I can't count the reasons I should stay.
February 12, 2011 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Dan Harmon is the creator of the brilliant NBC comedy Community. He recorded a bunch of videos promoting the show on this brilliant promotional site (playing Patrick Isakson, Dean of Admissions). He was not happy when Community moved to 8PM Thursdays. (He talks to himself a lot.) Community's Dungeons and Dragons episode last week (warning: Hulu link) was pretty great, but did you know that Harmon was a member of the Dead Alewives, and wrote and voiced characters in this classic D&D sketch? Here's that sketch's lesser-known second part.
posted by Rory Marinich (97 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just thought I'd mention that I happened to watch both that D&D episode and the D&D episode of IT Crowd on the same day. Both were brilliant. Thanks for this

Carry on,
chuck.
posted by humboldt32 at 7:46 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


and I thought I'd mention that the last few episodes of Community have been a writing tour de force - I'm pretty picky and it's hard to win me over but somebody over there really, really knows what they are doing.
posted by victors at 7:48 AM on February 12, 2011


I occasionally tune in to Community and all, but I just need to pipe in and say after several reccomendations I caught the D&D episode and went squeeeee!

Though, I did nerd out and get upset at the closed captioning for treating the Drow costume as "Drau". C'est la vie.
posted by cavalier at 7:49 AM on February 12, 2011


(Cut from the FPP because it wasn't entirely relevant: He also writes very funny things about porn.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:51 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Episoodes I've watched at random haven't really grabbed me, but someone pointed me at the paintball episode, and that was great.

(though I'd argue the Spaced paintball episode has the edge on it.)
posted by Artw at 7:52 AM on February 12, 2011


WAIT. He did the Cheeto's sketch?

I LOVE YOU DAN HARMON.
posted by cavalier at 7:54 AM on February 12, 2011


Also, is The IT Crowd worth watching? I know its name because Chris Morris was on it, but somebody told me it wasn't up to par with Morris's own shows.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:00 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just thought I'd mention that I happened to watch both that D&D episode and the D&D episode of IT Crowd on the same day.

My husband and I did the same thing. For someone who has no patience with RPGs -- I have tried, god knows, but it's not happening -- I was amused.

I really love Community. The writing is just... you can tell that the writers love sitcoms and love pushing the limits of the form. Even when they don't quite hit the mark, like this week's Valentine's episode, I'm willing to wait for the payoff. (Like Pierce's slow decline into madness. The episode were everything goes to shit is going to be so good.)
posted by sugarfish at 8:00 AM on February 12, 2011


Rory, YES. The first four series -- is there a fifth yet? -- are streaming on Netflix, and each only has six episodes, so you're not out much time if you hate it. I've found that when each series shows up for streaming, we basically mainline the entire thing in one evening. It's that "Just one more..." and then it's 1a kind of thing.
posted by sugarfish at 8:01 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


RORY! Good god. Get ye to the IT Crowd. Do it now. You can even get it on Netflix streaming.
posted by cavalier at 8:02 AM on February 12, 2011


I always thought Community was OK; Good enough to listen to in the background while doing other stuff, but that D&D episode knocked my socks off! And my nerd stripes really showed when they flipped to Chang, and I started chanting "please let them say he's a Drow! Please let them say he's a Drow!"
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:07 AM on February 12, 2011


Rory, let me ask you something: "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"
posted by humboldt32 at 8:07 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Sorry for the derail BTW)
posted by humboldt32 at 8:08 AM on February 12, 2011


Rory, no. It is Britcom shit at it's worst. Catchphrases, bad sitcom characters, mediocre jokes, obnoxious laugh track. Have you seen Extras? It's "When the Whistle Blows" with nerd/IT reference humor. I think that people in IT or nerds like it in the same way that bigots liked Archie Bunker.

