Community shows promise
Observer | Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The new NBC comedy “Community,” starring comedian Joel McHale (“The Soup”) is surprisingly funny, considering the ideals it has pitted itself against. At first glance it looks like the latest installment of “The Office” spin-offs, especially since it premiered right after the hit show on NBC’s exclusive comedy powerhouse Thursday nights (also featuring a weekday edition of SNL’s “Weekend Update”, “Parks and Recreation” and “30 Rock” when it starts up in October) and on second glance … it still kind of looks like that. The surprising part is that it is not a bad thing – a group of quirky misfits who are thrown into a boring environment, stir in some clever dialogue and awkwardness and voilá, comedy fiesta.
“Community” centers around smooth-talking (he makes a tear jerking argument that begins, “We’re the only species on Earth that observes Shark Week,”), recently disbarred lawyer Jeff, who has essentially been sentenced to community college if he ever wants his license back. While trying to seduce a Spanish classmate, he accidentally forms a study group of the school’s strangest, where the culture clash archetype works it’s magic for this show. Characters that hail from nearly every stereotype possible: the uptight girl, the washed-up jock, the sassy black woman, the smart unattainable girl, the skeezy old man, the kid who can’t control anything he’s saying and the guy who is all-too in control of what he’s saying.
With “Arrested Development” alums Joe and Anthony Russo directing a lot of the episodes, the style has the majority of the same dry comedy that needs to simmer for a little while to have it’s full effect, like a background quote by Donald Glover’s character Troy, “I am the Barack Obama of this group!” “Community” also catches several references that are meant to embrace a middle aged demographic with some hilarious “Breakfast Club” and “Dirty Dancing” lines.
There are several outset stars of this stellar ensemble, aside from lead Joel McHale who seamlessly makes the leap from stand up to prime time, and they are John Oliver and Danny Pudi. “The Daily Show” fans will recognize mock correspondent Oliver, who has a small role as a friend of McHale’s character Jeff, a professor at the college, whom Jeff himself describes as a “spineless British twit,” and he is totally right – that is, until he is comically wrong. Pudi’s lanky, loveable Abet has probably twice the dialogue of the other characters and delivers it all with such dead pan sincerity and innocence that his constant chatter becomes hardly noticeable.
The “Community” pilot didn’t totally dazzle, but truly talented comedies rarely do – it’s hard to introduce a whole talented cast in a half-hour show, especially with so much expectation. This quirky combination of all of comedy’s favorites has not earned its place among them yet, but is definitely one to keep an eye and ear on. Look for comedy favorite Ken Jeong (“The Hangover,” “Knocked Up”) in upcoming episodes.