If you want wildly inventive comedy with a sharp satirical edge, then binge-watch “Community.” Featuring a first-rate cast and top-shelf scripts, Dan Harmon’s “Community” offers both laughter and social commentary as it parodies pop-culture conventions.
Year it began: 2009
Where it can be seen: NBC, Hulu, Amazon
Who’s in it: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Chevy Chase, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash, John Oliver.
Typical episode length: 22 minutes
Number of episodes to date: 110
Brief plot description: When a smarmy lawyer tries to impress a fierce feminist by pretending he’s a Spanish tutor, he serendipitously forms a tight-knit study group of charming misfits at Greendale Community College.
Why it’s worth watching: With smart scripts, edgy directing and an ensemble of extremely talented comic actors, “Community” is consistently hilarious and innovative. It brilliantly hides its heart of gold in plain sight: even as it constantly satirizes academic institutions, personality types and comedy conventions, the show praises community by focusing on the bonding of its unlikely group of students.
McHale mesmerizes as fast-talking narcissist Jeff Winger, who becomes the group’s reluctant leader, while Jacobs brings brashness and intelligence to the fiery and skeptical anarchist Britta Perry. Brie is electrifying as the sweetly high-strung and high-achieving neurotic Annie Edison. Chase brings belly laughs as the clumsy, creepy and consistently politically incorrect ex-CEO Pierce Hawthorne. Glover is hysterical as the naïve and sensitive ex-quarterback Troy Barnes, especially when acting out the sweet storylines and absurdist vignettes he performs with Abed Nadir, a socially awkward and TV-obsessed genius who is the show’s most wonderful comic revelation.
Others standouts include Rash’s off-putting degenerate Dean Pelton; Brown’s awkwardly kind divorcee Shirley Bennett; and Jeong’s maniacal Señor Chang, a bizarrely intense Spanish instructor who delivers painful jokes and collective punishment. “Community” is especially noteworthy for its finely crafted scripts, which combine edgy comedy with a brilliant barrage of pop-culture references. Abed’s unsettling ability to use his knowledge of Hollywood character development to predict everyone’s behavior gets to the heart of this show’s genius: “Community” resonates because it is simultaneously so absurd and familiar.