Binge Guide

Weekly Binge: Community

by | May 9, 2014 | Comments

Dan Harmon’s NBC comedy Community has already faced possible cancellation twice, due to unsatisfactory ratings, so if you’ve never seen an episode of it, you’re clearly not alone. That said, the show has inspired a cult following of super fans, which has helped keep it on the air for five seasons. With the next season yet to be announced, consider this our invitation to check out this unique sitcom in hopes that you will soon join us in chanting, “Six seasons and a movie!”

UPDATE: Aaaand, less than 24 hours after this article went live, we’ve just learned that NBC has, in fact, cancelled Community. Tis a sad day for Human Beings the world over.

In any case, here’s what you need to know before you start Community.




What’s the premise? In order to make up for a degree he falsified on his resume, a disgraced attorney is forced to take classes at a community college, where he and an oddball study group frequently find themselves caught up in unpredictable adventures.

What’s it like? It’s not easy to find another show that resembles Community, which regularly pokes fun at the traditional sitcom formula — when it’s not aggressively defying it, that is — even as it successfully utilizes that formula to propel its wacky plots and heartfelt moments. There are some narrative through-lines that provide a framework of story arcs, but the show’s strengths lie in the relationships between its unique characters, its crafty use of pop culture references, and its willingness to take some bold risks with its format. In broad strokes, you could compare Community to Undeclared with a 30 Rock-meets-Spaced sensibility to it.

Where can I see it? All five seasons are available on Amazon Instant Video, Vudu and iTunes.

How long will it take? Since NBC essentially halved seasons four and five, offering just 13 episodes for each, you’re looking at a total of about 97 episodes, all running pretty close to 22 minutes. Depending on how frequently you indulge and how many you watch at a time, you could employ a leisurely pace and get caught up in about three months, or blaze through all five seasons in a third of that time.

What do the critics think? The first season secured an 88 percent on the Tomatometer, but the second and third seasons — considered by many fans to be the best of the show — didn’t earn enough reviews to get Tomatometer scores. The fourth and fifth seasons are both Certified Fresh, however, at 76 percent and 92 percent, respectively, even despite the fact that most agreed season four suffered from the absence of Harmon from the showrunner’s chair. Upon its premiere, the Boston Globe’s Matthew Gilbert wrote, “One of the pleasing things about Community has to do with what it is not. The show doesn’t fit into any of the more familiar half-hour comedy formats on network TV right now.” In his review of the most recent season, Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen perhaps summed it up best: “The series has always sought profundity by finding the universal in the particulars of genre pastiche.”

Why should I watch this? While Community initially introduces us to Greendale Community College through the lens of Jeff Winger’s (Joel McHale) story, the series begins to experiment wildly as it finds its footing, and for most novices, this will probably be the most effective selling point. After all, it’s difficult not to be intrigued by an episode centered around a campuswide paintball tournament tailor-made to riff on action movie clichés, or one about a blanket fort dispute that pays direct homage to Ken Burns’ The Civil War, or an animated episode featuring the cast reimagined as characters on G.I. Joe, complete with parodies of the action figure commercials that were ubiquitous during the 1980s. Thanks to creator/showrunner Dan Harmon’s singular vision, the series is chock-full of fun pop culture references and meta-commentary, and its cast of impressive guest stars includes everyone from Patton Oswalt, LeVar Burton, and Keith David to Vince Gilligan, Brie Larson, and Jack Black. But the heart of Community is and always has been, well, its heart, which its talented ensemble cast does a marvelous job of balancing right alongside the rapid-fire dialogue and screwball antics. So yes, you might get a Christmas episode phenomenally crafted entirely in Claymation, but it’s in service of a story addressing Abed’s (Danny Pudi) mental well-being. Does the show get a little sappy from time to time? It can, sure, but it never feels disingenuous, and the show is also fully self-aware about that, evolving the notion into something of an in-joke. In short, this is a sweet, funny, and clever sitcom about a bunch of lovable misfits who become unlikely friends, and it’s the only show on TV where you’ll find references to both Pulp Fiction and My Dinner with Andre in the same half hour.

