Why Community Is The Most Underrated TV Sitcom

TV sitcoms are modern day entertainment staples, no matter how monotonous the storylines can often get (I’m talking about you, Ross and Rachel). So why is it that a production as creative and exciting as Community was among its network’s lowest ratings while still on the air? Chalk it up to a bad time slot or pre-streaming service competition. 

With its current spot on Netflix, the show is seeing a well deserved resurgence as a new generation discovers this underdog. Despite a cast of less than likable characters, often offensive rhetoric, and absurdly unrealistic plotlines, Community masters irony as it parodies TV tropes and creates a beyond entertaining viewing experience unlike anything else on television. The students at Greendale Community College are a group of misfits that have a knack for taking things a bit too far, developing a cult following for a few specific reasons (spoilers ahead!): 

  1. Doesn’t Rely On Romantic Entanglements 

Yes, there are romances throughout the show; namely Britta and Troy, Shirley and Andre, Annie and Vaghn, and Jeff with basically everyone. The remarkable thing about how Community approaches these, however, is how they don’t drive the plot. If anything, they’re the most boring part of the show. 

Whereas other sitcoms rely upon the emotional engagement that accompanies romance-heavy storylines (Yes, Ross and Rachel, you again!) Community manages to make the love interests an afterthought in a surprisingly refreshing way. Even though there’s mingling between the main characters, it often fits into the plot as an ironic enhancement such as Annie and Abed’s iconic Han Solo kiss that’s never addressed again. 

Instead of watching for Britta and Jeff’s will-they-won’t-they, fans are there to enjoy Troy and Abed’s friendship antics and the whole group’s simultaneous loathing and loyalty to Greendale. 

  1. Abed Nadir, Movie References, and Meta Plotlines

One thing Community has that no other sitcoms do is Abed Nadir as a leading man and frequent narrator. Exhibiting many signs of autism, Abed tends to have difficulty with social cues which drives his love of movies and fiction. Because he has trouble understanding reality, he often looks at the world through the lens of his favorite media, creating episodes that break the fourth wall and encompass the word “meta.” 

His dialogue itself refers to this phenomenon, referring to his group’s weekly situations as “episodes” and calling out tropes before they’ve begun. One strong example of this is his statement, “it’s a bottle episode” in “Cooperative Calligraphy” which is in fact a bottle episode (a common TV trope in which as few sets, effects, and non-regular cast members as possible are used). As the group declares lockdown in search of Annie’s missing pen, only the core six appear throughout the episode, never leaving the study-room.

The media references themselves range from specific films (Pulp Fiction and My Dinner With Andre in “Critical Film Studies”) to genres (horror in “Epidemiology”). This is seen clearly in the paintball episodes at the end of season 2 which transition clearly from a western theme to a parody of Star Wars, aptly acknowledged by Abed’s statement “in other words, we’ve left the Western motif and are entering more of a Star Wars scenario.” No other sitcom I’ve seen handles this type of parody as masterfully as Community while maintaining one foot in reality. 

One of the most notable episodes is “Remedial Chaos Theory” which deals with multiple dimensions, alternative timelines, and… pizza? You’ll just have to watch. 

  1. The Self-Awareness Of Subplots 

Another engaging aspect of the show has to do with its subplots, all equally chaotic and well-developed in nature. A fan favorite would be Troy’s repairman storyline—declaring him the messiah of air conditioning. 

In “Intro to Political Science,” Abed has a break-the-fourth-wall conversation with Troy discussing his current subplot (a romance with a visiting FBI agent meant to secure the campus for Joe Biden’s visit). When Troy asks, “Do you just constantly have your own side adventures?” to which Abed responds “Yep.” Not only are the main plots fully fleshed out, but the sidequests are interwoven beautifully, and often consistently, within the larger story. 

  1. Inside Jokes Between The Audience And Characters

When you watch Community, you experience the havoc of Greendale with the characters. As for the students in season 1, the environment is hard to swallow in the beginning and the first few episodes will likely leave you wondering why you’ve continued watching(at least that’s how it happened for me). But as relationships build, chaos ensues, and the characters cheat their way through their degrees, you find yourself paralleling their level of loyalty. 

General references like Magnitude’s catchphrase “Pop pop!” and everyone’s favorite news program Troy and Abed in the Morning make the audience feel connected to the show. Pile on some of Dean Pelton’s costume changes and a Spanish lesson by Señor Chang and you start to feel like a real Human Being(Greendale’s mascot which I beg you not to Google a picture of). 

  1. Creative Experimentation 

Lastly, viewers of Community aren’t just getting a television sitcom. They’re getting claymation, animation, puppetry… everything. The producers aren’t afraid to play with different style types which means that you never know what you’re in for when you click that “next episode” button. 

The camera angles, filters, and tone change often as well in order to fit the current parody or trope. For example, the episode “Basic Lupine Urology” which mimics Law & Order takes aspects from the filming, cuts, wardrobe, dialogue and overall mood. You really feel transported into the criminal world(even if they’re just investigating a squashed biology project yam). 

A pillow fort war documentary, ABBA filled zombie infiltration, Betty White shooting blow guns, the romantic life of corpo-humanoid Subway, and the most serious paintball fights you’ve ever witnessed—what more could anyone ask for in a TV sitcom?

If you’ve never given it a chance, I really recommend it. As the slogan says, “Welcome to Greendale: You’re Already Accepted!”

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