Lately I’ve had a lot of conversation about exactly when Community got to be so good. It started out well, but since then, it somehow became the whole point of NBC’s Thursday comedy lineup. Looking back, I see that I gave it a good, but not gushing, review for the pilot. And it didn’t crack my year-end “Best of” list, which is absolutely appalling. So it’s time to rectify those mistakes with a re-review, and maybe we can pinpoint when it got awesome.
Community distinguished itself early on by being a meta-comedy. Not in the “breaking the fourth wall” sense, but more in the sense of being genre-savvy. In the Halloween episode, the characters understand that what’s happening is very similar to a zombie movie and that the established rules will probably apply. (Abed to Troy: “Be the first Black guy to make it to the end.”) In the best possible way, it reminds me of a live-action Simpsons. There are jokes layered on top of jokes, parodies that come and go, and the idea that satire can still have an emotional component to it. Just because the climax of a recent episode was staged like a Passion of the Christ parody didn’t mean that there weren’t real stakes for Abed and Shirley. And like The Simpsons, Community can be audacious in its storytelling. The recent “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” had a secret night school, a man whose name may or may not be “Professor Professorson”, a massive blanket fort, and a payoff that involved multiple staged shootings and emotional breakdowns. There’s no other comedy on network TV that would have even attempted something so far over-the-top, but Community not only went over, but they stuck the landing and delivered one of the best single episodes of the year.