Plot: Jeff (Joel McHale) was once a top flight, amoral lawyer in the fast line of life, but since his law degree was earned through a South American sham operation, he has to go back to school. He winds up at Greendale, a low end community college and hopes his friend on the inside can hook him up. But as it turns out, Jeff will have to suffer like the rest of the students and put the work in, or else he has tried his last case and he misses the luxuries that world provides. While he instantly loathes Greendale, he is captivated by a beautiful blonde in his Spanish class, Britta (Gillian Jacobs). In an effort to pick her up, he organizes a fake Spanish study group, which backfires when an eclectic group of students shows up to join. Jeff resists getting to know the others, but as time passes, will he learn to love life at Greendale?
Entertainment Value: This show was always in the news, from on set drama to firings to rehirings to cancellation to second chances and beyond, but above all else, Community is a smart, hilarious television show. The series would be most often labeled as meta and that is certainly the case, as the show does subvert genre tropes and take some offbeat narrative routes. There is a hipster vibe at work in Community, but it never overpowers the show’s humor and the balance is so on point, the series seems too silly to be pretentious, at least in most episodes. Some episodes are overly self indulgent and the third season dips with the shift in behind the scenes talent, but on the whole, the show is quite consistent. The series ran for six seasons and over one hundred episodes, so having a consistent level of effective humor is impressive, especially with all the turmoil that happened over the course of the show. The ensemble cast is fantastic and deep enough for all kinds of diverse storylines, but it is the writing that really shines in Community, as the episodes overflow with great lines and concepts. I’d rank it with some of the most quotable shows of all time, as it has such a sharp sense of humor and an ideal blend of intelligent and absurd.
One of the reasons Community was able to be so consistent over all those episodes was the ensemble in front of the camera, a group of eclectic characters brought to life by game, talented performers. The cast really embraces the tone of the show and makes the most of the material, from the prominent leads to the smallest roles, so there’s no weak links here, especially in the earlier seasons. Chevy Chase is ridiculous, but brings his usual sense of humor to the role and seeing him interact with such a younger cast is a lot of fun. Of course, Chase clashed often with series creator Dan Harmon, which led to some outrageous moments and social media drama, but given how hilarious his scenes wound up, had to be worth it. Joel McHale provides the douche turned reasonably likable lead, but tends to be overshadowed by his more colorful costars and that doesn’t dampen the fun in the least. He is sometimes shown as the straight man or normal one at times, which helps, given the wackiness in some of the others, but then again sometimes he is presented as just as outlandish. Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Danny Pudi, and Donald Glover all had breakout roles in Community, while Ken Jeong, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jim Rash, John Oliver, Paget Brewster, Keith David, and numerous others deliver, helping flesh out a deep, talented lineup.
The Disc: Mill Creek has released the entire series on Blu-ray, which means the show looks sharper than ever. The image has some minor issues at times, but has more detail and depth than the DVD seasons I’ve watched, while colors are natural and contrast is on point. So perhaps not a flawless visual presentation, but fans should appreciate the added resolution provided here. A host of extras can be browsed as well, including audio commentaries on the first five seasons of episodes, filled with cast & crew anecdotes, jokes, and behind the scenes information. Given how much drama was involved and the creative material of the show, these tracks have plenty of ground to cover and the sessions don’t disappoint. You can also check out over three hours of behind the scenes featurettes, some of which are promotional in nature, but there’s still a wealth of insight and humor to be found in the interviews. The extras also includes a good deal of deleted & extended scenes and of course, a selection of outtakes from each season.