What’s my next step? The aforementioned Undeclared, 30 Rock, and Spaced are great places to start, as each of them represents a specific element found in Community (the college atmosphere, the self-referencing wackiness, the pop culture savvy), and all feature outstanding ensemble casts. Other notable sitcoms with clever writing, eccentric characters, and cult followings include Scrubs, Arrested Development, and Parks and Recreation. In addition, Dan Harmon served as co-creator of the Cartoon Network series Rick and Morty, which just finished its first season, and as long as we’re talking about animated shows, it behooves us to mention The Simpsons, Home Movies, and The Venture Bros. which all rely on a degree of pop culture familiarity. If you’re more of a movie person, you can pick up a rental of Back to School.

What do you like about Community? How would you explain it to a newbie? Get in on the conversation here.

Tag Cloud

art house TCM slasher french TV One mission: impossible HBO trophy 2016 VICE IFC Films GIFs Creative Arts Emmys batman period drama Western Apple TV+ The CW sitcom Country HFPA Paramount Network crime drama Lionsgate Quiz Amazon Comics on TV dc The Walking Dead Year in Review movie docuseries book universal monsters international RT21 Chilling Adventures of Sabrina news MGM Hallmark Christmas movies crossover Comic Book TBS animated cancelled TV series APB OneApp Logo Amazon Studios Trivia Brie Larson TIFF screen actors guild Disney+ Disney Plus TruTV interviews USA Network TCA 2017 facebook Election game show The Academy Focus Features breaking bad live action 99% ViacomCBS adventure biography golden globe awards zombies historical drama james bond Lucasfilm space Nominations chucky OWN dceu disaster Awards Tour concert Holidays comiccon halloween tv YouTube Premium rt archives marvel cinematic universe Vudu FX IFC Instagram Live 20th Century Fox witnail Universal video aliens rom-coms 2017 child's play target scene in color cooking travel nfl Endgame CNN science fiction psychological thriller Binge Guide Music venice natural history christmas movies National Geographic Hollywood Foreign Press Association summer TV preview Polls and Games Emmy Nominations crime harry potter politics Reality Mary Tyler Moore Fox News king kong Bravo Spectrum Originals Marvel 71st Emmy Awards Tomatazos A24 Sony Pictures Cannes twilight superhero BAFTA Acorn TV latino Star Wars blockbusters independent Classic Film Disney Plus CMT 94th Oscars new star wars movies spider-man 24 frames true crime pirates of the caribbean 93rd Oscars zero dark thirty halloween Fargo Opinion Podcast thriller Thanksgiving Family USA italian documentaries cancelled television CBS All Access Showtime zombie FOX BBC America prank jamie lee curtis Columbia Pictures game of thrones comics TNT reboot monster movies what to watch Horror docudrama hispanic PBS marvel comics Trailer Biopics Turner Black History Month 2020 vs. Best and Worst Food Network Ellie Kemper Tokyo Olympics adaptation joker spain Ghostbusters BBC television Paramount Oscar Apple best rotten sequel The Purge saw RT History high school young adult Character Guide gangster hollywood Discovery Channel Crunchyroll adenture Image Comics Tumblr spider-verse Warner Bros. Shudder DirecTV See It Skip It scary MTV canceled TV shows 4/20 critic resources hist comedies HBO Go Masterpiece Spring TV Pacific Islander SundanceTV action-comedy Tubi 79th Golden Globes Awards social media South by Southwest Film Festival summer preview stoner crime thriller Countdown book adaptation SXSW screenings FXX Rocky Hear Us Out anime black TV Land Paramount Plus Cartoon Network sag awards Sci-Fi Pirates Sundance TV Elton John genre President suspense fresh Syfy Pride Month debate live event reviews Martial Arts 72 Emmy Awards Oscars boxing Valentine's Day Drama satire asian-american cops Calendar Amazon Prime laika kaiju