Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sit-com Community is a Great Find

Last spring two freshman boys in my Honors English 9 class recommended that I watch the new sitcom Community which recently finished its second season. As I don't generally watch much prime-time television - and I find most sitcoms these days mind-numbingly bland - I was unfamiliar with the show. However, the boys insisted that I would like it. Their argument centered around how much each episode derives from allusions to contemporary pop culture - especially from the 1980s. Because I was impressed with my students understanding of allusion - and awareness of it in this show - I recently rented the first season. And, I was not disappointed.

Community represents all that can be great about television and specifically about the sitcom. The premise of the show is a study group from an introductory Spanish class at a community college which seems to be somewhere in California. The group consists of six community college students - but the initial focus was on lead character Jeff Winger - who is a disbarred lawyer returning to college for a degree after his initial bachelor's was discovered to be falsified. Jeff - incredibly smart, witty, and superficially jaded but with a heart of gold - forms the study group in order to get in the pants of tough girl Britta Perry. The rest of the group coalesces out of random associations - and the dysfunction is hilarious. Without getting into story lines, suffice it to say, each episode brings a new challenge for the group that starts small but eventually envelops all characters and their unique situations.

It's been a while since I've seen a show this intelligent and wacky at the same time - reminds me of early Scrubs or early Spin City. And the allusions which were mentioned by my students are the key to the brilliance. This satire of contemporary American pop culture, viewed through the lens of the the industry that has grown out of higher education, is insightful social commentary - and it's probably one of the best shows on TV right now.

Check it out.

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