A magical coincidence
For years I declared to anyone who would listen that Firefly is and always will be the greatest show ever made. It’s diversity and rich human storytelling in only 14 short episodes (and one movie) was breathtaking. However, secretly, I always knew that Firefly would not be able to stand the test of time, simply because it was so short-lived. One way or another, it would have to be overtaken by a show with the same potential that simply managed to hang on and keep flying. Ladies, and gentlemen, I believe I have found that show.
I stumbled upon Community by accident. During the coronavirus lockdown, just before things turned really busy for me, a friend sent me a link to a fun little page. It contained a statistically accurate quiz that would determine which TV or Literary character I was most like in over 120 questions. Had it been a normal day, I would have ignored the quiz. But seeing as the world seemed to be ending, I gave it my full attention to distract myself from reality.
My result was a tad disappointing. I am apparently 70% like the character Abed Nadir. A character on some show called Community I had never heard of before. The same day, I logged on to Netflix and my first recommendation was Community, a show then trending on Netflix as #3. Was it a coincidence? And was getting invested in an old show that has long ceased to be aired really worth it to satisfy my curiosity?
For days I resisted the temptation. Then finally, one lazy day, I watched the pilot. My reaction? “Well, this is starting out fun, but I am nothing like Abed.” But I continued watching and before I knew it, I realised, there’s more of Abed in me than I realised. I went back to the quiz, halfway through season 3 and checked my results again. I was mostly Abed, but also Annie and Jeff and least like Shirley and Pierce. It all tracks. And now I actually feel honoured, knowing what these characters grow to be over six seasons.
The golden age of sitcoms
The funny thing is, I was wondering what the next big sitcom would be that defines a generation. the 80s had Cheers (1982-1993) for 11 seasons, then came Friends in the 90s (1994-2004) for 10 seasons, How I Met Your Mother in the 2000s (2005-2014) for 9 seasons. But what came after that? These three shows follow each other perfectly from 1982-2014. What show continued the tradition from 2015 onward with 8 seasons? The truth is, there isn’t one. There have been several fine comedy shows in the 2010s, but they all either stopped before 2020, and/or started during the How I Met Your Mother craze. The fact that How I Met Your Mother overshadowed many better shows during its prime probably contributed to this development. Given that the show dragged on for years with little to offer viewers and a disastrous final season, it makes morbid sense no one else wanted to touch another sitcom of this variety afterward.
But all is not lost. Perhaps it is even good this golden era of sitcoms has come to an end, as we are now able to look at the plethora of diverse and amazing shows that have made it to around six seasons. Look at New Girl! It was a far better show than How I Met Your Mother and nailed its finale. It had a strong following, but fell short of the HIMYM craze, yet deserves it much more so. Community follows this trend as well. And yet, despite numerous production turbulences, including the showrunner being fired for the fourth season and being rehired for the sixth, it has turned out better than most television shows ever made. And now that it has arrived on Netflix internationally, it is trending, with people, like myself, asking ourselves: Why have we never heard of this before?
So as I see it, the death of network television and rise of streaming is welcome change. Because now intelligent shows like Community get another chance and I for one cannot wait for them to make this goddamn movie. #sixseasonsandamovie
Why Community is so Good
But what makes Community special? On the outset, I was worried, because the cast is meticulously diverse and represents so many well-known TV tropes and stereotypes. Yet, that’s why the show works. Because it uses those stereotypes to make fun of them and their usual portrayal, while acknowledging that as humans, we do have stereotypes and personality types and they clash and mix in weird and hilarious ways.
Furthermore, Community manages to break the 4th wall on so many ocassions and levels, while maintaining a functioning in-universe logic that explains it all away, like no show ever has before, all while adhering to the typical sitcom principle of always gathering its main cast around the same location(s), until the plot would (sometimes quite literally) walk in the door.
The show parodies every trope in the book, every genre and pays tribute to some of the great franchises of cinematic history, such as Doctor Who, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the Sergio Leone Trilogy and even the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to name just a few.
The show has a child-like innocence to it and yet manages to address important issues, such as abandonment issues, various mental disorders, including autism, incest, and even topics such as the inevitability of age.
Combined with a powerful performance from the main cast and supporting characters, production team and meticulous attention to detail and continuity, makes for one of the best, if not for the best shows of all time. The showrunners agree that season four was the show’s weakest season, but having binge-watched the entire show, I have to say that while it may have been weaker than the rest, I still thoroughly enjoyed all of it. There were maybe one or two episodes in the entire show where I found myself longing for the distraction of my phone during one of the inevitably predictable arguments of the characters. But in the end, every single episode made me laugh. Some more than others, but if every episode is at least good and some are just incredible, what does that average for you? Every other show has at least mediocre episodes. But I can’t think of one episode of Community even approaching mediocrity.
