I didn’t have much in 2010, but for half an hour a week, I had a place to go that wasn’t blistering with fury and hunger and loneliness and poverty. It was a despair cocktail, but thankfully I had two things: a few true friends, and a show that could make me laugh no matter what. The friends I celebrate daily, the show I wrote up to run on or before the 15th. For whatever reason, maybe SxSW, maybe timing, maybe quality, it didn’t. Ah well. Still proud of it.
If you haven’t seen Community, thank you for agreeing to watch its midseason return in your head just now. It’s really, really, ridiculously good. Even its worst moment is stratospheric above the best laugh those other “Derp-de-derp” sitcoms ever wrangled with their rat-tat-tat delivery and their uncanny valley characterization. Give it one good shot, and you’ll either be hooked or hey: you tried, and it wasn’t your thing. What do you have to lose? Twenty minutes and all the laughs you weren’t going to have anyway watching Missing?
Joseph Campbell warned us, but we didn’t listen
Huzzah, friends, huzzah, for Thursday is the most fantastickal day of the year! Oh, all throughout the calendar we wait for Communukah to come again! What is Communukah? Communukah is a celebration held each year when the sitcom Community fulfills its promise to return after Big Bang Theory crucified it in the ratings. What is Community? NBC’s Community follows Jeff Winger, a disgraced lawyer whose zany study group teaches him a little bit of Spanish…and a lot about love. That’s the tagline this show would have on ABC, a network that knows almost as much about comedy as ostriches know about ballet.
Thankfully, Community celebrates everything good about humanity by staring everything bad about us right in the eye. It’s the funniest treatise on friendship since critical favorite The New Nicomachean Ethics of Old Aristotle. The basics
- The show is set in Greendale, a fictional community college in the part of Colorado that looks exactly like southern California.
- It’s the most sincere sitcom alive, but its deconstructionist themes camouflage it among the crap ruling the airwaves.
- Those of us with faith know it will return one day to rule in glory.
Why do we celebrate Communukah? Once a year, the snow giants at NBC gather in their lair and hammer out a new season of Community. Upon its scales they weigh the heart of humanity. If our soul lies heavier than the weight of the world, they give Tim Kring a show to punish us.
But if our heart proves lighter–O, and every year it does!–they send a chubby, bearded elf to spread Communityacross the land to brighten our hearts through the cold, dark months.
Attends Greendale as a quick path to a bachelor’s degree. Jeff’s so self-absorbed his spirit animal is a snake swallowing its own tail, and he thinks personal growth means combing his hair differently. His fast-talking ways triggered puberty two years early when he persuaded his pituitary to cheat, so it’s only at Greendale that he’s grudgingly matured from a slick piece of id into a more acceptable fevered ego.
Greendale’s unwelcome conscience and Jeff’s occasional destiny. They get along great because his apathy and her empathy are equally unhelpful. Even though she’s the kind of blonde leather jackets wear when they want to look cool, Britta is the group’s killjoy, because–hey, that worked for Cheers. She has the kind of tough exterior that only comes from lots of world travel or any amount of pretending you’re over your father issues. She used to be cooler before the writers turned her up to 11.
The show’s Greek chorus, Abed lives in a world bounded by the films and TV shows of Generation Y. He’s only able to express himself in pop culture references, and he probably has Asperger’s. It’s a lot like writing for Cracked, come to think of it.
Shirley is a Christian mother of two whose hobbies are baking brownies and judging others. Like a lot of people who have worked hard only to find herself cheated, she’s very nice but quick to bite. Shirley likes a bit of gossip the way starving bears like a bit of salmon. She’s a beautifully depicted character played by a roaringly funny actress, even if the show did hem her in last season as Judgebot Pregnotron.
Look, I’m trying hard to be respectful here, even though the things I wouldn’t do to this girl fit in a book of etiquette. Okay, deep breaths. Here we go. Annie landed at Greendale after overachieving herself into rehab. When she was born she asked the obstetrician if she could do the delivery over now that she had the hang of it. Despite her perfectionist streak, she’s a shrinking violet who… Who… OH MY GOD, look at her. Miss Brie’s particles exist in perpetual superposition of funny and sexy. If she had never been born, the the internet would be 4% smaller. When you propose to another woman within a 50-mile radius, federal law grants her right of first refusal. The reason anti-Semitism persists is that people resent the Jews for only making one of her. *cough* Ahem. A wonderful actress. With eyes that could make fog hard. Moving on!
First and foremost, Donald Glover can do anything. I once saw him rap in a part of Queens so desolate even the roaches commute there, and he still packed the club. So although Troy was supposed to be a dumb jock, Glover wrapped the character in a cocoon of exuberant geekery, and out stepped an iridescent butterfly named Character Development. If that image is so goddamn fucking beautiful it makes you weep, you’re in good company; Troy doesn’t handle pressure well, because comedy gave Glover the gift of crying.
