TV Review: Why You (And Everyone Else) Should Watch Community

TV Review: Why You (And Everyone Else) Should Watch Community

Melinda Reed, Editor-in-Chief

Some television is exceptional in its ubiquitousness. Take Friends, for example, or How I Met Your Mother, shows which I’d argue are just different versions of the same thing. Both have managed to make a home in the consciousness of our generation. They’re shows that tell us they’re relatable but really aren’t, each featuring a group of twenty-somethings just trying to make it in this crazy world. Don’t get me wrong- as a fan of both, I see the appeal of a heartwarming, occasionally sad, always comforting sitcom like Friends and How I Met Your Mother. That’s what makes them so universal. 

And then there are other shows. By other shows, I mean NBC’s Community, which aired from 2009 to 2015, and accumulated a small but devoted following over its six seasons. Under constant threat of cancellation, Community lived as if every episode might be its last- a mentality that produced a chaotic, hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking series unlike anything else. Its real-life underdog story only serves to strengthen the underdog tale at the heart of the show.

The sitcom focuses on former lawyer Jeff Winger, who gets fired from his job when his employer finds out his undergraduate degree was faked. He turns to the nearby Greendale Community College for an easy four-year degree and falls into a group of misfits.

This is where Friends and Community diverge. 

Unlike the TV darling of the nineties, which featured a talented yet homogeneous cast, Community‘s central characters are actually misfits, people rejected by society or loved ones and forced to find their future at a school that once gave a degree to a dog. There’s Pierce (played, for better or for worse, by the legendary Chevy Chase), a seven-times divorced retiree; Shirley, a deeply religious housewife whose life is upended when her husband cheats; Annie, a determined overachiever and former pill addict; Britta, a high school dropout turned anarchist turned activist; Troy, a high school football star with few brain cells but lots of heart; and Abed, a film-obsessed student with Asperger’s. Jeff, in his very ordinariness and coolness, is the only outlier here. 

Like a typical sitcom Lothario, Jeff sets his sights on winning over a girl- in this case, Britta. He forms a Spanish class study group as a ploy to spend time with her and instead ends up finding a family, and a home, at the bizarre Greendale. Spanish teacher Señor Chang (played brilliantly by The Hangover‘s Ken Jeong), dean of the school Craig Pelton (Jim Rash), psychology professor Ian Duncan (Last Week Tonight‘s John Oliver), and a dozen other chaotic individuals make up the rest of the college’s population. 

I would say that everyone should watch it, and everyone will like it, but that’s just not true. I share a very similar sense of humor with my mother, who appreciated the show but ultimately called it “inane.” She’s not the only one who didn’t find it fit her taste- neither did NBC audiences from 2009 to 2015.

But if you’re one of the people who likes Community, chances are, you’ll love it. It manages to combine the humor of Arrested Development with the warmth of Parks and Recreation, plus a beast of chaos and whimsy and weirdness that is entirely its own. 

At the end of the day, the show rarely sacrifices humor for emotion or vice versa. It features a well-rounded, lovable character with Asperger’s, but never leans towards preachy, and treats its diverse cast as normal rather than expecting a pat on the back for featuring any people of color at all (looking at you, Disney). 

Whether you watch it for distraction, pop culture references, a pre-fame Donald Glover/Childish Gambino, wonderful character development, the messy, unpredictable romances- of which there are many- or the joy of a well made homage to movies of every genre, it’s worth it. 

So go watch it. Or, if I’ve once again missed the memo and everyone’s seen it, go rewatch it. After all this time, Community deserves some love.

Where to Find It: Netflix, Hulu

Episodes to Start With:

Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Season 1, Episode 4: Social Psychology

Season 1, Episode 7: Introduction to Statistics

Season 1, Episode 9: Debate 109

Season 2, Episode 17: Intro to Political Science

Or, if you’re a normal person, just watch the episodes in order.