Monday, October 11, 2010

5 reasons Community is the best sitcom currently on television

It's fresh

Obvious when you compare it to the other sitcoms currently on TV (well, the other ones that I watch):

· Modern Family won all the Emmys, but it’s pretty old-fashioned in form – doing that non-committed, sometimes-video-diary/documentary-except-when-it’s-not thing that’s going around – and its jokes won’t light the world on fire.

· The Big Bang Theory has always been hoary, clichéd, and never more than half a good show; and it’s rapidly squandering my reserves of goodwill.

· How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia all started out doing something a bit different with sitcom tropes, but they’ve all been running so long that they’re foundering somewhat.

· Parks & Recreation has been displaced by a show full of racism and poop jokes.

Community has the advantage of youth, of course, but it also caters to a post-Arrested Development audience without going the copycat route. It’s very hard to be zeitgeisty without being cutesy, obnoxious, and quickly irrelevant, but Community does it, in part because...

It gets pop culture references just right

A plethora of pointless references to flash-in-the-pan pop culture phenomena can be a source of spleen-rupturing rage for all sapient beings. A smart reference should provide an additional note of humor or emotion for those in the know, but without being smug, condescending, or incomprehensible to viewers unfamiliar with it. Community is produced by film-and-TV-literate people, for film-and-TV-literate people, and its metafictional humor skirts the line of smugness without actually touching it, thanks in part to an excellent sense of when to dial the snark way down. In fact…

It has a heart without being schmaltzy

Scrubs could be a funny show. My favorite episode was the one where the janitor stuck Zach Braff inside a septic tank in the cold open and the entire episode proceeded without him. But Scrubs always lost me in the last few minutes, when Braff would rhapsodize in voiceover about the lessons he’d learned from the last 22 minutes of zany goings-on, while a saccharine pop ballad caterwauled a cheesy montage into existence. Community won’t have any of that. Its teachable moments are always undercut in a way that resonates from real life: sure, you and your friends all love each other, but if anyone actually talks about it you have to kill the sincerity with a good joke. That doesn’t mean the sincerity isn’t still there, underneath everything, but we don’t talk about it. The bonds between characters shine through without the show needing group hugs and anvilicious Aesops – or they do if, like Community

It utilizes its diverse cast to the fullest

On paper, the ensemble cast for Community almost out-Glees Glee in the “fulfilling minority quotas” game: young white man; young white woman; young Indian man; middle-aged black woman; young Jewish woman; young black man; old white man – each with different religious beliefs, political beliefs, and backgrounds. But, whereas Glee tends to focus on the fan-favorite characters to the exclusion of others (has Tina said anything so far this season?), every member of Community’s main cast is a well-rounded character. The show takes great pleasure in showing us how each character interacts with the others, and consequently has managed to make them feel like people, rather than just types whose personalities change as the plot requires it. Are you taking notes, Glee? Well, you completely ignored Community’s David-and-Goliath attempt to start a feud last season, so I’ll just assume you’re not.

And the final reason why Community is the best sitcom on TV right now is…

It's hilarious

I could prove this entirely in stingers, but really, just watch it. You won’t regret it.

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