As every ardent fan of the show knows, Community is a sitcom unlike any other. Billed as an ensemble comedy when it first debuted on NBC in 2009, the show’s fondness for parody, pop culture and meta-humor has set it apart from standard comedic fare and has earned the show a cult following. The critically acclaimed series is known for its heart too. Centered on a group of misfits who form friendships while attending a community college, the show’s underlying message is simple: Life is better when you’re connected to other people.
Community was created by writer and producer Dan Harmon, who based the show on his own experiences with a study group at a community college. The quality of Harmon’s writing and his original approach to the series helped convince comic heavyweights Joel McHale and Chevy Chase to join the cast. Actors Alison Brie, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover and Yvette Nicole Brown were brought on board to round out the college study group. The show is gearing up to enter its sixth season, and viewers can watch Community online to catch up on the show’s episodes.
Plotting the Right Course
Suspended from his law firm for lying about having a bachelor’s degree, lawyer Jeff Winger—portrayed by Joel McHale—enrolls at Greendale Community College with the belief that he’ll breeze through the courses he needs to earn his diploma and return to his life as an attorney. Winger becomes the reluctant leader of a study group filled with eccentric characters, including a millionaire, a single mother, a community activist and a film student.
Winger’s developing relationships with the group members drive the show’s imaginative plot lines. Over time, he slowly learns that his selfish ambitions are less important than his connection to the greater community. For the most part, Community’s show runners have resisted the temptation to pair up characters romantically for the long term. Friendship is always presented as the relationship with the highest value.
Cast and Characters
Although Joel McHale plays the leader of Community’s intrepid band of misfits to perfection, it’s the show’s quirkiest characters that often garner the most attention. When it comes to the study group, socially challenged Abed Nadi—portrayed by Danny Pudi—is a fan favorite. The lovable but emotionally unconnected film student frequently involves the rest of the group in elaborate film and television parodies to communicate his point of view. Gillian Jacobs plays Britta Perry, a well-meaning woman who is coming to grips with the fact that she as not as smart and sophisticated as she thinks she is.
As Shirley Bennet, Yvette Nicole Brown portrays a single mother with a finely defined view of morality and religion. Her determination to present herself as a loving, cheerful person is often undermined by her hot temper. Annie Edison—portrayed by Alison Brie—is an over-achiever, a young student whose compulsions and obsessions frequently thwart her attempts to be accepted and admired by the group. Chevy Chase as millionaire Pierce Hawthorne and Donald Glover as ex-high school athlete Troy Barnes started the series in the main cast category but became just recurring characters during the fifth season.
Characters outside the study group include the mentally imbalanced Ben Chang, played by Ken Jeong of The Hangover film franchise, whose antics send the cast on outlandish adventures and the costume-wearing Dean Craig Pelton, portrayed by Jim Rash, whose crush on Jeff Winger is a constant source of comedy.
Humor with a Twist
Most of Community’s episodes have titles that sound like college courses, but the show’s success has little to do with the traditional college experience. Community is best known for its tongue-in-cheek approach to modern comedy. Viewers are more likely to hear a joke that makes fun of other jokes than a standard set-up and punch line. Sometimes entire episodes are devoted to parodying another television show or film. Whether it’s a thematic episode that spoofs popular sci-fi or a full half hour of stop-motion animation, the show breaks the boundaries of conventional comedies.
Critical Acclaim for Community
Critics have praised Community for its originality, skillful acting and smart writing. When it premiered in 2009, many reviewers called the series the best new show of the season. Community won the Best Comedy Series award at the 2012 Critics’ Choice Television Awards. The same year, Entertainment Weekly listed the show as among the 25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years. While acclaim for the show has continued through every season, there’s no denying that the show’s loyal fans are now its biggest supporters.
Six Seasons and a Movie
Early in the Community series, Abed dressed as a character from a new NBC superhero drama series called The Cape. When Jeff told him that The Cape wouldn’t last three weeks, Abed responded, “Six seasons and a movie!” As the cult following for Community grew, fans took up Abed’s retort as a rallying cry to keep the show on the air. Now entering its sixth season, Community has proved its lasting appeal. According to executives at Sony Pictures Television, plans to make a movie based on the show are underway as well. The fact that viewers can now watch Community online is testament to the power of the community of fans who support the show.