Reviews

Community: Series Premiere

Before you can say "The Breakfast Club," Community begins challenging stereotypes while also arguing that community college is one of the great equalizers.


Community

Airtime: Thursdays, 9:30pm ET
Cast: Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, John Oliver
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: NBC
Air date: 2009-09-17
Website
Trailer
Amazon

The funny thing about being smart is that you can get through most of life without having to do any work.

-- Jeff Winger (Joel McHale)

Community gets the obvious jokes out of the way early. Tracking out from a shot of an idyllic college campus full of busy-seeming students, the scene soon reveals that the bells tolling in the background are coming not from a ivy-covered tower off in the distance, but from a dodgy boom box operated by an incompetent dean fumbling his way through a Welcome Week speech.

And so, within the first minutes of NBC's new comedy, we are reminded that community college can be a rinky-dink affair, populated by high school dropouts, middle-aged divorcees, and one Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), a fast-talking lawyer prohibited from practicing until he actually earns the college degree he faked so many years ago. Rather than do any actual work, he's enrolled himself at Greendale, what he calls a "school-shaped toilet," where he means to skate by on his charm and cunning. After all, it's only community college.

Jeff's master plan involves a psychology professor, Dr. Duncan (The Daily Show's John Oliver), whom he once cleared of a DUI charge by claiming his drunken U-turn on the freeway was actually an act of post-9/11 patriotism ("2002 was a simpler time," he recalls wistfully). To pass his classes, Jeff must convince Duncan to give him the answers to every test in every course he'll take that semester. To keep himself from being bored, he must convince Britta (Gillian Jacobs), the girl in his Spanish class who looks like Elizabeth Shue, that he's not a complete "shallow douche-bag," which is her seemingly spot-on summation after dealing with him for just one afternoon.

For Jeff, any evaluation other than "shallow douche-bag" is going to be a tough sell, considering that if Jeff is talking, Jeff is lying. Confident and charismatic, he proclaims, "Either I am God, or truth is relative. Either way, boo-yah!" Luckily, the insanely likeable McHale grants Jeff a Bill Clinton-esque charm: you know he's smug and dishonest, but you like him, so you just don't care.

But of course Britta cares, and she doesn't like him at all. Seeking more time to woo her, Jeff organizes a Spanish class study group, which becomes the series' central literal and symbolic community, one that embodies all the clichés imaginable for its middling students: the good, the bad, and the ethnic. But before you can say "The Breakfast Club," Community begins challenging those stereotypes, while also arguing that community college is a great equalizer, leveling differences of race, class, and nationality. Consider Abed (Danny Pudi) a Palestinian-American pop culture geek with Asperger Syndrome, who functions as the group's moral compass and voice of reason. How refreshing to hear for once that Arab-American voice be laugh-out-loud funny without resorting to an exaggerated accent.

As utopian and smart as Community aims to be, there's one cliché its not willing to forgo: tall and white, Jeff maintains the authority over their group, even after he's outed as a liar and a creep. Given the heft of the show's themes and the crispness of the writing (thanks to more than one Arrested Development alum on board), it's got to be a brilliant social commentary disguised as a major network sitcom, right? Or maybe Joel McHale really is that likable and we're all wallowing in nostalgia for a simpler 2002. Either way, boo-yah.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.