Years ago, there was a minor uproar about the British series “Spaced” being remade across the Atlantic. I guess people took exception to the fact that none of the original brains behind the show were on-board and McG, the man behind “The OC” and that last Terminator abortion, was producing it. In some rare form of Hollywood justice, the show never got remade and we all get to remember the series ending with its dignity forever intact. However, Americans (and to a lesser extent, Canadians) got their own version of pop culture heavy, strangers-become-friends-become-family television in the NBC tv series “Community”, and I’m going to convince you to start watching it, damnit, although I'm certain that I lost everyone who loved Spaced by comparing it to anything.
Why You Haven’t Watched It Yet
I imagine the reason most people haven’t watched any Community is because it’s on at the same time as “The Big Bang Theory”, which is currently the Thursday night juggernaut. Also, NBC’s Thursday night lineup isn’t exactly blowing the ratings out of the water. Following Community is “Parks and Recreation”, which has struggled with ratings, “The Office” which has been bleeding viewers for a while now, and “30 Rock”, which people still don’t watch. NBC’s lineup is sort of like the Tampa Devil Rays pitching staff: they’re probably the best in the league but no one shows up to watch them.
Ease of Access
Other than watching it on actual television on Thursday, 8PM EST (like some technophobic slave to TV Guide), the first season of Community is on Netflix (Canada, at least). The first season is also out there on DVD, with the second coming in early September. There’s no Blu-Ray version yet, which is sort of crummy.
For those of less than admirable scruples, you can find episodes streaming all over the internet. NBC doesn’t seem to give a hoot about taking episodes off Megavideo or Putlocker. Sure, maybe telling people this means I’m taking away ratings from them, but they secretly charged me $15 extra on a shirt I bought from their online store just because I had the audacity to be Canadian.
Why You Should Watch It
Community is willing to take ideas that sound terrible on paper, but end up being stupendous on-screen. There are entire episodes about the cast sitting around a table and playing Dungeons and Dragons, or parodying “My Dinner with Andre” or a stop-motion Christmas special that somehow not only work, but are the best episodes in the series. Then there are high-concept pop culture reference episodes that seem like they’re pandering to the masses, but end up being incredible. If you haven’t heard about the highly praised paintball episode “Modern Warfare”, well then you just don’t read Time magazine. Also, there’s a zombie outbreak episode scored ENTIRELY TO ABBA! WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!!! This approach leads to television that you just won’t see anywhere else.
Why You Shouldn’t Watch It
If you’re watching it because of Ken Jeong (of The Hangover), then you probably have the wrong idea. I personally think he’s the worst part of the show, especially after the first season, although seeing him in Drow paint was sort of incredible.
I’ve also heard that the show is a little smug. I’ll have to take their word for it. I don’t know how a television can be smug.
A lot like Spaced, Community also heavily leans on pop culture references, so if you don’t watch a lot of movies or television, a lot of it will go right over your head. However, that’s not to say you won’t enjoy the episode anyways. I know that an episode was parodying Dead Poets Society (even though at one point they actually talk about Dead Poets Society), but I still thought the fact that an accounting professor was telling people to "jump in a lake, and tell 10 people you love them" for their homework assignment was pretty funny.
Although a pilot episode is meant to convince a bunch of suits to pick up a series, I generally find that the first episode of anything is the worst in the whole series. Although this isn’t exactly true with Community, here are some better episodes to convince you to watch the whole shebang.
“Modern Warfare” – the paintball episode
“Epidemiology 101” – zombie outbreak episode, scored by ABBA
“Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” – conspiracy theory parody
“Debate 109” – there’s a debate competition. Funny happens.
“Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” – See Ken Jeong picture
“It's not a meteor; it's a cookie wand! Me and Jeff made it because it made you look more like the Cookie Crisp wizard, which is not even a reference I get because the Cookie Crisp mascot when I was growing up wasn't a wizard. It was a burglar!”
“When you found out I was Jewish, you invited me to a 'pool party' that turned out to be a baptism”
“Shirley, don’t sue a stripper. Life sued her, and she lost”
“I told Pearce a thousand times, I never wanted to meet Levar Burton! I just wanted a picture! You can’t disappoint a picture!”
"With every passing moment, these puppies grow older and less deserving of our attention."
"In what war is he a criminal? In the battle for our affections."