Community built some of the best industry talent
Need further proof? Here’s some of the talent that worked on this show that made a big break following Community.
Actors: Donald Glover. That’s right, Donald Glover’s career started on Community. But it’s not like his castmates have been forgotten either. Every single other cast member made some kind of splash over the next five years, whether it is their own Netflix series, or a big film or two (remember Ken Jeong from Hangover?). Jim Rash even won an oscar.
The show also featured an amazing array of guest stars, much like Friends did. Brie Larson appeared in several episodes, as did Nathan Fillion and Giancarlo Esposito. We also got to see Josh Holloway, David Cross, Seth Green, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Nick Kroll, and Tricia Helfer to name just a few. John Oliver and Johnathan Banks even were regular guest stars on the show.
Creator and Showrunner Dan Harmon went on to create the hugely popular Rick & Morty.
The soundtrack was composed by none other than Oscar-winner and Black Panther and Mandalorian composer Ludwig Görannson.
That’s not all either. Guess who directed 35 episodes of Community? The Russo brothers. That’s right, the Russo Brothers did some of the best episodes of Community and Kevin Feige actually watched Community and that is why he enlisted them to do Captain America. Winter Soldier and later the last two Avengers films.
Anthony Russo even recently went on record to say that Community made their career and they love the show so much they would come back for a reunion movie, even if the budget was low.
There you have it. This little show went by most people completely unnoticed. But whether you have seen it or not, it has had an incredible impact on the film industry and well deserves your attention just for that alone, but more so, because it is the most endearing, heart-wrenching, detail-oriented, self-aware and intelligent television show that I have ever seen.
Why we NEED a Community Movie (SPOILERS AHEAD)
Now that I have convinced all the non-believers to watch the show, I want to talk about its finale and why we desperately need a movie.
The show explored a lot of details of the main character’s personal lives and even gave a lot of nuance to the supporting characters, which made the whole shabang feel so much more alive. But while the finale was incredibly powerful and gave me something I didn’t realise I need, it still was missing something.
A powerful final message
First of all, the finale dealt with the passage of time, the fact that season 7 probably won’t happen and that sometimes in life, we need to learn to let go and move on with our lives. Change is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be bad and we just have to own it and growing up (and older). In a way, the message of the finale read to me: Stop trusting TV shows and movies that constantly tell you to idolize a happy ending or an ever-after, because there is no such thing. Life goes on until it doesn’t and that is okay. You don’t have to stay young for ever to be happy. There are many advantages and disadvantages to every stage of life and we should accept that and live each step of the way to the fullest.
This message was particularly powerful for me. I’ve been guilty of living in dreams and fantasies and even trying to force things to stay the way they are. Change has always been a problem for me since early childhood. How dare my dad move the sofa? It’s not in its proper place! (you can see the parallel to Abed and Annie).
The unknown is scary and so is getting older. Because if we accept the passage of time, we have to accept all the mistakes we have made along the way and that the consequences are real. This isn’t a show. You can’t just wait for the finale, when things will magically get back together for that happy ending. Life is messed up and we are the ones making the messes. But if we own up to them, apologise and move on, we can continuously create some pretty darn great things and memories that will encourage us throughout our journey until we eventually pass away, hopefully with no regrets.
This bitter sweet ending that hit me personally very had, begs to be continued. Because the message at the end is that there is no end. So if life goes on, why can’t Community?
On top of that, the Community finale also neglected to address some lingering final questions and even opened up new ones.
So Cheng is gay, apparently. All of his madness just stemed from being in the closet all this time. Well, okay. Maybe? I don’t know. It felt a bit forced and tacked on, but I’ll allow it. Abed is going off to Hollywood and Annie is going to D.C. to intern for the FBI. But will they both make it there? It seems both their career choices are likely going to be short-lived. Internships don’t really tend to last very long and Annie still has to finish her degree too. What about Abed? Can you imagine him being a PA? I can’t. I expect his life to be very messy. Creative emotionally hard-to-reach types make for horrible assistants. I should know.
But what of everyone else? What happens with Shirley? Is Troy ever going to finish his sail around the world? And what of Jeff and Britta? Are they both going to stay at Greendale forever? Will they get married, have kids and then get divorced when they inevitably start fighting over everything again? Or would it actually last in a weird twist of life? What about Annie and Jeff? Yes, there is a huge age difference, but I’ve seen people with vast differences be happy together for much longer than most same-age couples I know. Will she fall in love with a handsome FBI agent in D.C. or come back and be with Jeff? Will Jeff get of his lazy behind and follow her to D.C.? We need to know!
I imagine Troy running through the jungle with an idol, parodying Indiana Jones, only for him to realise it is time to go home and pick up the pieces. Make the movie happen, Netflix!