by Rick Mazumdar
For most of you this show would have had the same value as any other sitcom/TV show, but for me, it's a lot more than that. I found this show to be more relatable than most other shows of this nature, which would explain my obsession with it and an innate need to constantly quote and refer to this monument of a TV show. Very few shows have been able to create such a deep impact for me. I watch this show whenever I have nothing to watch because it's comfort and is very well made. I like shows of this nature where you don't have to laugh your ass off, yet you can appreciate how intelligently the makers have been able to fit in so much detail and comedy, which makes watching the show worthwhile.
I will try and explain the entire show using the theme song (don't mind if I completely skip any 4th season reference). Here we go.
"At Least It Was Here" is the main theme song to Community, recorded by the indie rock band The 88. It has been used in the opening title sequence since the Season One episode, Spanish 101. The title has the song playing as the credits for the actors appear on a rotating paper fortune teller.
A perfect song choice. Every lyric of this song makes sense, and plays out exactly as it's supposed to ( or not supposed to) throughout the entire series.
Though the song is four stanzas long, the following lyrics are recurring and most prominent and makes perfect sense once you watch the entire series.
"Give me some rope
Tie me to a dream
Give me the hope
To run out of steam
It could be here
We could be roped up, tied up
Dead in a year
Oh I love you more than words can say
I can't count the reasons I should stay
One by one they all just fade away
Oh I love you more than words can say"
The song for me talks about failure and dealing with ones issues. It also talks about adapting to difficult situations and probably not coming out as a winner but as someone who has learnt to deal with those issues and has come out stronger.
Let's just look at the first lyric "Give me some rope, tie me to a dream" (tree, I mishear this lyric every time). It talks about being unsatisfied with ones present situation and a need to escape from it as a release.
Which character can you relate this lyric to the most?
I say, Jeff Winger.
Jeff Winger (played by Joel McHale) was once a practising defence attorney. He handled DUI/DWAI/DUID cases, traffic offenses, and juvenile crimes for over six years. He worked for a law firm called Hamish, Hamish & Hamlin that was founded by Ted. At work he was often partnered with another lawyer named Mark and the two were known as "Tango & Cash" respectively.
A drunk driving case Jeff handled involved a Psychology Professor named Ian Duncan with whom he eventually became good friends with. At the height of his success at the firm, Jeff's fraudulent academic credentials were exposed by a colleague of his named Alan Conner.
Jeff was immediately disbarred with his license suspended until he earned a legitimate degree. Needless to say he was extremely displeased at this turn of events. He therefore had to attend a Community College, Greendale (the college which has the most advanced typing class in the southwestern Greendale area) to be specific (the only reason he chooses Greendale was because of the fact that City College was too far away from home and the fact that professor Ian Duncan was a professor of Psychology there).
In the beginning he neither liked anyone nor wanted to have to do anything with the study group and wanted easy access into Britta's pants. But over time, he became close friends with a study group he formed. After having earned an Associates degree in Education, he briefly returned to practicing law and unsuccessfully started his own law firm. After it folded, he returned to Greendale where he accepted a job as a Law professor. He was also reunited with his study group and joined a special "Save Greendale Committee" to improve campus life.
Now why do I think this lyric relates to Jeff the most?
Jeff is the classic narcissist, with a huge ego. He is therefore very vain. He gets this trait from his childhood, his mother used to praise him gratuitously for every little thing that he would accomplish (check the episode Beginner's Pottery Episode 19 of Season 1), he therefore puts very little effort into whatever he does, which also explains why he's agnostic because he's too lazy to follow any religion, and hence gets away with any situation because he's extremely persuasive and can win any argument,
"I discovered at a very early age that if I talk long enough, I can make anything right or wrong. So either I'm God or truth is relative. In either case, booyah!”— Jeff, "Pilot"
This is probably also the reason that most study group goes to him for advice.