I'm a big fan of Community and P&R but the IT Crowd is a much different kind of show, quality judgments aside.
posted by theclaw at 8:32 AM on February 12, 2011 [17 favorites]


Harmon is also the co-founder of Channel 101. A long time ago he posted some tutorials about story structure that I thought were pretty great. His shows on Channel 101 include Computerman and Laser Fart among others.
I love Community.
posted by bstreep at 8:33 AM on February 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know, I'd been hearing about how incredible the IT Crowd is from all my geeky friends and acquaintances and when I finally got around to watching the first couple of episodes, I was seriously underwhelmed. Is it a case of a sitcom finding its feet? Or is it that way all the way through? Because, I gotta say, your favorite geeky comedy sucks.

Community on the other hand, is brilliant!
posted by lyam at 8:34 AM on February 12, 2011


You know what they say about Harmon...

Channel 101 The Musical #2 about 1:25 in.

Looks like it's true! Now I have something to watch this weekend.
posted by graftole at 8:35 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


(#3 actually. Doh.)
posted by graftole at 8:36 AM on February 12, 2011


Dan Harmon did these things? really? I fell in geek-love with him through his work with Rob Schrab on the delightfully insane Scud the Disposable Assassin; that he is still doing things makes me happy. now I will have to watch these things.
posted by spindle at 8:51 AM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


TBH I didn't like the first few IT Crowds I watched either, and now I think it's fantastic. I'd really have to watch those early episodes again to know if it was them or me.
posted by Artw at 8:58 AM on February 12, 2011


IT Crowd grows on you, but it is pretty different from Community and liking one does not indicate you'd like the other. I think Community is the best sitcom on TV right now (with Parks and Rec close behind) and I don't care for the IT Crowd very much.
posted by Falconetti at 9:06 AM on February 12, 2011


Harmon's experience on working on Kung Fu Panda is also worth looking at (it's about 14 posts down). Never met the guy, but he seems genuinely committed to good story telling.
posted by bstreep at 9:08 AM on February 12, 2011


Shit, bstreep, I never realized that Kung Fu Panda post was Harmon! He's quickly becoming one of my writing-heroes.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:18 AM on February 12, 2011


From that Kung Fu Panda post, second page (this I don't remember having read):
I get in a huff about good writing and bad writing and I burn bridges and storm away and everyone smart enough not to give a shit breathes a sigh of relief, makes a cuckoo sign with their finger and divvies up my money. I think the reason I still get hired is because my reputation is "yeah, hire Dan Harmon, he writes a bunch of stuff to get you started and then he gets mad and jumps out the window without his check."

In terms of results, there is

1. work that makes money
2. work that gets you more work
3. work that becomes famous
4. work that impresses other writers
5. work that makes people happy and
6. work that makes you happy.

And #6 is the only result you can attempt to control unless you want to die the biggest dip shit fucking sucker in the world.

I realize nobody asked for that advice but I can only learn things by tricking myself into thinking I'm teaching.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:22 AM on February 12, 2011 [24 favorites]


IMO, The IT Crowd is extremely uneven. Some of it I found really good, and some is just forced and unfunny. The first three episodes of the latest season on Netflix are very disappointing. But when it hits a high, it's very, very good.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:27 AM on February 12, 2011


I don't understand much of anything anyone has said in this thread, but the additional videos on web sites phenomenon is an interesting new development.

My daughter (14) is obsessed with a tween sitcom on Nickelodeon in the U.S. called Victorious. (I'm more of a Modern Family/Arrested Development/Curb YE guy but I'm not the target.)

The interesting thing is that they have tons of addtiional videos on their website, "the slap", including requests that actors respond to in character (scare your sister 7 times, turn character X into a hamburger (squirting catsup and mustard on them), etc. ). Sure they might be faked but also might not. Also stuff like, tweet our show's name and we''ll put your twitter name on the website, etc.
posted by msalt at 9:28 AM on February 12, 2011


Community is my favourite sitcom on TV right now. But I fear it's doomed... the ratings just haven't been there... and now it's getting the kiss of death in the form of local pre-emptions by my local NBC affiliate.
posted by evilcolonel at 9:38 AM on February 12, 2011


Just thought I'd mention that I happened to watch both that D&D episode and the D&D episode of IT Crowd on the same day.

