It took me three years after the release of its pilot before I finally watched an episode of Community.
None of my friends watched it, I’d never seen an advert for it on British television, and the only joke I’d heard from it was Ken Jeong catcalling in a lecture hall. I came to associate the programme with the people who yelled ‘hah! Gaaaaaaay’ repeatedly whenever their friends implied that they didn’t spend their days driving mustangs down empty highways or polishing tanks in their back gardens (or similarly macho activities)
Then I chanced the pilot at the start of a summer holiday. Three episodes in, and I was hooked. I’ve not stopped talking about it since.
Through Community, I found myself falling in love with a nuanced, fallible and hilarious group of misfits that may have convened around a library’s table, but refused to allow themselves to be tied to it.
Flitting through tropes and genres, Community reshaped itself from a typical sitcom in its opening episodes into one of the most unpredictable, exciting and ambitious pieces of comedic television in recent memory. The show went from being grounded in reality one week to batshit insane the next, ranging from grand, complicated stop-motion episodes that explored the relationship between a fragile young adult and his mother; to bottle episodes which provided a glimpse into the nature of the characters’ connections (launched by a pen-stealing monkey named after a central character’s breasts, no less).
Even when it wasn’t at it’s best, I adored it. While season 4 may have pushed many away, I couldn’t let the Study Group go.
Even when the show threatened to leave its audience behind, the strength of its characters provided an emotional anchor to the occasionally outlandish nature of the storylines. From parodies of Apollo 13, Glee, and Good Will Hunting to hysterically woven homages to Pulp Fiction, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, Community refused to restrict itself to televisual conventions.
The show treated its fans with intrigue, adoration and excitement for their undying support, with showrunner Dan Harmon refusing to allow the programme to rest on its laurels. It’s a shame that he wasn’t met with the same level of respect by NBC.
Loved by the internet and ignored by its own network, Community was hopelessly outmatched by the strength of its opposition: CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. Regardless of its quality, no show could hope to match the power of Leonard and Sheldon’s widespread appeal. At least Harmon & Co. got to send a final ‘up yours’ to NBC through the ultimate meta-ultimatum, delivered to the camera by Abed: That the show will either end with the college being destroyed by a meteorite, or will continue to grow into greatness. What will remain is the network’s poor choice of programming (‘it all depends on what fails!’ A penny for your thoughts, NBC.)
- (Here’s a youtube link for clarification: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuIZCJEu9a4)
When I heard of Community’s cancellation, my whole brain started crying. Quotes from my recently deceased televisual love swept through my mind like a compilation of Jeff Winger speeches being remixed at dance to promote the dangers of venereal diseases, featuring ‘a laser; this isn’t going to be your mother’s sexually transmitted disease fair!.’ Needless to say, today’s been a toughie.
So while I may be upset that I may not be seeing any new material from the Study Group (or the Save Greendale Committee), I’m feeling fortunate that I got to be a part of the following and history of such a richly woven and beautifully treated show. Harmon created a loyal following the moment he named the show after a ‘community.’ Even though we had to settle for four seasons and a gas leak rather than six and a movie, I can’t see the show ending here, given it’s ferociously devoted following.
The best case scenario is that it’ll get picked up elsewhere.
The worst is that it’ll go down in history as one of the most daring comedies to have been thrust before its audience and network executives, lasting for 5 wonderful years in the process.
Either way, I’ll keep thinking back to the title of its theme song, which seems to have been the best way to describe the show ever since it started having off-screen problems all those years ago: At least it was here.
And though it may not have received the widespread recognition it sorely deserved, it provided joy to those who ‘like liking things.’
Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to watch the series all over again.