Friday, October 7, 2011

TV Review: Community (season 2)

There are many sitcoms on TV that are watched by gazillions of people. The "reboot" of Two and A Half Men is one and so is The Big Bang Theory and they're both two shows made by the same creator, broadcast by the same old TV network that doesn't really care how funny are these shows as long as they have a laugh track. An interesting note about these shows are that they're mediocre or if you wish to exagerrate "terrible" by any half of the masses because most of the jokes aren't funny or many episodes had never had the courage of trying anything new and many are wondering why are they so popular in the first place.

Enter shows such as Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm and It's Always Sunny. They're all shows well known to many people who likes their television to be smart, sophisticated and stretchly made. But they're not watched by many people because unless you're in charge of Arrested Development, it's on cable and viewers are afraid to be charged a few dollars a month for watching a show that is profound and groundbreaking. Arrested Development won a few Emmys and have never gained an audience it deserves from the critical acclaim. So all of these shows have their own niches. They're never made to be niche, but they are forced to if network executives cannot understand the appeal of television with the beliefs that you're staring for hours of a show you've made no decision whether or not you'll watch.

There's a reason why Community exist. There need to be a sitcom with a great emphasis of the word 'meta' or in this case a show that rely on self-referential humor at all times.

Community may join forces with Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, and The Office as the modern comedies of our time. What makes the season season of the show worth your time would be a lot in explaining and justifying. This is streets ahead of the first and is streets ahead than any other shows airing at the moment.

It all starts like every sitcom after their first season where they basically do whatever they want but after the final episode at the last season where Jeff (Joel McHale) declares her love for Britta (Gillian Jacobs) but then kisses Annie (Alison Brie) at the end. Troy (Donald Glover) is living with Pierce (Chevy Chase) while Abed and Shirley... are doing what they usually do. They play nice and being meta (for Abed of course). Will Jeff and Britta fall in love again? Who's the father of Shirley's baby? What happens when Troy meets Levar in person? Why is Annie chloroforming a janitor and will Abed succeed in his... ahem... dinner with Jeff?

Rarely have I seen a sitcom that does something big and smart, build hilarity out of it and still cared about its main aim on driving plot and developing its characters. That is what Community has been doing. The second season includes many episodes that are homages and spoofs of many genres of many mediums in pop culture.  Here's a list of them:

1. A Christmas claymation. (Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas)
2. A party where everybody literally turns into zombies. (Epidermology)
3. Two paintball episodes featuring a spaghetti western and a Star Wars parody (A Fistful of Paintballs and A Few Paintballs More)
4. My Dinner With Andre  (Critical Film Studies)
5. An Apollo 13 homage (Basic Rocket Science)
6. A movie in which Jesus is the camera (Messaic Myths and Ancient People)
7. One episode parodying the mockumentary format by The Office, Parks and Recreation and Modern Family (Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking)
8. An episode featuring Dungeons and Dragons (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons)
9. A self parody of clip shows and bottle episodes (Paridygms of the Human Memory)

The creator Dan Harmon is doing the kind of style that made Edgar Wright a special filmmaker in the first place. By creating a spoof or homage per episode not only is the execution of doing so is cleverly subtle and ambitious, but the concepts of each episode are heavily stretched to all ends of the mass spectrum of all which anybody would understand and enjoy.

But the season had been a dramatic look at being left out and trying to become what they're supposed to be. Where the first season was about misfits trying to improve their lives, one character is going directly the opposite. And that is Pierce. In several episodes, he intendedly lose his naiveness he had in the last season and become the major antagonist of the show. It's in a world where he is matched with the old insult "you are a sad old man" because he's completely lost and cannot keep track with the group. He takes it so seriously that they has no choice but to evict him. The final minutes of the last season reveals his deservingly sad outcome and his motivations into being such an asshole which you may or may not be sympathetic.

The show still kept its aim of the characters being a whole new person. Donald Glover delivers what should've been a Emmy nominated performance as Troy because from one episode he evolves to a responsible and good-spirited man after being a self-centred, dumb high school dropout in the first season. His friendship with Abed is very enjoyable because it is the centre of Troy's development as a character.

Speaking of Abed, this is the season where he had his Uncontrollable Christmas, a movie where he plays Jesus yet he directs his film and doesn't star in it, and his dinner with Jeff. In here, it's where the show reaches its highest points. With those, he shows how the best character of a sitcom can be weird but at the same time emotionally endearing and Danny Pudi is at his best here maintaining his character's great ability to be meta and become relatable to the viewer.

The rest of the cast as usual are awesome and they bring great performances right onto the paper with the stars more likely to get bigger fame from the show especially for Joel McHale as the deadpan Jeff Winger whose talent would be recognised by Hollywood similar to how Jason Bateman had his time after being in Arrested Development. Alison Brie, Gillian Jacobs are at their hottest (no offence) and funniest while Ken Jeong does his usual over-the-top routine as the exile Chang.

What the show does best is that they are so inspired through all aspects of each episodes. The writing, acting and direction are phenomenal and innovative above all television standards and their treatment to nerd culture is very gentle and smart. It streets ahead of Big Bang Theory in every detail and yet people would never sit to watch this sparkling gem yet watched the former. For the masses, it'll either be one of the greatest sitcoms of all time or a sitcom that has a reputation of spouting pop culture references and being meta.

Community is currently the most underrated sitcom on TV. I was disappointed that the Emmy voters had snubbed this fantastic show for the ones that are mediocre like The Big Bang Theory and Glee this year and I hope they will be nominated next year. Everybody, this is a must see. (or in this case this is the DVD, a must buy.)

Best Episodes:

1. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
2. Paridigms of the Human Memory
3. A Fistful of Paintballs / A Few Paintballs More
4. The Psychology of Letting Go
5. Messaic Myths and Ancient People
6. Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking
7. Anthropology 101

1 comment:

  1. Terrific review, Adrian. Community is without a doubt, the best comedy show on TV, and deserves to be watched by more people than Two and a Half Men gets.