Community’s core fanbase is constantly divided, not into two separate groups, not singular characters, but certain individual jokes. Kind of. Beyond that, its wider appreciators love the shows reliance on good old-fashioned (yet post-modern) characters. The sophomore season of this comedy is trying to do everything, we have lost the little (read: bottle) exploits of the Greendale gang for right now, instead focusing on the larger twists and turns that an episodic self-aware single-cam like this can do. “Epidemiology”, the gangs showcase last week is similar to the season 1 offerings “Modern Warfare” (a spin on the action genre) and “Contemporary American Poultry” (a take on Goodfellas) in that it gives each character a duty to fulfil all whilst parodying and homaging several tropes and cliché’s in the filmic universe — that time, Zombies.
Community, being a clear single-camera show (as opposed to the popular mockumentary sitcom format) has the ability to completely embrace and convey certain jokes and parody just by using visual language. Not just Donald Glover’s hilarious expressions or background storylines, but using lighting, shakey-cam and non-diegetic music to exemplify ideas and riff on themes, creating something that both lives and breathes popular culture while creating an original story at the same time. The opening shot of “Basic Rocket Science” is a darkened hallway with a close-up of the feet, echoing as they run down the corridor – it last about one or two seconds, but right away tells you almost everything you need to know about this episode. The imagery is familiar, yet new, and like so much of Community – it is terrific fun to watch.
The show prides itself on having an eclectic world that allows for the stranger proceedings to happen, the characters ground the events, but the events do still occur. That level of a creative sandbox rarely turns up in television and I don’t believe it has been used to this effect since Buffy the Vampire Slayer – a show that had a musical, an episode without speech and even an episode without any BGM. Airing the same season as Glee, a show that introduced archetypes and never hugely broke them down, Community smashed its first impressions and shaded out every one of its characters,with Shirley, perhaps, being the last to get some real colour to her. These characters set and ground the world, not necessarily by winking at the audience and being an “everyman” – though an argument could be made for Jeff – its now developed into watching a group of friends having fun in the most eccentric or boring situations given.