When “Community” debuted five seasons ago, it looked like it might be just another NBC sitcom. A bunch of friends sit around a study table at a community college and yak at each other? It sounded like another “time porn” sitcom in the tradition of “Friends” or “How I Met Your Mother.”
But the show, in the hands of creator and producer Dan Harmon, quickly distinguished itself.
“Community” proved to be offbeat and hilarious and sometimes poignant and often surreal.
If audiences in 2009 didn’t recognize that and embrace it – or shun it – by the the late-first-season episode, “Modern Warfare,” a half-hour ostensibly about an on-campus paintball war to win priority class registration at Greendale Community College, they likely never would.
The episode was a note-perfect homage to action films – action film cliches, really – that showed just what Harmon and his cast were capable of. From the opening moments, when the campus looks post-apocalyptic after only an hour of paintball war, to the ending, which managed to take a shot at “Glee” and be sentimental at the same time, the episode was soooo good.
Other first season episodes – like “Physical Education,” in which attorney-turned-student Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) plays an epic game of pool with a crusty phys ed teacher – were better, more clever, more laugh-out-loud funny than much of what was on TV at the time.
And while later seasons had their highs and lows, almost every single one had some great episodes. The claymation-like Christmas special. The pillow fort episode. The trampoline episode.
Maybe, just maybe, best of all: “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons,” in the second season. That heartfelt, funny, geektastic episode might actually top “Modern Warfare” in my mind. Maybe.
Or maybe “Remedial Chaos Theory,” in which alternate realities and “the darkest timeline” were introduced.
Damn. I don’t know which I love more.
The show faltered in its fourth season, after Harmon – reportedly a difficult genius – was ousted from the show.
This past season, the fifth, showed a good return to form and return to the set by Harmon. It didn’t reach the heights achieved by the show at its best. But little else on TV did.
Since a couple of seasons into the show, when “Community” was threatened with cancelation nearly every season, the idea of “Six Seasons and a Movie” has been the mantra of cast, crew and fans. And a Twitter hashtag.
With todays’ news that NBC had canceled the series, goal is unlikely to be reached.
But I guess it’s possible. Really, the show was too funny, too odd, to have lasted five seasons on a major network anyway. So maybe the unexpected will happen and we’ll see more of Jeff, Britta, Annie, Shirley, Abed, Troy, Dean Pelton and all the rest.
In a timeline that’s not nearly as dark.