The internet was positively aglow with anticipation last month, as the triumphant return of Community beckoned. Having been clutched in the uncertain embrace of a mid-series hiatus, fans of the increasingly popular comedy series feared it would suffer the same dispassionate cancellation as other US shows of merit, such as Arrested Development (an error which incidentally is soon to be corrected).
If you haven’t been acquainted with the students of Greendale Community College, allow me the pleasure of providing a brief introduction:
Now in its third series, the NBC comedy is set in the (fictional) town of Greendale, Colorado, where suitably flashy lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) has been rumbled for forging a phony bachelor’s degree. To lift his professional suspension, he is forced to enrol in the local community college to earn a legitimate qualification. The series is based around the trials, tribulations and adventures of the study group he forms in an initial attempt to attract the romantic attentions of Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs), his classmate (and former anarchist).
The rest of the study group formed for Spanish 101 (taught by Ken Jeong’s sociopathic Señor Chang) comprises of Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), a film student with a life-absorbing obsession with popular culture; Annie Edison (Alison Brie), a young, studious former addict; Pierce Hawthorne (the evergreen Chevy Chase), a wealthy mature student with questionable views on areas of race and gender; Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown), single mother and born-again Christian with a secretive past; and Troy Barnes, once the star quarterback of his high school football team, now a nerd. Other characters of note include extrovert, yet thinly-closeted homosexual college Dean, Craig Pelton (Jim Rash); and a host of recurring classmates who usually only serve as occasional plot devices or targets for the study group’s increasing cliqueyness.
Following a fairly unremarkable few episodes at the opening end of Series One, Community truly shifts into full gear, with the pop culture allusions coming thick and fast and healthy dollops of meta-reference thrown in to boot. Punctuating the series’ are the much-celebrated ‘paintball episodes’ (of which there are three, to date), in which the college is thrown into the grip of all-out paintball warfare – leaving the writers with veritable acres of room for parody and homage.
The first post-hiatus episode, 'Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts' (they’re all titled to vaguely sound like module titles, though as you can see they get a little tenuous), sees Shirley set to re-marry her previously unfaithful ex-husband Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), while an entrepreneurial Pierce tries to convince her to open a sandwich business on campus with his investment. Meanwhile, the duo of Troy and Abed seek to vent all their tendencies for social ‘weirdness’ in order to avoid embarrassment for Shirley on her big day, as a reluctant Britta is drafted in to help plan the ceremony.
While not the strongest episode of the programme (or even the third series) it was watched by almost five million viewers in the US alone – an indication of the shot-in-the-arm that the hiatus and the surrounding publicity has provided. With the show recently signed for syndication into the year 2013, it seems that Community is here to stay. So, if you’re at a loss for things to watch or merely seeking sanctuary from essays and revision, you could do far worse than sourcing a few episodes and watching the students of Greendale take paintball far, far too seriously.