Friday, January 18, 2013

All Hail ... Community!

Happy New Year, TV Tourists!  It's been a while but I'm back and ready to talk about what's on, what's new and what I think is worth watching.

To kick things off, I am happy to say I have become a true and dedicated fan of (drum roll, please ...):

What a gem of a show this is.  I had heard about it for years.  Fans adamant about how great it is.  Critics who love it.  And the subsequent struggles it has had to find ratings success and ultimately continued life on NBC.  It's been away for a while and, after the shocking departure of creator Dan Harmon and an uncertain future of its fourth season - plus a possible exile to Friday nights - the show is at last returning to Thursdays starting Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. 

The long break has allotted me the chance to borrow a friend's DVDs of all three previous seasons, and though it took a couple of episodes to get into it, I am now a bonafide fan.  It's weird, quirky, out-of-the-box, filled with "what the ...?" moments, and a consistent laugh riot.

That's not to say it's for everyone.  If you love and appreciate TV, it's for you, being that the show often dedicates episodes to specific television staples - the "bottle" episode (one that features only the regular cast, not guest stars), the "flashback" episode, the "alternate timeline" episode, etc.  But Community goes further, often paying tribute to other show formats:  the did a Law & Order episode, a documentary episode, an episode reminiscent of old historical films (including action stills), and more.  Dan Harmon's imagination seems limitless and he clearly is a fan of pop culture, so it will be curious to see what the show is like without their master at the helm.

The lowdown:
Community follows the antics and adventures of a tight-knit study group at fictional Greendale Community College. Unofficial leader of the group is Jeff Winger (Joel McHale, who's snarky brilliance can also be enjoyed on E's The Soup), a fast-talking, narcissistic, self-centered ex-lawyer who is forced to return to college after the discovery that he conned his way through college and law school. 

The rest of the study group - formed when all were struggling through Spanish together - includes  Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World), a 20-something dropout with something to prove; Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown, Rules of Engagement), a sassy, middle-aged divorcee; Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi, Greek), a pop-culture junkie and aspiring filmmaker; Annie Edison (Alison Brie, Mad Men), a high-strung perfectionist and recovered addict; Troy Barnes (Donald Glover, 30 Rock), a former high school football star; and Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase, Chuck, Saturday Night Live), an offensive moist towlette empire heir with no edit button.

Also featured are Ken Jeong (The Hangover) as Ben Chang, the group’s former Spanish professor-turned student-turned security guard, and Jim Rash (That '70s Show) as Greendale's Dean Pelton, an ultra-efficient yet slightly neurotic administrator whose penchant for dressing in costume is a regular visual joke on the show.

Series highlights include two elaborate, all-encompassing paintball wars, the construction of a fantastical blanket fort, an ongoing tribute to the popular Doctor Who, the magical travels within Troy and Abed's "Dreamatorium", and the cast of characters themselves.

As I said, not everyone is going to get the comedy and point-of-view of Community, but for those that love the strange and unusual, appreciate storytelling from those that clearly march to their own drummer, love pop culture and television and yearn for a wild, crazy, off-kilter and hilarious ride, then this is a show for you.

Bottom line:  Enroll today to catch this delightfully quirky comedy.

Community seasons 1-3 now available on DVD.  Season 4 returns Thursday, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. on NBC.

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