But all this confidence and narcissism well disguises his fears and emotional burdens,he has only rarely expressed himself fully about his persona, he also fears talking about his father. He is therefore very broken and the most likely to cut loose.
"I'm just a grown man who can't look his own friends in the eye for too long because I'm afraid that they'll see that I am broken.”–Jeff telling his father how badly his leaving affected him, "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations".
Th entire arc of Jeff's character is very unique. To the entire group he is the father figure. He has had multiple romantic relationships with women inside and outside the study group, on some level you want the whole Jeff-Britta or Jeff-Annie thing to work out, but then again this isn't any other TV show, it doesn't function the same way, I feel that Jeff was always afraid that he might someday turn into Pierce, since their characters are the most similar. The final season sees him finally accepting his true role, that he was the only one to always stay back, while all the others left, that this was what he had come to do. In the end the love the group forced to put the ego aside and care for the people that he had around him.
I remember this one quote from the 4th season (boy what a terrible season), although I feared that it would be the last season, I did hope that it would be renewed.
“Three and a half years ago, when I came to Greendale, I met six very important people… sorry, seven. And meeting these people changed my life. Yeah. I’m sorry. I – I don’t know what to say. [study group laughs and objects] I’m so used to being the guy who can talk his way out of anything, but… what do you say when you don’t want a way out? What you all have done for me is indescribable. It’s unbelievable. And my love for you is immeasurable, even when you split it seven ways."
I always related to Jeff in a lot of ways, especially in times of failure.
In many times in my life I lay down staring at the ceiling thinking "How'd the hell did I get here? What do I do to get out?"
I guess relating to Jeff during these times brings one some form of comfort that they aren't the only ones out there.
"Give me the hope to run out of steam."
Britta ( played by Gillian Jacobs) always had the most steam.
I always saw her as the wild card, the most unpredictable character on the show, and the most vibrant when it comes to her story arc.
Britta taught us to rebel.
For however stupid reasons, she taught us to rebel (okay, I Britta'd that).
I like Britta, she always followed her heart.
In fact she dropped out of school to impress Radiohead.
She joined the Peace Corps, did some foot modeling, attended a world-trade rally where she was tear-gassed, and visited Africa.
She lived in New York (and ate Baggels).
She also joined several activists groups but her memberships didn't last long. A billboard vandalizing team of radicals kicked her out for not being anarchistic enough despite her success at recruiting new members. She was with a feminist group called the "An-Her-Chists" but it disbanded because everyone involved no longer had the passion for their cause.
Britta is a staunch feminist as evident from the episode "Football Feminism and you".
She absolutely hates large organizations as evident from her love of Orwell's 1984.
Her rebellious nature has caused the group to consider her a "buzzkill".
“You're monsters! You're Hitlers! You're racist pedophiles! You're the opposites of Batman!”–Britta, "Origins of Vampire Mythology"
Though Britta tries to act as if she knows a lot about world events and things of that sort, she has often come off as misinformed and pretentious.
But that's what she brings to the table in terms of her comedy. Her role in the group is to not fuck up. And although she has been helpful at times, I'm not a huge fan of hers.
Whenever I heard "It could be here" I always thought of Abed (played by Danny Pudi), referring to the meta aspect of the TV show. Abed embodied the meta comedy aspect of the TV show, he was always that one character who was always aware that his life did not exist and that he was being filmed and that his universe was a TV show.
If you have noticed, a lot of the comedy in Community is reference humor, but what it does differently is that most shows like that very sad sitcom about those 4 scientists is that Community likes to act out it via references, rather than meagerly refer to it in dialogue, which creates and added effect to the humor. Enter Abed. Every reference to a movie or popular TV show, is heightened by his presence. You want a Dr. Who reference? Community created a parody entire universe with Inspector Spacetime, with it's own convention and everything. Abed was there, taking it all in.
For those of you can claim that they were raised by television, you would find Abed the most lovable and relatable. Abed Nadir for me brought the most amount of fun and joy in the show.
