Jeff Winger is a great lawyer, if he says so himself. And, this being Jeff Winger we’re talking about, he does. Repeatedly. Jeff may have many flaws, but low self-esteem isn’t one of them. However, his stellar legal career hits something of a snag when it’s discovered he doesn’t actually have a valid degree. So off to Community College goes Jeff, and although I’m sure there’s a perfectly logical reason he chose Greendale… well, it’s probably just because I can’t imagine any other college being quite so much fun to watch.
When Jeff, played by Joel McHale, becomes entangled in a study group, we soon discover just how bizarre the students of Greendale really are. Though some, like sweet little Annie (Alison Brie), slightly-slow Troy (Donald Glover) and smiley mama-bear Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), seem pretty normal at first, wait ’til you’ve seen a few episodes. Then there are the likes of the more mature and somewhat bigoted Pierce (Chevy Chase), and aggressively political Britta (Gillian Jacobs). Filling the group’s jaded cynic quota is Jeff himself… and then there’s Abed.
Now, I don’t want to make this an ode to Abed, as portrayed by Danny Pudi, because there’s so much more to this show than one loveably quirky character – but given that this is Fandom Wanderers I feel it’s worth devoting a little time to explaining why Abed appeals to this webzine’s target audience particularly. Abed, you see, is a genre-savvy reference-maker who seems to be aware of the fact that he’s a character in a TV show at least 90% of the time. The other characters frequently don’t know what he’s talking about, but he’s pegged all their ‘gimmicks’ and could probably go an entire episode without uttering a single word that wasn’t a direct reference to an obscure film or TV show. I recognise Abed; I recognise myself in him. And he’s just one of the things that makes Community such a perfect show for, well… fans.
There are so many references, homages and pastiches in this show that it’s a minor miracle the writing still manages to be as fresh and original as it is. And yet it is – the humour is mixed in with just enough character development and plot to keep the viewer interested without bringing them down, and it’s the perfect antidote to the angst of your favourite drama show or the formulaic predictability of that one show you just can’t quit no matter how much you want to. Don’t go into this expecting a lot of focus on classes and homework – college is just sort of something that goes on in the background of most of the episodes, which works well since it really isn’t the focus of the characters’ lives. Indeed, we probably spend as much time watching Troy and Abed’s fake morning show or Inspector Spacetime as we do thinking about classes.
The Dean of the college, Craig Pelton (Jim Rash), is as… eccentric as his students and often appears in outlandish costumes to indulge his love of talking to Jeff, and the chief antagonist (apart from life itself) is Seor Chang (Ken Jeong), who works his way through being a Spanish teacher, a student and a security guard during the first three seasons alone. While the Dean wishes the world would accept Greendale as a real college, Chang’s mostly just trying to be accepted and/or be supreme ruler of campus. We’re not really sure, this week.
Community has just returned for a shortened fourth season – it was due to arrive on October 19th but scheduling changes left fans waiting until February 7th for its return. This has led to some unintentional hilarity as, for example, the Hallowe’en episode aired on Valentine’s Day. Honestly, though? That’s pretty Greendale.
So, should you watch this show? Well… yes. Yes, you should. It’s funny, it’s got heart, and it’s cool. Cool cool cool.
I’d give this show 4 out of 5, pending proper judgement of the effects the new showrunners/writers have.
Eleanor Musgrove (wishes she’d gone to Greendale)