COMMUNITY is undeniably streets ahead. If you want to know what the fuss is all about, and the furor and the hullabaloo, then you ought to give COMMUNITY a try. While the season's first half is mostly the show trying to get its sea legs - and so there are episodes which are a bit shaky - press on, sir, and you'll get to the turnaround. From the Christmas episode on, COMMUNITY picks up momentum and begins to consistently knock it out the park. Except, even before that, there were already glimmers of awesome. Like Troy and Abed's Spanish rap to close out the second episode ("Spanish 101") or Vaughn's song, "Gettin' Rid of Britta" ("Home Economics"), or Abed dressed up as Batman in the Halloween episode ("Introduction to Statistics").
Even though the show is about a, well, community of people of all ages and from all walks of life attending community college, our point-of-view character is initially Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), a smug lawyer who was disallowed from plying his craft when the state bar learned that his law degree is from Colombia instead of Columbia. So he's forced to enroll in Greendale Community College. This show is as much about Jeff Winger's redemption from a shady counselor who is endlessly manipulative to a better human being (who, okay, is still pretty manipulative). Thru Jeff - who establishes a fake Spanish study group so that he can chat up pretty fellow student Britta (Jillian Jacobs) - we meet the rest of the diverse cast.
I like me the unapologetic snark, and COMMUNITY happens not only to shovel in the meta-references, it also parodies everything under the sun, and does it in sharp, wicked ways. But a sense of the ridiculous also infuses the stories, and I love that because I'm down with the goofy stuff as well. It all culminates in the funniest half-hour of television in 2010, the paintball episode "Modern Warfare," a sublime send-up of the action/post-apocalyptic horror genre. This episode also escalates Jeff and Britta's ongoing flirtation to the next level.
I had never heard of any of the actors before, except for Chevy Chase but I warmed up to the cast soon enough. Donald Glover ("Troy") and Danny Pudi ("Abed") in particular just have this very cool chemistry, and they're very funny together. One of the things I look forward to are the closing credit tags which prominently feature Troy and Abed. And while I was on board with the Jeff/Britta thing, the show does throw an excellent plot swerve in the final episode. And the rabid Spanish 101 instructor, Señor Chang, is always good for chuckles. Heck, even Chevy Chase folds neatly into the group.
There are so many terrific episodes, but if I have to highlight a few... There's the Halloween episode "Introduction to Statistics" which has Chevy under the influence and introduces Jeff's hot statistics professor. And also "Debate 109" which pits indifferent debater Jeff against a charismatic disabled opponent. The Christmas episode smiles at re1igion and ends in a free-for-all, all-hands-on-deck scrap. Most of the episodes from then on are pretty gold, including most definitely "Contemporary American Poultry," which satirizes gangster films like GOODFELLAS, and, of course, the awesomely awesome "Modern Warfare." The neat thing is that these actors are frequently called on to be silly and over-the-top, and yet they ground their performances enough that you do end up caring what happens to their characters. Except maybe for Señor Chang. Even Chevy Chase says he's abrasive.
The DVD set isn't stingy with the bonus features:
- Cast & Crew Commentary for each episode
- An Outtake Reel for each disc
- Alternate Scenes from the "Advanced Criminal Law" episode
- "Creative Compromises" - tongue-in-cheek featurette in which show creator Dan Harmon harps on about the creative changes the show's had to make to appease the network executives; oh, that poor Gillian Jacobs (00:02:52 minutes)
- "Season One Cast Evaluations" - Another not-to-be-taken-too-seriously featurette in which Dan Harmon sits each cast member down and evaluates their performances throughout the first season (00:11:41 minutes)
- 3 Mini-Episodes
- Season One Highlight Reel
- Extended Producer's Cut of the "Communication Studies" episode
- The DVD package also comes with the mini comic book, "Kickpuncher," drawn by indie comic book artist Jim Mahfood and supposedly written by Troy Barnes