Abed suffered from Asperger's syndrome, and hence would not be the best in social situations, he often confused life with television, and would have severe breakdowns.
“Chaos already dominates enough of our lives. The universe is an endless, raging sea of randomness. Our job isn't to fight it but to weather it together on the raft of life. A raft held together by those few, rare, beautiful things that we know to be predictable.”
–Abed, "Remedial Chaos Theory"
In many ways, Community is Abed's story or how he chose to view it.
From Paintball episodes to Blanket forts to Dungeons and Dragons to Inspector Spacetime to Blanket forts vs Pillow Forts to Dreamatorium to Hot Lava and more Paintball episodes (don't forget the Post Apocalyptic Meow Meow Beanz episode and Stop Motion Animation Christmas episode a.k.a "Abed's uncontrollable Christmas" or even Kickpuncher for that matter ).
"Jeff, you are now creating 6 different timelines" - Abed, " Remedial Chaos Theory"
Though Abed seemed to be the most emotionally unattached, he was truly the heart and soul of the study group. His dilemma of life and TV being interchangeable often helped him explain difficult situations drawing from the similarities of how Television Shows run their course and how it can be used to interpret life.
“I remember when the show was about Community college.”–Abed, "Paranormal Parentage"
Abed is also the most the introspective about himself and he knows himself the best and since he knows himself the best he often feels that the situations he faces can prove to be difficult for him hence he changes himself to a different character to fit into those situations, while still observing those situations and himself from a distance.
“Britta, I've got self-esteem falling out of my butt. That's why I was willing to change for you guys because when you really know who you are and what you like about yourself, changing for other people isn't such a big deal.”
–Abed, "Physical Education"
Abed has an un-diagnosed psychological condition which makes it hard for him to understand people. His mother left his family when he was 6 years old ( you can refer to "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" or "Introduction To Film") and Abed assumed his father blamed him for it. This created distance between them and resulted in Abed alienating himself further by immersing himself in American pop-culture.
Abed is often the quiet observer. He likes to observe situations and never affect it. He can often interpret how things are going to play out, and while doing so, he likes to film these situations. Documentaries are his favourite.
"Some flies are too awesome for the wall. Documentarians are supposed to be objective, to avoid having any effect on the story. And yet we have more effect than anyone, because we decide to tell it. And we decide how it ends. Will your story be yet another sad one of yet another man who just wanted to be happy? Or will your story acknowledge the very nature of stories, and embrace the fact that sharing the sad ones can sometimes make them happy?" - Abed, "Documentary Filmmaking Redux"
Abed's role in the group was that of a Shaman, the watchful protector, a Dark Knight. He would be the one that would sum up every situation with a beautiful analogy that no one else in the group could provide not even Jeff. And he would be returned the favor whenever he was facing a difficult situation, by Troy or Annie or anyone else.
“It won't matter what happens to us as long as we stay honest and accepting of each other's flaws and virtues: Annie will always be driven, Shirley will always be giving, Pierce will never apologize, Britta's sort of a wild card from my perspective, and Jeff will forever remain a conniving son of a bitch" - Abed, "Documentary Film Redux"
His friendship with Troy was the best part about the show. Their escapades would provide the show with a different flavor in each episode. The Reggie to his Inspector Spacetime. Arguably ,the best part of the show was the after credit scenes or how we better know it as "Troy and Abed in the morning". Each episode was completely different from the other while still keeping the inherent story-line in tact ( It's all canon) . For a lot of people Community ended when Troy left the show.
This scene always makes me cry
And this always makes me laugh
Abed made me realize that there's a lot of things in our life that we can't control since they aren't within our reach and that we need to let a few things go, because we have no power over them.
“I have discovered the meaning of the giant hand. A hand has two functions; to grip and to release. But without both of these powers it is useless. Like newborn infants we grab what comes near us. Hoping to control it, taste it, jam it into another child's eye. But the time we spend in control of our world is the time we spend letting go of others. Ideas, stories, pride, girls in soft sweaters, video games, buttered noodles... Grip one for too long and you lose so much that you've never held. This giant hand was sent to all of us as an invitation to increase our mastery over the power to hold on...and let go.” Abed, "Basic RV repair and Palmistry"
I found Abed relatable in the aspect that most of us feel.
Not being understood or not being understood well enough.
He made me realize that our happiness is truly ours to have, if we choose to, and we don't have to be dependent on anyone or anything to be truly happy.
A lot of people were disappointed that Community ended just after six seasons but that last by quote by Abed in the final episode summed it all up. It made sense that we should be happy that something wonderful as this ever existed and that we should not be sad that it's going away, and that every moment is now.That it's not in the past. That it is now. It is fresh.
“There is skill to it. More importantly, it has to be joyful, effortless, fun. TV defeats its own purpose when it's pushing an agenda, or trying to defeat other TV or being proud or ashamed of itself for existing. It's TV, it's comfort. It's a friend you've known so well, and for so long you just let it be with you. And it needs to be okay for it to have a bad day, or phone in a day. And it needs to be okay for it to get on a boat with Levar Burton and never come back. Because eventually, it all will.”— Abed
Who can't count the reasons he should stay?
Troy, Troy, Troy the wonder boy. T Bone. The Disco Spider. One of the most beloved characters on the show. All of his humour is adolescent.
The most fun loving character on the the TV show.
I mean seriously have you seen Troy cry?
It's the funniest thing ever!
Troy Barnes (played by Donald Glover) was a graduate from both Riverside High School and Greendale Community College. A popular figure at Riverside, Troy was the star quarterback of the football team and also the prom king. His many admirers at school included his fellow classmate Annie Edison who would later join him at Greendale and become his roommate. At the time he had the interest of many elite universities but couldn't handle the pressure of other people's expectations.
The night before a big game attended by college recruiters he intentionally dislocated both of his shoulders (or faked a knee injury, accounts vary) doing a keg flip at a party.
Troy didn't have too many too many options of going to an elite institutions (something I can relate with but for different reasons) after his injury, he had to attend Community college.
"I was gonna be the first person in my family to graduate from community college. Everyone else graduated from normal college". -Troy
Initially Troy was very arrogant and a typical jock who was very proud of his accomplishments at school,but later there was a major change in his persona when he initially befriended Pierce and then found a best friend in Abed.
Troy, though being a side kick to Abed in many situations, had his own realizations and problems as well. He is the most relatable. He literally had a coming of age stint in the episode "Mixology Certification".
His adolescent humor made the show light in some aspects and brought a lot of good laughs.
"I made a new rule that the air conditioning school has to act like a real school. I can do that because I'm their Messiah". Troy, "Introduction to Finality"
"All difficult things are better. Like carrying a disease. Or holding a fart right now".
- Troy , "Digital Exploration of Interior Design"
Coming back to the friendship between Troy and Abed which actually made the show tick for the 1st 5 seasons. Troy dealing with Abed's craziness, playing along with him, alongside taking care of him and never complaining about it (well Blanket vs Pillow fort wars aside).
There was always an innocence about Troy that was missing about all the other characters which made him so lovable. His so called "silliness" made him cute and enhanced the laughter quotient of the show.
Troy is probably the best friend anyone can have. I mean he's a Jehovah's witness making him unable to celebrate Christmas and yet he played along-with Abed just because Abed wanted to in the Christmas Episode, making a rap video with him.
For the most part I can relate with Troy's innocence and his insecurities and his undying effort to be a good friend.
Holla for that Handshake !
Although I was sad that Troy had to leave the show and go with Levar Burton on a ship to God knows where (he was captured by pirates) I was kind of happy for him that he had finally was living his story, and kind of walking out of Abed's shadow.
Which made me realize that everybody has to live their own story.
Shirley could get "roped up and tied up", i.e should and could get married.
Shirley Bennett (played by Yvette Nicole Brown) is the proprietor of the campus eatery "Shirley's Sandwiches". She enrolled not long after her divorce from her husband Andre who had left her and their children for a stripper named Mysti.
Her goal at school was to take business courses which would help her market her baked goods ( and what not) to the masses. During her time at Greendale she became close friends with her study group. In her sophomore year she reconciled with her husband Andre and had another child with him. In her third year at school Shirley remarried Andre and also went into business with her fellow study group member Pierce Hawthorne. ( She also nearly married Chang)
After four years she graduated with honors earning a business degree. Not long afterwards she made a few bad financial decisions which hurt her family and led to another separation from her husband. An unexpected reunion with her study group made her decide to re-enroll at Greendale to become a better business woman.
Shirley was literally the mother of the group. A devout Christian who had an angry side that even the Hulk would probably be afraid of.
“The word he's looking for is 'sassy'. He better pray he doesn't find it.”–Shirley, "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux"
Shirley always had a gossiping problem and a baking problem as well. We see this in the episode "Social Psychology" and "Remedial Chaos Theory ". She admits that her gossiping has led to many of her past relationships being broken and not existing anymore, she is a " pot stirrer".She often struggles with tolerance for the other faiths of the non-Christian members of the study group ("Comparative Religion"). She has gone as far as trying to covertly baptize Annie at a pool party and suggested they baptize Abed (who is Muslim) while he was in a catatonic state("Biology 101").
I couldn't relate to Shirley much , although I did like the fact that she provided so much warmth to all of the members of the study group. I also admire her bravery and her will to raise to three children all on her own which makes her a very strong character in my opinion.
Her departure after 5th season was kind of depressing but I really appreciated the fact that she had a couple of cameos in the final season. I loved her relationship with Jeff, especially Season 3 Episode 9 a.k.a Foosball Episode.
Come to think of it, the only time I enjoyed her gossips was when she made fun of Vaughn's tiny nips with Jeff
Annie (played by Alison Brie) could be "dead in a year".
Annie's would be another character I could relate to a lot.
From an early age Annie was pressurized by her mother to perform well in school. She attended the same school as Troy, Riverside High. She also had a crush on Troy during this time. She ended up losing her college scholarship (and her virginity) and dropped out of high school due to an addiction to Adderall.
Her drug abuse led to a nervous breakdown that culminated in her jumping through a plate glass window and suffering severe injuries. Her mother wanted to ignore the incident but Annie chose to confront the addiction and go to rehab. As a result, Annie became estranged from her family and eventually moved out.
She then moved into a bad neighborhood where she rented out an apartment above Dildopolis.
Annie was that one kid who would perform to their fullest no matter what the circumstances. The definition of a perfectionist and super uptight.
“A passing grade?! Like a "C"?! Why don't I just get pregnant at a bus station!”–Annie, "Basic Lupine Urology"
Annie also displayed a certain level of confidence that was very admirable. She lived in a run down place but was never afraid of living there. She also took many initiatives during the school year, and was successful in carrying out most of them.
Oh, sure. I'll just blow it off. I'll just blow everything off! Heck, I guess I'll just blow off walking. ('Kay.) Or now I'll just blow off standing. I'm just blowing everything off! Maybe I'll blow off talking language! (Okay.) Blee boo blah blee bluh bloo blah bee buh bluuhhhhh.”--"Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design"
I also admired the fact that Annie because she was able to function independently in many ways.
Although she was a romantic at heart, she is often drawn to strong alpha-male type personalities. This has been demonstrated by her former school girl crush on Troy when he was a quarterback in high school as well as her ongoing attraction to Jeff. Despite Annie's seemingly innocent demeanour, she has displayed a more manipulative side on some occasions .
Annie also came from a broken home, ignored by her father and her brother when she was young and was raised by her mother. Which could explain her added confidence to take care of herself.
She is also very hot. Yeah, I went there. A lot of you watch the show because of her. Admit it.
Oh yeah,that's the stuff
In many ways you want Annie to fall in love for someone, she did seem to me like the hopeless romantic type.
(Alison Brie, Hi! I'm not seeing anyone!)
...okay... Coming back.
After Graduating Annie worked for a company called "Futuruza" where pharmaceutical sales representative, but eventually returned to the group and was part of the "Save Greendale Committee". Annie dropped her interest in health care management and is currently pursuing a degree in Forensics.
Hard work does pay off eventually, I guess.
Who "faded away"?
Do I have to tell you?
Well it's Pierce.
Piercinald Anastasia Hawthorne (played by Chevy Chase) was at one time the C.E.O of "Hawthorne Wipes" (moist towellete company). It was a company founded by his father, Cornelius Hawthorne, which afforded Pierce a leisurely lifestyle. In his younger years he lived it up, marrying seven times and accumulating over thirty step-children.
However, later in life he found himself alone and unhappy. In an attempt to cure his malaise, he started several hobbies including traveling the world, becoming a Toastmaster, performing magic, and playing the piano. In 1999 he returned to school to further expand his horizons and enrolled in Greendale Community College. He stayed for over a decade before finally graduating in 2013.
He stayed with the study group with whom he became quite close, although his racist and bigoted remarks often offended his peers. He had been kicked out and brought back into the group several times, but eventually developed friendships which became quite strong over time.
Pierce was also fairly gullible; this was evidenced in his participation with a religious movement known as "Reformed Neo Buddhism" that his friends and mother warned him was just a cult.
His life of luxury insulated him and made it hard for him to understand typical social norms. Adding to this was him being raised by his father Cornelius who passed on his racist and bigoted beliefs.
Pierce was also emotionally abused by his father, and lived under his shadow for the majority of his life. This scarred him in many ways.This attitude he was raised on, coupled with his lack of tact, had gotten him into trouble as he constantly made outrageous statements unaware of how rude and offensive they were (it made for good comedy though!)
“I say things others won't. That has value.”–Pierce, "Pascal's Triangle Revisited"
However I always believed that Pierce always spoke his mind, he might have been crafty at times but mostly he was dead honest. His words did have value at times, very racist words, but did have value.
His death though sad, "came" from very hilarious reasons.
“I can't have children. I'm not sterile. In fact, it's a rare condition they call it hyper virility. Apparently my sperm shoot through the egg if you can believe it.”
–Pierce, "Spanish 101"
Yes, Pierce died masturbating into cylinders which he would later give to his friends. Wow, what a way to go.
So why do I like this nearly unpopular show about a bunch of misfit characters that's not even "Hahahaha" funny?
Well coming back to why I wrote the article, I loved this show more than any show simply because of the fact that there was so much going on within the show and there were so new things done in terms of comedy that you would feel compelled to love this show.
When the show seemed to be cancelled after the fifth season, I did a lot of online protests to bring the show back because come on, we needed six seasons right? (Cape reference)
I connected to all most all of these characters in very unique ways, (I could never connect to Chang or Dean Pelton, hence they're not mentioned in this article, I'll probably have another article about the other characters of Community).
I have to say that Community as a TV show is not a show about those perfect people who have perfect lives and drive nice cars and live in mansions, Community is about broken, beaten and scarred characters who had severe emotional problems and how they learnt to accept each other and live with each other.
Community takes every other TV show breaks it down to it's essence and makes fun of it by creating a pastiche version of it.
Each episode is completely different from the rest.
Each character is unique. Each character is beautiful.
Yahoo lost a tonne of money making this show,putting it on the air for millions of us to view. But only a handful did, and now it's gone and it may never come back, there might not even be a movie. But I don't care about all that. I've lived through this experience. If there's a movie, great, if there isn't, it's fine.
Community goes to show that there's enough art out there and if you're confident about showcasing it, then you should.