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RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 504 minutes
- Season Two Cast Evaluations
In an unprecedented turn from the frequently confusing Donagheys over at NBC, the ever imaginative and all around fantastic sitcom Community gets a 24 episode second season.
The whole study group returns with Joel McCale as the grownup Zach Morris “Jeff Winger”; Danny Pudi as the pop culturally challenge “Abed”; Yvette Nicole Brown as the good Christian “Shirley”; Gillian Jacobs as the person most likely to be confused with a water filter “Britta”; Chevy Chase as the still underutilized “Pierce Hawthorne”; Donald Glover as the Lavarr Burton obsessed manchild “Troy”; Alison Brie as former pill addict “Annie”; Ken Jeong as the revolting “Ben Chang”; and Oscar-winner Jim Rash as the Dean.
Community’s second season makes NBC proud by becoming not only the best show on the network, but also the best comedy on TV.
Community had quite a few hurdles to tackle in its first season. Within the constraints of its first 24 episodes, the show underwent several transformations, going from your standard sitcom fare with an above average cast to a reflection of pop culture at large, skewering convention with a satirical wit and a sentimental understanding. Unlike other shows that attempt to reference everything at once, Community fares the best by having a clean understanding of what works and what doesn’t, trimming the fat from bloated sitcoms and movie fandom, and relating the best parts to the microcosm of society that is Greendale Community College.
Most of Community’s charm come from its smarts and keen understanding of how to move an audience. This can be seen through its ability to master TV tropes, as in the group’s bottle episode (The Bottle Episode), which finds the study group tearing the library apart in search for Annie’s missing pen, and the fake clip show “Paradigms of Human Memory,” in which the gang tells stories of episodes never filmed nor aired and expresses the importance of being “meta” or something.
Creator Dan Harmon’s knack for homage notwithstanding, the cast and crew know exactly how to explain the convention, fall victim to it, and explain why its important. In “Paradigms,” we see Jeff’s classic “this is what friendship mean” speech fashioned together from several unaired episodes, including one from the day they spent on Wild West Ranch, the night the spent in the haunted Pierce Hawthorne mansion, and their famed St. Patrick Day rafting disaster. What works is how Jeff can easily pick apart the speech, place it in different contexts with different analogies, and still bring the show to emotional climax, a feat the cast and crew should be proud of. Community respects its audience enough to know that we get Jeff and we get the point he’s making, regardless of how many non-sequituers its spliced together with.
Interestingly enough, these ideas don’t come from a cynical place. Unlike, say, Married with Children, where the sitcom form is skewered with dark humor, Community pays homage in a playful way. The Emmy-winning Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas and Epidemiology enjoy holiday episodes with becoming overbearing or campy. The zombie movie inspired Epidemiology infuse the jokes with some actual scares as the gang are repeatedly frightened by scattering cat, and in one the show’s best turns, the Rankin-Bass-esque Christmas spectacular makes meaning of the holiday, while coming to terms with its newly found secular significance. Or sometimes, the show just takes on really strange pop culture interests, like My Dinner with Andre, to bring out the shows warped sense of self awareness and the characters’ relation to the culture that raised them.
Finally, the show is just great at telling stories. This isn’t just in ability to parody documentaries or three hour long spaghetti westerns in 21 minutes, but rather its ability to do so in an episode where nothing actually happens. “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” follows the study group through a game of D&D to instill some much needed confidence in beloved side character Fat Neil. Abed narrates them through their imaginary world, as they stay seated at their library table (a plot structure also found in “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”). Between Chase’s over the top mocking and Joe Russo’s fantastic direction, the show makes an episode where they play a board game that’s not Chutes & Ladders entertaining. So entertaining that even those who have never seen a 20-sided die should find the character interplay and the shows pitch perfect storytelling irresistible. This episode is so inventive, simple, and risky that NBC should have their head examined for allowing it to air.
Beneath it all the show is a lot more like The Simpsons, because it uses pop culture to their emotional ends, rather than cheap cutaway gags. The show reflects itself on the media that inspired them and, in turn, shows how character relate to it, creating parallels to better understand the characters of the show and the situations we’ve come to understand from situation comedies. Jeff can realize his own desire for honesty by playing to Abed’s Dinner with Andre just like Pierce can come to terms with Chevy Chase’s status as a fading star. It all become intertwined with the way the show gets the audience to feel, whether that be to laugh or cry, and it does so magnificently.
Community: The Complete Second Season is just that, complete. With hours of deleted scenes, commentary, and extras, the show gives it’s hyper-aware audience a lot to chew on. Also, the shows 24 near perfect episodes don’t hurt the Greendale reunion.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars