Whilst Flying to and from Vancouver last week I decided to spend a little more time, via the seatback screen in front of me, with the NBC show Community. Talk about a captive audience – I’d have gone so far as to watch Scrubs if that’s all they’d had. Sure, Air Canada also offered Nurse Jackie and the BBC’s brilliant Sherlock revival, but I'd already seen and loved every single episode of both those series. So it was either watch Community or switch over to the movie channel where i had the pick of the cinematic litter. If the pregnant dog in question had given birth to 27 French language films and the Green Hornet. So, yeah, Community won by a nose. Pinocchio's nose.
A Talk Soup fan since the Kinnear era, I knew of Joel McHale so made sure to tune in two years ago when the Community pilot debuted - but hadn't watched it since. Not that the show's debut was bad. Far from it. It just wasn't especially... memorable. My Attention drifted elsewhere (as it's prone to do 246 times a day) and the halls of Greendale Community College were quickly forgotten. Eight days after my return from British Columbia I'm glad that, somewhere high over Kamloops, I was forced to re-enroll.
Over the last two years the show has come a very long way. It’s known for the simultaneously loveable and detestable characters, clever plotlines, recurring jokes, guest stars and overall silly style - to the point where Community has amassed, and is beloved to, a considerable cult following. The best example of this might be the now famous “Library Rap” where Abed and Troy bust a catchy rhyme en Español which was originally just intended as one of the short, standalone clips they feature at the end of every episode during the credits. Episode #2 in this case. It’s taken on a life of its own and probably been many people’s first introduction to the show.
“My name is T-Bone, the Disco Spider.”
The lyrics make a little more sense once you realize the almighty Ken Jeong plays their inept and quite possibly sociopathic Spanish teacher. Thanks to a skirmish with strep throat, and Netflix Instant, I'm now all the way through the first season - and incredibly impressed. My fruitfly-esque attention span held fast for the 25 episode duration and I'm about to dig in to season two.
Another reason I decided to kick the tires on Community one more time is the involvement of multi-talented Donald Glover. Last summer I read about and then saw a movie which I went on to word-of-mouth to anyone who would listen. To some of my older relatives' chagrin those pressed violently into watching the hilarious Mystery Team included several cousins in the 11-14 age range. So That's one way to get out of ever babysitting again. Since iPhone batteries last about as long as an Altoid, I'd better get right down to the summary.
Mystery Team (starring Glover who helped write, score and produce the flick at the kinda-sorta tender age of 27 if you’re looking for my point,) is a raunchy, yet refreshingly original, film about a collective of once-almost-famous boy detectives who are now seniors in high school. They’re stuck dwelling on the lost-hamster-finding and apple-pie-windowsill-theft-culprit-apprehending glories of yesteryear while being left behind and ridiculed by their peers, parents and basically anyone else who happens to cross their path. Exhibit A:
“Will work for Fruit Rollups.”
The opportunity to solve a murder arises and team leader Jason (Glover), inspires the others to forget about college admissions for one last summer and prove their detective skills to anyone who thinks they're a complete joke – which is everyone. A fantastic premise put to film by Glover and the rest of his Derrick Comedy troupe who you’ll even see pop up in bit parts on Community now and then – It’s good to see he’s taking care of his boys. You'll want to keep an eye on this guy – not to pat myself on the back, but to prove a point: the first time I saw Mystery Team I knew this kid was going to be a big star. Now he’s on a hit sitcom, has at least 2 big budget studio films in the pipeline and has recorded several actually-really-good rap albums and mixtapes as Childish Gambino. Color me impressed. And seek out Mystery Team.
So - that makes it all the more convenient that Glover, alongside Joel McHale and Chevy fricking Chase, is now one of the best things about Community. His character, Troy, is inseparable from Abed - a lovable East Indian with an inexhaustible font of movie and tv references who also suffers from Asperger's. If you don't already see the unbelievable potential for comedy in that last sentence alone, you’re in luck… as Scrubs is currently in syndication on more channels than my poor brain can fathom.
Let's get back to Chevy for a second. He plays former moist towelette tycoon Pierce - an over-the-hill, racist, inappropriate and narcissistic buffoon who is only attending the college to... actually, it’s never quite explained. Chevy took a long show business hiatus after a disastrous foray into talk show hosting and I am beyond glad that he has another hit and won't forever be remembered as wrapping up a great career with an embarrassing failure. Having said that, I've also just reminded everyone that he had a disastrous foray into talk show hosting and almost ended his career with a devastating defeat which comedians continue to beat to death to this day. Dammit, Dave – inside voice! Sorry, Chevy. I meant well and you're the man. Again.
Wow – I’m all over the place today. Back to McHale again who plays main protagonist Jeff Winger, a self-absorbed, wiseacre and debarred lawyer who becomes the Spanish study group's de facto leader. After 5 side-splitting Soup seasons he definitely deserved a shot at leading man status and plays the role to a 't'. His relationship with classmate Britta, played by Gillian Jacobs, is reminiscent of Sam and Diane to say the least - and Abed even references this fact specifically. But then, that's what Abed does – he literally likens nearly every event in his life to a meta pop culture reference. Sounds eerily familiar...
In addition to the casting and my kindred spirit, Abed, what sets this show apart for me is it's undeniable heart. Several years ago, during the heyday of Trailer Park Boys, I wrote
very extensively about that show for the same reason. All of Community’s characters, from the sweet bible-thumper Shirley to the formerly Adderall-addicted Annie, care about each other deeply. It's a strange and dysfunctional sitcom family for the ages and I’m a happy new fan.
Now then – I’ve taken up enough of your time and must bid you a fond ‘adieu’. I must also bid you "do yourself a favor and watch a few episodes of Community on Netflix". They're only 22 minutes long, now that the commercials have been removed, and you'll have a better weekend for it. On the off chance you don't have Netflix Instant yet, there will be no "bidding" whatsoever. It's only $9 a month and awesome. Pull your thumb out and sign up now.