What to Watch While You’re Waiting: Community

This past week, a reunion with the cast of “Community” was announced for May 18th, featuring nearly all of the main cast in a virtual table read of a season five episode. Though the cast has stayed in touch since the show’s cancellation in 2015, the reunion will see them acting once again together in a whole group. The virtual meeting is intended to raise money to benefit the charities “José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen and Frontline Foods, both of which are involved in COVID-19 relief efforts to get fresh, nourishing meals to responders working on the frontlines and vulnerable communities across the country,” according to Variety. The sudden reunion was sparked by the increase of viewership the show received once it was released on Netflix on April 1.

The show was originally about a study group at a community college, but quickly became well-known for outrageous situations as the show bounced between the normal situation comedy to out-of-genre cartoon and stop-motion episodes. Due to the constant self-aware jokes and pop culture references, the show is generally grouped as a show whose comedy is entirely based on quoting and parodying famous movies and tv shows. While their most well-known episodes are based on movies like “Goodfellas,” “Die Hard,” and even spaghetti westerns, the heart of the show is the character’s development. For instance, the character of Abed Nadir gains most of his charm through his quirky perspective of life as a TV show in which he and the other students are the stars, leading to many “meta” jokes about living in a TV show. But his obsession is also revealed to be his only way of connecting to other people since he has difficulties when living with aspergers, fleshing out his character through comedic situations as seen in the episode “Contemporary American Poultry” based on “Goodfellas” and other mafia movies. 

While the situations make the show hilarious, the dialogue also brings the comedy and relatability to the characters. Every episode starts with a conversation between the study group, usually in the study room, that contains several subtle jokes and a discussion that evolves throughout the plot. From there, a new situation arises that forces the realistic setting into an outrageous one, exaggerating the episode’s main focus of a problem like a character’s inability to connect to the rest of the group or the issues of their living situation that caused them to go to community college. The subtlety and importance of the conversations aid with developing the characters in big and small ways that soon makes the audience know almost everything about each character by the end of the show rather than just by the end of one episode like normal sitcoms. 

Of course, the dialogue and development also help the audience forget how realistic the characters are. In most shows, the main characters are typically known for few things and have the basic character traits to be charming on screen. “Community” does fall into this trap, too, especially when the show reached the fifth and sixth season and much of the main cast left or moved on, but the basic premise is that the characters are flawed and loveable just like everyday people. Annie Edison, the smart student whose Adderall-addiction lead to the loss of her dreams of an Ivy League college, can be seen as neurotic and too academically-focused on the surface, but her traits also help in growing up from the highschool girl to the independent and driven woman that has to live on her own after her own mistakes. Similarly, Jeff Winger is self-centered and apathetic, but easily cares about his friends and helping them, giving a motivational speech in nearly every episode to keep the group together and going outside his comfort zone to appease his friends. Though the study group can be too relatable to real people, their complex personalities give more substance and actual heart that fails in other shows.

Between well-written comedic situations and dialogue, the relatable and comedic characters of “Community” deliver an hilarious and heart-felt show that guarantees an escape to a new world. 

Variety.com, Thealtlantic.com