That's ruddy mysterious.
posted by mintcake! at 9:41 AM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is this where I mention that Harmon (and Rob Schrab) was also responsible for the writing the brilliant unaired Heat Vision & Jack pilot? (previously on MeFi)
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:41 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Community is my favourite sitcom on TV right now. But I fear it's doomed... the ratings just haven't been there... and now it's getting the kiss of death in the form of local pre-emptions by my local NBC affiliate.

Disgusting.
posted by kafziel at 9:53 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sometimes community is a bit too pleased with itself and in-jokey, but at the same time that is a fine model for a tv show these days--it might not be as pure funny as something like parks and recreation or party down but its way more rewarding for fans who rewatch shit over and over and follow every online tidbit. The US office is the prototype of this. The fantastic claymation Xmas episode finally won me over, and I look forward to watching the first season in depth.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:00 AM on February 12, 2011


woah, he worked on Scud? I loved that comic!
posted by saul wright at 10:01 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dan Harmon also has a mostly disused tumblr blog on which you'll find the most hilarious skewering of the latest Terminator movie: Suggested Dialog Revisions to Original Terminator for Special Edition.

Also, he was my Comedy Sportz instructor when I was on a team in high school.

Advice to people that maybe haven't caught on despite seeing a few episodes of Community here and there: keep watching. It's not (yet) as consistently brilliant as some other shows. But when it hits it's mark, it hit's it hard.

I was mostly unimpressed until I watched the Halloween episode from the 1st season, it's been my favorite show ever since.
posted by j03 at 10:11 AM on February 12, 2011


I've recently started re-watching/playing catch up with the IT Crowd and there's a lot of inconsistency there especially with the first few episodes. But there's always something to make me laugh out loud and the first episode of the second series ('The Works Outing') is probably one of the funniest things ever and ironically one of the most untypical episodes.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:13 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am such a geek about this show, which is probably why it will be canceled, because I seem to have a taste for awesome shows with no future (see Arrested Development, Party Down, and Veronica Mars).

But I really hope they get at least one more season. The writers here are brilliantly deconstructing sitcom tropes and still advancing plot and characterization so awesomely...I keep hoping American Idol will suck enough this year that they'll start pulling in more ratings. It's the best show on television right now.
posted by jnaps at 10:16 AM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I enjoy moments of Community, but I find I have trouble getting the past the fact that the writing is trying so damn hard to be 'referential'. It's sort of like the hipster show of television.
posted by modernnomad at 10:20 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


He was not happy when Community moved to 8PM Thursdays.

I...I really, I don't know why, I expected him to look more like Dean Peldon. (I also came on board when the show was already at 8, so that's news.)

Anyway, excellent. Thanks for the links. Looking forward to going through the rest of this. But while I won't argue with the "brilliant comedy" from the post (it is!), the show has also taken some really non-comedic turns recently. The mixology/bar outing episode, the Christmas episode, and the most recent (Valentine's Day)--especially when Jeff referred to the rest of the group as "broken people"...it's shockingly somber at times.
posted by kittyprecious at 10:24 AM on February 12, 2011


The first Halloween episode of Community is one of the best half-hours of television I've ever seen... and I've seen a LOT of television.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:24 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The friendship between Troy and Abed is one of my favorite things on tv right now. I especially love the little bits after the credits like "Troy and Abed In the Morning". Love it!
posted by zorrine at 10:26 AM on February 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


For the love of all that is holy, please let Community survive to next season. I personally only watch Community then ignore NBC's existence the other 167.5 hours of the week.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:27 AM on February 12, 2011


the writing is trying so damn hard to be 'referential'. It's sort of like the hipster show of television.

For me, that's only a problem when the reference stands in for the joke --- that is, when you have to get the reference to get the joke, or you have to know it is a reference to know that it's a joke. And (again, in my opinion) Community handles this better than almost any other reference-heavy show I've seen.

For example, I haven't seen most of the action movies referenced in the paintball episode, but both the plot and the jokes came through perfectly. If you don't know it's a John Woo moment or a Die Hard moment, the jokes still work and the plot still tracks.