He exists mostly as a grim warning to Jeff that we all die empty-handed and alone, which is perfect for Chevy Chase’s brand of slapstick comedy. Pierce is cranky because the moment old people settle down to enjoy wealth, health, and loved ones, at least two of those cease to exist. This old man’s daily existence is a struggle to convince his best friends he’s in the room, and if it’s a really good day, not mock him for thinking he had something to contribute.
Senor Chang is the group’s maniacal Spanish teacher. Is there anyone more welcome at your barbecue than Ken Jeong? He even brings swagger to the hapless comedies Judd Apatow gently queefs out. Amazingly, none of his tiny-souled egomaniacs are the same personality by a different name. Yes, Ken Jeong is to humor what deep-frying is to food. Here in Community, he gnashes his fangs in the tender meat of a story about friendship–but for all his hard work, what channel are youreyeballs on, Mr. & Mrs. Nielsen? Watching foul-mouthed Jerseyites run a hair salon on Bravo, no doubt. When the next civil war comes, it won’t be geographic or political; it’ll be reality TV vs. people who can feel things.
He’s a pretty good dean for a pansexual twerp. He legitimately cares about the school: a weakness the students do not forgive.
What’s a way of saying “A wacky cast of lovable oddballs” that doesn’t make you want to firebomb a Hollywood sushi joint at power-lunchtime? Oh yes: talented background cast.
This program is a cult hit with an army of ultraloyal devotees. Too bad times have changed, and cults can’t hack it anymore. If faithful viewers really want to see Community prosper, we’re going to have to make it a religion. I, for one, am ready to make that leap for four major reasons.
1) Community teaches the same values of the major religions:love, hope, happiness, forgiveness, morality, charity, and badgering other people to join your passion. Things won’t be that different, except good TV dispenses joy in 30 minutes or less, rather than withholding its rewards beyond the grave. Shoot, you get yourself a pizza and a good dame to throw your arm around, that’s all the Heaven any man needs.
2) Community fans already look at non-fans as spiritually malnourished. There’s a degree of respect among high-ranking religions, even though they hold irreconciliable divine truths. For most sects, it doesn’t matter what non-members believe, as long as they believe something. Similarly, Community‘s not going to be for everyone. But the overlooked point is that it doesn’t matter whether some people love the show while others probably stomp puppies. We who have accepted Community into our hearts know that there is room for difference of opinion. But for those too busy with worthless pursuits like reading or practicing an instrument, we can gently shake our heads and say, “Oh, you don’t watch any TV?” with a note of pity. Their lives are meaningless without wonderful stories to contemplate.
3) If Community is a religion, the show will become perfect. Very few religions admit to ignorance, though a few will shrug thornier issues off as joyful mysteries. Community can use this to justify any mistake as part of producer Dan Harmon’s larger plan. Boom: TV’s first flawless sitcom. Did Pierce deteriorate into a villain, or was he trying to process his mother’s death? Why delve that deep? It’s easy to resolve when you know it was simply a test of our faith in the show! Don’t fret, my lambs; just let the show wash over your brain like the foamy morning tide.
4) The show’s actions never contradict its message. Community has never claimed moral authority while shuffling child molesters into unsuspecting audiences; never seized another TV show’s studio because its ancestors had a set there thousands of years ago; never convinced its viewers their daughters’ lives were worth less than the family’s honor. In fact, the only thing Community does outside of be funny and make me want to take Miss Jacobs to a garden party is raise money for needy kids.
5) It will have the same soothing effect as prayer. I admit to bias. Like most religious converts, I was at my lowest point when Community found me. But it didn’t threaten to cure this special thing booze and I have going, or dust my eyes with fantastic promises and tell me I was special. Instead, it talked about civil responsibility. We may not like everyone in our group, it said, but we take care of each other. For a show that spits pop-culture references like Eminem on fast-forward, it has a heartfelt message: If you sow the earth with kindness and light, you’ll reap some for yourself. Or else it’s something about accepting Furries for who they are. Who cares what the message is? I can’t be bothered to learn about the things that I love when they’re just going to leave me.
Either way, this show came along when I needed laughter more than air, so I’m tithing my pay for this column to Community‘s preferred charity, The Cal State Fullerton Philanthropic Foundation. It’s not much (I get paid by the laugh), so for each writer, producer, or cast member that tweets the link to this article, I’ll add another $25. Consider making a donation in the show’s name if you think it’s legitimate art, or if you don’t hate children. If religion is the opiate of the masses, Community is a shot of laughter with a civics chaser, and you should give it a gulp. Community reminds us that the world is strange, but human values will carry us over uncertain tides.
And that’s why I’m proud to call myself a Communist! …Hmmm, okay, the name still needs work.
Brendan McGinley was voted out of the group.