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Quarantine ‘Community’ college

| Monday, April 27, 2020

Lina Domenella | The Observer

It’s been 49 days since everyone was last on Notre Dame’s campus. I don’t know if anyone else has been counting, but I certainly have, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that, by this point, we are missing good old South Bend just a little bit. Zoom classes pale in comparison to the real thing; there’s nothing like a Chipotle Steak sandwich from Modern Market to brighten a gloomy Wednesday afternoon. More than that, though, I think people — and by people, I mean me — are missing their friends.

If you are like me, and spending over a month at home was enough to make you pine for those mundane moments you used to take for granted — the times spent sitting around doing nothing and talking about everything — then I think I may have some good news. “Community” is now on Netflix, and it’s the perfect remedy for all your college withdrawals.

The series, which initially aired on NBC for six seasons between 2009 and 2015, follows the escapades of seven community college students who forge unlikely friendships within their Spanish study group. As it is often the case with great comedies, a terrific ensemble cast brings these characters to life. Donald Glover — before he was Childish Gambino — plays a lovable (if ditzy) former athlete named Troy. Alison Brie, also known for her roles in “Glow” and “Mad Men,” is neurotically charming as former pill-popper, current overachiever Annie Edison; Gillian Jacobs is Britta, an oft-misguided but admirably fierce social activist. SNL legend Chevy Chase is featured as a bumbling boomer whose political incorrectness is as constant as it is cringeworthy.

Perhaps most exciting for a 2000s kid such as myself, Yvette Nicole Brown — who you may remember as Helen from “Drake and Josh” — plays a cloyingly-sweet, outspokenly Christian mother of two, and Danny Pudi is Abed, a socially-awkward wannabe filmmaker with encyclopedic pop culture knowledge that makes him an effective stand-in for the writers, allowing them to play with TV and movie conventions (more on that later). Joel McHale anchors this collection of wacky misfits as Jeff, who is both the series’ resident “straight man” and also, sometimes, the weirdest of them all. 

In many ways, it is the relationships between these oddball characters — their strange backgrounds, quirks and oft-clashing personalities — that form the show’s backbone. For instance, writers often showcase best friends Troy and Abed’s antics, ending most episodes with a scene featuring the pair. Similarly, Brie imbues the uptight Annie Edison with enough heart to make the bonds she forms with each of her friends truly endearing.

But while the chemistry between these capable actors may ground the show, the concept episodes of “Community” are where it really shines. The show loves to play with genre; by season two, it really finds its stride, so to speak, with subsequent episodes exploring styles ranging Rudolph-style stop motion (in a truly-memorable Christmas episode) from video game graphics to science fiction to puppets and animation. “Community” is unafraid to take on crime noir, 80s-style action movies and horror in its genre spoofs; the show features more paintball-centered episodes than any comedy I’ve ever seen.

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