I'm not trying to talk you into changing your mind, because comedy is so very peculiarly personal --- I'm just exploring the idea of referential comedy a little.
posted by Elsa at 10:30 AM on February 12, 2011


I enjoy moments of Community, but I find I have trouble getting the past the fact that the writing is trying so damn hard to be 'referential'. It's sort of like the hipster show of television.

I was actually surprised at how well (for me, anyway) Community handles the self-reference. Like, I was worried about Abed, and got more worried when he cracked the joke early on about lying low for an episode, and got more worried about Jack Black during his episode... but the show kind of says, "Yeah, we're a TV show. We have tropes. It's funny. But it's not where our heart's at."

And that's what I think Community's secret is. Both it and its characters acknowledge that it's not doing anything new under the sun — but they go on to insist that just because it's been done before doesn't make it valueless. If anything, knowing it's happened before helps you appreciate just how worthwhile it all is.

Take the show's relationships. It opens up and, if you're like me, you don't give a shit about Jeff or Britta. You find them funny so you watch them, but you don't really care either way if they kiss. But then two episodes in they get it over with, eliminate the pretense of "will they or won't they", and for me suddenly their relationship became worth watching. Because on Community it's really not about who does what — lots of people do lots of things. It's really about how those things change us, how they affect our relationships with other people, and how our own actions change over time. Jeff and Britta are capable of drunk make-outs, but can they stand to see each other the next day? Is Abed affected by the fact that they disregard his being where when they kiss? Or will they brush it off and move on, and in doing so reveal just how little it matters?

Jeff is the protagonist because he enters the show caring about nothing. He doesn't care about Greendale. He doesn't really care about Britta. He sees her as a hook-up and nothing more. But over time Jeff comes to actually care about these people, and about the college as a whole. He finds meaning to his life in the caring rather than in the actions. Britta starts mattering not because she's hot, but because she's his friend. And what we do might not matter much to the universe, truth is relative, etc., but it matters to the people in our community.

The show's still evolving emotionally — the episode of Troy's birthday really pushed things to a great place — but even by the season 1 finale I was invested enough that Jeff's decision at the end of the episode surprised me, despite the fact that Community was reminding me every episode how formulaic and predictable Jeff's every possible action was going to be. The fact that the show is "referential" helps me remember that while I could just sit and try to analyze what the show's borrowing from what, I'll get a lot more out of it if I just try to appreciate the experience as it happens. That's a moral that I took out of Community and applied to other parts of my life, actually.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:39 AM on February 12, 2011 [21 favorites]




Oh great, another day when I'm going to have to hear my wife say "I'm casting MAGIC MISSILE" all day long.

Just like yesterday.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:45 AM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Your WIFE is the one in the relationship that makes that joke? You married well, my friend.
posted by pts at 10:47 AM on February 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Like, I was worried about Abed, and got more worried when he cracked the joke early on about lying low for an episode,

Rory. Abed didn't lay low for that episode. His entire storyline that episode was in the background.
posted by Talez at 11:07 AM on February 12, 2011 [19 favorites]


Despite the fact that she cheated on me with someone in my own bed, lied to me about damn near everything, and outright stole from me - I still thank my ex-girlfriend for introducing me to Community.

The paintball episode. We sat there watching it. I said "Are they gonna end it like I think... oh boy.. does he have... Yes!"

I don't have cable or satellite, and don't watch a lot of "normal" broadcast TV - but I tell my coworkers about Community.
posted by mrbill at 11:09 AM on February 12, 2011


Rory. Abed didn't lay low for that episode. His entire storyline that episode was in the background.

I linked to that same clip in my FPP! But no, I didn't mean that storyline, which was in Season 2. I mean the early episode in Season 1, I forget which, that opens with Abed talking about how he "leaned pretty hard" on his self-referential gimmick "last week" and is fine with "lying low". He then doesn't show up in the episode at all.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:09 AM on February 12, 2011


Aha! Found it! The opening to episode 6:
Abed: Will they or won't they? Sexual tension.
Jeff: Abed, you have to stop treating us like we're characters in a TV show.
Abed: Well, that's kind of my gimmick. Although we did lean pretty hard on that last week. I can lay low for an episode.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:21 AM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The problem with Community's ratings is that in general the TV audience isn't that smart. To quote Phillip J Fry,

But that's not why people watch TV. Clever things make people feel stupid, and unexpected things make them feel scared.

