There are two types of people in the world: those who are obsessed with Community, and those who have never seen it
There are some TV shows that are never massive ratings hits when they are on the air, but slowly foster an army of devoted fans. TV shows that aren’t just stuff to gawk at as you eat dinner, but dense, masterfully constructed episodes of television to be watched and rewatched and dissected and obsessed over.
Community is one of those shows. It flirted with cancellation several times during its six season run, but the list of talent who worked on it and went on to big things is pretty incredible. It launched the careers of Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) and Alison Brie (star of Netflix’s GLOW). Creator Dan Harmon is now best known as the co-creator of Rick and Morty. Gillian Jacobs went on to star in Love on Netflix, John Olivier is now arguably America’s biggest name satirist, and Jim Rash even won an Oscar for The Descendants.
On paper, it seems like a pretty standard ensemble sitcom – seven strangers from various walks of life attend community college, and end up forming a studying group together. And for a lot of the first season, it kind of is, albeit one with an absolutely brilliant cast.
But once Dan Harmon and his team of writers really hit their stride, towards the end of season one. You know how sometimes shows will do a gimmick episode, like ’22 Short Films About Springfield’, or the flashback episodes of Friends, or Breaking Bad’s ‘Fly’? Nearly every episode is like that. Episodes consistently bust out of the standard sitcom format, twisting what is possible with a network comedy.
There are musical episodes, mockumentary episodes, stop-motion animation episodes, Dungeon and Dragons episodes, and elaborate film-parody episodes. There are episodes based on chaos theory, and episodes that turn into GI Joe cartoons. There’s really never been a show quite like it.
Maybe the best example is ‘Modern Warfare’, the twenty-third episode of season one. What starts out as a paintball tournament at the college turns into an absolutely pitch-perfect spoof of action movies, riffing on the likes of Terminator Die Hard and Rambo. It is even directed by The Fast and The Furious’ Justin Lin.
And the show only gets better from there.
Most of Community has now been upload to All4, and is free to watch. Strangely, seasons four and five seem to be missing, but the second and third seasons are where the real gold is. And we advise you to get stuck in.