SDCC 90s criterion BET Awards Best Actor nature green book Song of Ice and Fire doctor who Animation japan Schedule Nat Geo nbcuniversal cancelled TV shows rotten movies we love cancelled Marvel Television Wes Anderson ABC Family godzilla medical drama Captain marvel Mindy Kaling Ovation posters football cats Women's History Month dark scene in color south america Mudbound strong female leads hidden camera dramedy obi wan MCU mutant Set visit Spike mcc aapi cinemax 45 Winter TV YA Trophy Talk Interview Pop TV justice league Emmys series die hard Turner Classic Movies Awards cults Amazon Prime Video award winner Academy Awards binge Comedy Central a nightmare on elm street heist movie The Arrangement Pixar sequels A&E razzies women kids emmy awards comic books Rock Adult Swim foreign cars dexter Best Picture trailers Pop Television Critics Association Hulu LGBT leaderboard SXSW 2022 kong indie teaser Cosplay golden globes Photos japanese Sneak Peek Television Academy festival Tags: Comedy WarnerMedia Baby Yoda composers Freeform Crackle target miniseries TV movies lord of the rings superman police drama Film Universal Pictures supernatural know your critic popular diversity anthology Red Carpet theme song Sundance Funimation History romantic comedy American Society of Cinematographers Film Festival Peacock olympics Teen Starz Prime Video tv talk GoT Travel Channel sopranos Reality Competition spy thriller directors DC streaming service Super Bowl Certified Fresh Grammys technology E3 BET DC Universe Best Director Superheroe scene in color series scary movies unscripted toronto ghosts revenge Geeked Week cartoon TV Neflix Sundance Now obituary BBC One canceled 2018 TLC political drama wonder woman hispanic heritage month franchise new zealand robots australia vampires Walt Disney Pictures NBA Disney streaming service comic remakes Sony Hallmark 007 legend casting video on demand Fall TV spanish deadpool boxoffice serial killer Marvel Studios stop motion E! Chernobyl name the review Rom-Com Kids & Family Box Office Marathons Avengers Fantasy AMC ITV DGA ABC Signature Tarantino Lifetime Christmas movies telelvision Heroines FX on Hulu scene in color film series Disney transformers movies Netflix Christmas movies critics quibi 2021 richard e. Grant ID dreamworks streaming worst MSNBC Watching Series Star Trek Best Actress romance PaleyFest Black Mirror Alien dogs children's TV New York Comic Con TCA Awards mockumentary free movies comic book movie Star Wars Celebration discovery HBO Max streamig 1990s Toys Stephen King Esquire Action Writers Guild of America Mary poppins Nickelodeon spanish language WGN Indigenous Dark Horse Comics films NYCC PlayStation black comedy classics fast and furious rt labs toy story royal family CW Seed 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards psycho Legendary Musical blaxploitation Apple TV Plus comic book movies biopic werewolf Comic-Con@Home 2021 festivals 73rd Emmy Awards ESPN IMDb TV blockbuster Comedy Winners talk show sports rt labs critics edition feel good slashers X-Men First Reviews 21st Century Fox DC Comics Lifetime Musicals Britbox singing competition Exclusive Video Mystery jurassic park summer TV GLAAD ABC The Witch archives Premiere Dates Summer broadcast king arthur AMC Plus VH1 Infographic Extras TV renewals Arrowverse San Diego Comic-Con stand-up comedy Pet Sematary new york war Anna Paquin LGBTQ First Look Rocketman Disney Channel NBC TCA Winter 2020 Broadway documentary Shondaland Epix El Rey ratings basketball all-time dragons 2015 worst movies YouTube Paramount Pictures scorecard parents elevated horror renewed TV shows YouTube Red mob based on movie spinoff finale TCA 2019 Video Games Holiday Mary Poppins Returns Netflix VOD CBS The Walt Disney Company Fox Searchlight streaming movies versus Christmas indiana jones Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Superheroes Native