Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Community" and its Pop-Culture References

I am genuinely surprised that nobody has yet written about the comedy-masterpiece that is Community. The half-hour comedy on NBC is about a group of six eclectic “losers” who attend Greendale Community College and form a study group. Over the course of the series, they become friends and experience highly unconventional college trials and tribulations.

Jeff Winger, played by the handsome Joel McHale (who I had the pleasure of meeting in Los Angeles!) is a “too cool for school” 30-something womanizer who was forced to go back to school after the law-firm that he was working for realized that he had a false degree. Jeff is the character that all of the other characters look up to and respect the most—he is basically the leader.

Britta Perry, portrayed by Gillian Jacobs is a radical feminist who takes any chance she gets to take a stand against “the man” and get her voice heard. From the beginning, there is sexual tension between her and Jeff although mostly she is disturbed by his chauvinistic point of view.

Opposite of Britta, is Annie Edison (Allison Brie) who is a straight out of high school perfectionist. Annie is set out to get the perfect grades and is very susceptible to what people think of her. Annie and Jeff also have some tension between them, which sometimes creates a competitive atmosphere between Annie and Britta.

Then there are the inseparable best friends, Troy Barnes (played by comedian Donald Glover) and Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi). Abed, is a nerdy but sweet film connoisseur whereas Troy is a not so smart ex football player. The have a great dynamic and often create outrageous circumstances for themselves.

The final two of the group are the oldest: Shirley Bennett (played by Yvette Nicole Brown) and Pierce Hawthorne (played by Chevy Chase.) Shirley is the mother of the group, as well of her own children and is usually overbearing with her religious beliefs. Pierce on the other hand is extremely offensive—he is racist, sexist and overall inappropriate. He is very old-fashioned and out of touch with a lot of modern day technology.

The dynamic that all of these characters create is the perfect combination for a brilliant comedy. Not only is the acting and writing magnificent, but the storylines themselves is what sets Community apart from other comedies like Modern Family (which I also love) and Parks & Rec. The writers of Community love to reference pop culture. There are episodes that movies like Pulp Fiction, Dinner with Andre, Die Hard , Space Odyssey and Star Wars. There are also episodes that are homages to western films as well as zombie films. The stories are always very rich.

Here is a clip from "Epidemiology", the episode that is an homage to zombie movies in which everyone at Greendale Community College becomes infected:

The beauty about the writers is that they don’t automatically assume that everyone watching will understand the references. In fact, most of the time they go over my head—however, I still find myself laughing out loud. Understanding the references enhances the show, but it is still enjoyable to those who don’t grasp it.

In order to watch Community and properly enjoy it, there needs to be a suspension of disbelief. Essentially, the world of Community is one in which anything goes and therefore the audience needs to grasp the fact that zombies might exist in one episode and not in the next.

Community is truly a wonderful comedy although it hasn’t been particularly noticed by award shows such as the Emmys. I believe that it is a show that has a little something for everybody, so I recommend it to all who are looking for a laugh.

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