Community in this case is a victim of its own intelligence. For people that are smart, that remember all of the numerous pop culture references that it brings to the table, it gives us a warm sense of comforting nostalgia and we find it genuinely funny. It's not like Family Guy where it throws a spaghetti plate of pop culture against the wall to see what sticks. It brings the references into the narrative cohesively rather than be a distraction. The flipside to this is that unless you're smart enough and have the base general knowledge to get the reference (i.e. Pierce as Cookie Crisp) you've just lost a third of an episode.

How do you get around this? Typically by using lowest common denominator references/cliches (i.e. action movies like the Modern Warfare episode) but you can't do that for the four and a half seasons required to see syndication. I say just enjoy it while it lasts and hope that NBC sees its possible syndication value and keeps it around for at least that long.
posted by Talez at 11:22 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fuck me, I keep jumping in here and finding new things -- like he also wrote the Heat Vision pilot?

Rory, thank you! I really had no idea I had a new writer to worship.
posted by cavalier at 11:29 AM on February 12, 2011


One of the pleasures of Community is seeing random Channel 101 types show up in minor parts.
posted by kenko at 11:31 AM on February 12, 2011


I still nearly piss myself every time I see the Greenfield Human Being.

When he was "unveiled" was maybe the first time I shed actual tears laughing at a TV show.
posted by everichon at 11:32 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, question: I've never seen Channel 101 and I'm kind of intimidated by how much of it there is. Are there any good starting points that'll get me hooked and wanting to watch the rest of it? I'm assuming this is totally worth watching, right?
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:33 AM on February 12, 2011


Also, Dan Harmon on why Community is so self-referential, from this interview:
AVC: Abed comes right up to the edge of breaking the fourth wall. What do you see his role as, and would you ever have him directly break the fourth wall?

DH:
No, I never would. And in fact the whole reason for him being the guy that’s such a fan of TV and movies is that he’s not afraid to say the thing that TV characters usually aren’t allowed to say which is, “Isn’t this a lot like a TV show?” Because if somebody is not allowed to say that, I would get bored real fast writing a sitcom. But at the same time, the fourth wall cannot be broken in my mind. I have a real sensitivity to that. People feel like it’s the opposite, that it’s constantly caressing it and punching it, challenging it and stuff, but it really couldn’t be more the opposite. I really believe that you need some pop-culture referencing and some little bit of, “Wow this is really sort of coming together like TV shows do” in order for modern audiences to actually believe what’s happening is happening, because that’s how you and I would react if we were in those situations. We would not just go, “Oh good, I’m glad we all worked this out in 20 minutes through a succession of Joseph Campbell steps.” We’re somebody apt to go, “Yeah, exactly, because this is a TV show.” [Laughs.] So to represent the fact that it’s happening in reality.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:37 AM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, question: I've never seen Channel 101 and I'm kind of intimidated by how much of it there is. Are there any good starting points that'll get me hooked and wanting to watch the rest of it? I'm assuming this is totally worth watching, right?

Someone should do an FPP about that. Since I only just heard of Channel 101 today (and Heat Vision and Jack too, for that matter... THANK YOU SO MUCH ♥ ), that someone should not be me. Maybe others have specific ideas?
posted by AugieAugustus at 11:53 AM on February 12, 2011


Channel 101 has been mostly dormant for the past couple of years since the advent of Funny or Die and the rise of youtube in popularizing stuff like the Lonely Island and Yacht Rock. Metafilter has had some posts on their best stuff, so why not start here?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:59 AM on February 12, 2011


Channel 101 has been mostly dormant for the past couple of years

?

Nah, that's crazy.

