Though low ratings have plagued the show, “Community” challenges and expands what it means to be a sitcom. Plus, it’s hilarious.
By Michelle Criqui, James Madison University
“Community” is a ridiculously hilarious, excessively meta, completely out-of-the-ordinary sitcom that premiered on NBC in the fall of 2009.
From there it set out on a turbulent journey through the dark annals of network television, facing threat after threat of cancellation due to its outrageous nature that was deemed “too weird” for network TV. As the brainchild of eccentric television writer Dan Harmon, whose name you might recognize from the zany Adult Swim show he co-created called “Rick and Morty,” “weird” only begins to cover it.
“Community” takes place at the fictional, highly parodic Greendale Community College, home of the Greendale Human Beings (a truly terrifying mascot that was designed to be gender, race and sex-neutral, but just turned out to be a white morph suit with a creepy smiley face drawn on in black marker).
Greendale is the epitome of dysfunction, with regular paintball wars that destroy the entire school, a dean who spends most of his time deciding which drag outfit to wear and a crazy cast of characters from all walks of life, all just trying to earn a somewhat-adequate college degree.
The show stars Joel McHale (“The Soup”) as disbarred lawyer Jeff Winger, who begrudgingly enrolls at the community college in order to earn a real bachelors degree after getting caught with a fake one. He starts up a Spanish study group in hopes of scoring with young anarchist Britta Perry (played by Gillian Jacobs, star of the new Netflix original “Love”).
Instead, Jeff winds up inadvertently establishing a tight knit group of misfit friends, who come to be known as the infamous Greendale Seven—which is composed of Donald Glover as former jock Troy Barnes, Chevy Chase as disoriented heir Pierce Hawthorne, Alison Brie as go-getter Annie Edison, Danny Pudi as TV-obsessed Abed Nadir and Yvette Nicole-Brown as pious mother Shirley Bennett.
While it never did too well with ratings, “Community” quickly became a cult-favorite among fans during its first few seasons. The show was never one to stick to the traditional sitcom norm, but instead seemed to stray as far from it as possible and forge its own creative path. It took risks that most other sitcoms wouldn’t even dare, such as playing with a variety of different mediums (including a claymation Christmas episode, an episode set inside an 8-bit video game and one dedicated to Dungeons and Dragons). The show also featured random musical numbers and frequently parodied popular movies and TV shows.
Because of its rather unusual nature, “Community” received several warnings from NBC to chill out on the weirdness (excuse my paraphrasing), which the network apparently thought was the reason for the show’s low ratings. Ultimately, “Community” was cancelled for good by NBC at the end of its fifth season.
But if there’s one thing at which today’s internet-powered millennial generation excels, it’s rallying passionately (and loudly) behind the causes they believe in. For months, fans relentlessly protested the cancellation on social media, utilizing the hashtag #SixSeasonsAndAMovie—a reference from the show—to push for the extended life it deserved. Through their efforts, “Community” was finally granted a sixth season on Yahoo! Screen, which premiered in March 2015.
But after the season 6 finale, despite a closing title signposting the updated hashtag #AndAMovie, no official plans have yet been made for a feature film about the beloved Greendale Seven.
Here are some of the top reasons why “Community” needs to hit the big screen ASAP:
It’s Extremely Smart and Excels at Parody
When it comes to parody, “Community” goes above and beyond. From the creation of unique title sequences based on episodes themed around shows and movies such as “Law and Order,” “Glee” and traditional “Wild West” films, to experimenting with different types of media (i.e. claymation, puppets and cartoons), “Community” broke down the barriers of what was known to be the classic, somewhat-one-dimensional sitcom style.
It Has Lovable Characters (and Side-Characters!) That Steal the Show
Along with the Greendale Seven, “Community” features a plethora of hilarious Greendale side-characters, such as the employees of the school—most notably, the flamboyant, cross-dressing Dean Pelton and borderline-psychotic Spanish professor Chang.
But it’s the random background students at Greendale that really add a splash of wacky character to the entire school. Mouth-breathing Garrett, awkward dance major Vicky, drug-dealing Starburns and the ancient, always-present Leonard make for amazing, side-splittingly hilarious moments of interaction between them and the main cast.
It Brings Together a Large, Loving Fanbase
The show has inspired countless discussions on fan forums and social media, and even entire conventions dedicated to the fandom. “Community” fosters an atmosphere of acceptance for all, and the banding together of underdogs as they figure out their place in the world—together.
Help the cause! Use the hashtag #AndAMovie on all of your social media. Until “Community” gets the film adaptation it—and the world—so rightfully deserves, fans of this kooky, all-accepting community college will continue to rally behind it, showing again and again that even the underdog can come out on top.