Review: Community 1×1

Heavens. A funny new comedy. Who saw that coming?

Community

In the US: Thursdays, 9.30/8.30c, NBC

Smart comedies are hard to do. So hail to those who try their best to do smart comedies. Even bigger hails to those who manage to achieve it.

But sometimes you need to borrow an old formula to do it. There’s no shame in this if you can make it your own, though, which is what the creators of Community have done.

The name of that formula? Bill Murray.

Plot
It’s been said that community college is a “halfway school” for losers, a self esteem workshop for newly divorced housewives, and a place where old people go to keep their minds active as they circle the drain of eternity. Well, at Greendale Community College…that’s all true. Community focuses on a band of misfits, at the center of which is a fast-talkin’ lawyer whose degree has been revoked (Joel McHale, The Soup). They form a study group and, in “Breakfast Club” fashion, end up learning a lot more about themselves than they do about their course work. From Emmy Award-winning directors Joe and Anthony Russo (Arrested Development) comes a smart comedy about higher education…and lower expectations.

Cast and credits
Joel McHale (JEFF)
Chevy Chase (PIERCE)
Danny Pudi (ABED)
Gillian Jacobs (BRITTA)
John Oliver (DUNCAN)
Donald Glover (TROY)
Yvette Nicole Brown (SHIRLEY)
Alison Brie (ANNIE)

Executive Producers Russ Krasnoff, Gary Foster
Executive Producer/Writer Dan Harmon (The Sarah Silverman Project)
Director Joe and Anthony Russo (Arrested Development)

Is it any good?
Although most of the good bits are in the trailer, it’s still a funny show. The pilot episode sees the formation of the study group at the heart of the show. It’s put together by McHale at first merely to try to get into Britta’s (Gillian Jacobs) pants. Why does he need to study – he’ll be able to convince his former client and college professor to hand over the answers to the all the tests, won’t he? When he finds out that he’ll actually have to study, McHale turns the former pulling opportunity into a proper study group. End of pilot.

The show’s most obvious homage is to Breakfast Club, the collected works of Bill Murray and Chevy Chase are the real root of it all. Close your eyes and you can almost imagine Bill Murray circa Ghostbusters saying all of McHale’s lines and Gillian Jacobs saying all of Sigourney Weaver’s.

Indeed, it’s a sign of the type of show this is that not only does it have a hero who is mouthing the lines Bill Murray would have mouthed had he been 30 years younger, it has a character who says “You’re like Bill Murrary in all his movies”, quotes from The Breakfast Club and has a character point out that this is the exact same situation, has Chevy Chase as one of the supporting cast and then has him say, “You remind me of me when I was your age.” It’s smart and very self-aware. Yet it also has a heart, and at various points it does show it’s more than just a laughter machine, including McHale’s embarrassed admission that because he’s smart, he’s never really had to learn how to work hard.

Community is also a mass of cracking one-liners, with Joel McHale and John Oliver (from The Daily Show as the professor) getting the lion’s share of decent dialogue and situations; Abed (Danny Pudi), the possibly Asperger’s Palestinian guy – but only if Asperger’s is a synonym for “doing an impression of Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory – comes a close second though, with everyone else merely being something for McHale to be smart at and occasionally for Chase to throw un-PC dialogue at.

But it passes the comedy test: it’ll make you laugh. It passes the smart test: it makes you think.

So it’s definitely worth tuning in for. I’m not sure people will, but they should.