Here are some good shows from the past couple years:

The Curious Happenings about George Warrior
Making Mistakes
Water and Power (feat. Harmon)
Arrow
Gigabots
The Mountain
The Suits
The Pop
Le Typewriter
Boner for Boner
Toon Wolf
Backstory
Seinfelnd

It is true that the number of Acosta/Randolph collaborations has been declining.
posted by kenko at 12:10 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Food, whose chef is in the D&D Community ep. Randall Park is in the topmost video in the "videos" link of the FPP.
posted by kenko at 12:15 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another irritating self-thread-insertion: The second, lesser-known Dead Alewives D&D sketch contains what was, for me in high school, the defining line about what it means to be a DM:
DM: I'm not worried about my creativity, Mark. I'm the Dungeon Master! I control worlds! Universes! Every potion you drink I mixed. Every magic item you find I put it there. Do you remember when you killed that hill giant?

Picard: I rolled a 20, double damage.

DM: You rolled a 19, Mark. I fudged it. That giant would've killed you, man. But I admired your spark. You wanted it so badly... so I helped. Because I wanted to. And I help people when I want to. And right now, you're roasting in the hot belly of a platinum dragon, so why don't you ask yourself where... your priorities... lie.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:17 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, on the Greendale web site you can find two episodes from Abed's sitcom, five minutes each, plus a series of indie films from other Greendale "members".

That site is loaded with unexpected gems. I also recommend looking at all the faculty/student pages. This one and this one led to actual guffaws.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:19 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


19 is still 2x damage in my world.

(thanks Kenko, I stand gloriously corrected!)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:20 PM on February 12, 2011


Unsure if Potomac Avenue realized this when typing that comment earlier (couldn't tell from the phrasing), but Yacht Rock actually was a Channel 101 show, and one of my favorites too. (Episodes listed in reverse chronological order, so start with episode 1 so you know the characters, etc.)
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 1:33 PM on February 12, 2011


Community is on NBC Thursday at 8pm.

Big Bang Theory is on CBS Thursday at 8pm.

Who knew two things could be essentially identical while also being fundamentally opposite?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:42 PM on February 12, 2011


Who knew two things could be essentially identical while also being fundamentally opposite?

As has been pointed out at amazing detail by the commentariat at the Onion AV Club, this is made reference to on occasion in Community's dialogue, most recently in the Barenaked Ladies discussion before the Valentine's dance.
posted by kittyprecious at 1:51 PM on February 12, 2011


You had me at "Heat Vision and Jack". I adore that show.

"Well...I'm not a motorcycle."
posted by neuromodulator at 1:57 PM on February 12, 2011


Life at Hardby Community College:

There, on the steps of Warnes Starcoat lab I relized
"Tenser needs me"
posted by clavdivs at 2:17 PM on February 12, 2011


Oh man, a single guy was partly responsible for Scud, Heat Vision and Jack, and that Dead Alewives D&D video? I'd heard that Community is something I should be watching, but now I'm sold.
posted by painquale at 2:23 PM on February 12, 2011


Okay, I've heard a lot about Community, but I'd never seen it until today. Went and watched the Advanced D&D episode because of this thread.

There's just one thing I need to know.

Is Pierce Hawthorne always such a total dick?

Seriously, though, good show.
posted by misha at 3:05 PM on February 12, 2011


So… Community's gotten to be worth watching? I gave it a try when it first came out, found the guy from Talk Soup too glib, thought Abed and Troy were trying too hard to be wacky, and felt annoyed at their total bizarro-version of what community college is like (there aren't morning announcements, you don't get a BA there, you aren't in all the same classes… seriously, it's like some high school show with a bunch of random adults). I may give it another shot after seeing the plaudits here, but when someone calls it the funniest thing on TV, I wonder if they're falling asleep before 30 Rock.
posted by klangklangston at 3:10 PM on February 12, 2011


found the guy from Talk Soup too glib

That's the point. It's a hugging-and-learning show; guess what he (never) learns!

thought Abed and Troy were trying too hard to be wacky [...] when someone calls it the funniest thing on TV, I wonder if they're falling asleep before 30 Rock.

Have you seen 30 Rock? It's nothing but Troys and Abeds.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:22 PM on February 12, 2011


when someone calls it the funniest thing on TV, I wonder if they're falling asleep before 30 Rock

Are we watching the same 30 Rock? The 30 Rock where the formula is that Jack says something random and Republican, Liz says something random and unfeminine, Kenneth says something random and either fundamentalist or just stupid, Jenna says something random and vain, and Tracy says something extra random to make up for the fact that he has no other character traits?

