Every few years, a television show comes along that changes the way we feel about that box in our living rooms. It draws us in, comforts us and speaks to us and to no one else. We laugh at the jokes, foolishly believing that they were written just for us. We tear up when characters we love to hate do something completely unexpected and heartwarming. We root for one character over another, but never for too long. We feel that we have come home.One of those TV shows is Dan Harmon’s meta-comedy Community, created for NBC in 2009. The show is a celebration of pop culture and everything to do with television. It is a comment on the medium, its audience, and on the show itself. Community is being aired on Comedy Central every night at 10.30pm.
The show is about a Spanish study group in the fictional Greendale Community College in the American state Colorado that goes from being a bunch of strangers to a family. The group wins itself the title of the “Greendale 7” and has an extraordinary knack for getting entangled in the most unbelievable scoops and situations.
The Greendale 7 come from different walks of life, but fit together like a misshapen jigsaw puzzle. Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), a lawyer who has lost his license because of his fake degree, has returned to community college. He claims to care about no one but constantly shows up with the perfect speech to saves the group from falling apart. Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) is a passionate and unsuccessfully rebellious former foot model and high school drop-out. She may be the “pizza-burn on the roof of the world’s mouth”, but she never ever gives up and always only expects the best.
Annie Edison (Alison Brie) is the ambitious go-getter who had to leave school because of her addiction to the drug, Adderall. She regularly serves as the moral compass of the group, which is very strange for a character who is often shamelessly selfish. Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown), the very Christian mother of the group, has returned to Community College after her husband cheated on her with a stripper. Pierce Hawthorn (Chevy Chase) is the heir to a moist towelette empire and the resident racist and homophobe of the group.
Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) was a quarterback who had to miss football college recruitments owing to an ill-timed beer-keg-flip injury. He is the one to deliver the big, silly and obvious jokes in a show packed with subtle and nuisance pop culture references and humour. He is one-half of the TV show Troy and Abed in the Morning, and most importantly, Abed Nadir’s best friend.
Abed Nadir is the magical elf-like man who makes the world wonderful just by being in it. He is emotionally and socially awkward, equates situations to TV tropes, patterns and plotlines and takes on various personalities to understand and survive the chaotic world outside his head. Over the course of six seasons, Abed is Batman, God, Brown Jamie Lee Curtis, Han Solo, Donald Draper, Good Cop and Bad Cop, and the Godfather. He is a keen observer of social behaviour, and often breaks the fourth wall, talking to the audience and placing himself inside a TV show. Abed does meta like no one else.
With Community, Dan Harmon seems to have spilled his every single TV fantasy onto the screen. A lot of the TV shows mentioned have never been broadcast in India. While it may not be easy to catch a reference to Saved by the Bel instantly, this never stops the show from being a complete laugh riot in the here and now.
There is an entire episode based on The Godfather Mafia trope. A Christmas episode is produced in stop-motion animation, and a GI Joe episode rendered like a 1980s 2D television cartoon. There are more than one Paintball episodes, including one that takes its cues from action classics such as Rambo, Terminator, Predator and The Matrix. A campus-wide pillow-fight is shot as a documentary and is one of the many unforgettable episodes. The show also references the British sci-fi show Doctor Who as a fictional TV show called Inspector Spacetime that has been on air since the 1960s and therefore will never run out on Abed.
Barring the fourth season, during which Harmon was fired by the producer NBC because it wanted more control over the show (only to bring him back for season 5), Community has created moments, dialogue, scenes and jokes that qualify it as one of the best comedy shows. It has found a vast and passionate following among the nerds/geeks/pop culture enthusiasts or whatever you choose to call TV lovers of all ages across the globe. We choose to call ourselves the #communies and our war cry is #SixSeasonsAndAMovie.