertaining enough, it hardly warrants actual protests and massive online petitions to ensure that it doesn’t get cancelled (which many fans worried it would after it was put on hiatus).
However, after that first smattering of episodes, I noticed a sharp change in the atmosphere of the show as its sense of humour and purpose changed from the usual college antics, metamorphosing into a huge, sweeping critical examination of storytelling tropes and cliches. While the ever-charismatic Jeff Winger (a handsome lawyer who is disbarred following the revelation that he never completed his Bachelor’s Degree) and his efforts to snooze his way through the easiest college course he can find are still the central focus of the show, it’s the dynamic created by Abed Nadir that drives the success of the show. Abed exists on a plane entirely different (some would say BETTER) than our own, as he relates all of life’s challenges, relationships and idiosyncrasies to those he finds in popular culture with results ranging from psychotic to gleefully heart-warming. He really is one of the most dramatically innovative characters in television today, helping the viewers to recognise how culture-soaked our generation has become.
That’s not speak ill of the other characters, who all rise above their assigned tropes and evolve into other ingredients in what makes the show so special. Jeff, Shirley, Annie, Troy, Britta, the often-villainous Pierce and the (literally) prophetic Abed all add up to form one of the most three-dimensional dynamics ever seen in a sitcom. Over the course of its three seasons, the plots range from the simplicity of the study group trying to cheer up their Japanese-American Spanish teacher so that he’ll go easier on them with assignments, to epic two-day themed paintball tournaments that span the entirety of the university campus with a cash prize of $200,000, and characters making wicked alliances and forming devilish plots that end up with the future of Greendale College in jeopardy.
The aforementioned behind-the-scenes difficulties the show has had to face deal primarily with NBC and its baffling indecisiveness, constantly changing the show’s airtimes and abruptly throwing it into prolonged hiatuses. At the close of the third season, showrunner Dan Harmon was given the boot, much to the chagrin of fans. It was generally assumed however, that NBC was at least trying to save the series in whatever way they thought was best. However, once again, the show has been put on hiatus and won’t air until February 2013. Nevertheless, fans remain resilient and the Twitter hashtag “#sixseasonsandamovie” (created by the fans and referenced in the show) remains relevant as ever. Personally, there are episodes of “Community” I’d happily pay €11.50 plus 3-D glasses to see on the big screen. Here’s to the Greendale Human Beings.
Rob O Conchuir