I mean, don't get me wrong, it's done well and all, but 30 Rock hasn't done anything new or good since the first season, and every time it's tried something new it makes us wish it hadn't.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:32 PM on February 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


Community is my absolute favorite thing on television right now. My favorite thing used to be 30 Rock, and I still love 30 Rock, but when Thursday morning rolls around and I'm all grumpy at work and then I remember that it's TV night, I get just a bit more excited about Community. Probably because I have a huge giddy schoolgirl crush on Donald Glover.
posted by palomar at 4:29 PM on February 12, 2011


this is made reference to on occasion in Community's dialogue, most recently in the Barenaked Ladies discussion before the Valentine's dance.
"Barenakes Ladies = Big Bang Theory theme song

Triple Platinum = Really high ratings

Billboard awards = Emmy awards"

damn, I didn't notice that.
posted by saul wright at 4:41 PM on February 12, 2011


Is Pierce Hawthorne always such a total dick?

Pretty much because Chevy Chase is a total dick. No offense, Chevy. My point being, the man plays total dick so perfectly, it's amazing once you realize that's his role in the show.

The main difference between Community and other irreverent sitcoms is that the wacky characters actually grow. All of their motives gradually change over time, and you start to feel proud of them. The will-they-or-won't-they of the show was whether they all come to truly appreciate each other and the value of their friendship. But that wasn't the will-they-or-won't-they of the first half of last season, or the second half of last season, and probably not for the rest of this season. I think they just made a breakthrough in the last episode. That shit is subtle and deep, man.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:20 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who knew two things could be essentially identical while also being fundamentally opposite?

I'm having a hard time with the idea that Community and The Big Bang Theory are "essentially identical". In what ways are they even similar? I guess they are both sitcoms.
posted by crossoverman at 6:10 PM on February 12, 2011


They are both sitcoms about 20- and 30-somethings from various backgrounds who bicker a lot and nerd out together and attend post-secondary institutions. There's a skinny aspie and a South Asian (though they're both the same guy in Community) and a hot blonde will-they-won't-they love interest-cum-friend and one relatively "normal" guy who is the central protagonist. And some other people.

They easily could have come from the same pitch.

That said, yes, they are very different otherwise.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:02 PM on February 12, 2011


I love Most Extraordinary Space Investigations, where it seems like Dan Harmon and his funny friends just get high in someone's living room and act wacky.
posted by orme at 7:07 PM on February 12, 2011


My favorite thing used to be 30 Rock

30 Rock hasn't done anything new or good since the first season

Perhaps not coincidentally, Donald Glover was actually a writer on 30 Rock for the first season or two.
posted by Mr. Palomar at 7:08 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


In addition to the D&D episode, the other episode that made me laugh out loud repeatedly was the conspiracy one, where the A plot was Jeff and Annie chasing a conspiracy theory and the B plot was Troy and Abed building a blanket fort. I watched it 3 times.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:09 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


and the B plot was Troy and Abed building a blanket fort

Did you ever see Homeless James Bond, which features Dan Harmon? I am convinced the gag where the villain's cardboard box fortress softly collapses was reused for the blanket fort. This is the first time I've ever felt safe sharing that with anyone.
posted by orme at 7:26 PM on February 12, 2011


Yeah, Pierce's social skills aren't exactly streets ahead, know what I mean?

Stop trying to coin the phrase, streets ahead
Trying? Coined and minted. The episode about acting makes him seem, if not 'likable', 'knowable', comprehendible.
posted by infinite intimation at 8:11 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some more Channel 101 fun: "You're in love with Dr. Miracles!" "No, I'm in love with saving lives!"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:27 PM on February 12, 2011


I've kind of sort of started using "streets ahead" in real life. This show gets inside of me.

Community is on NBC Thursday at 8pm.

Big Bang Theory is on CBS Thursday at 8pm.

Who knew two things could be essentially identical while also being fundamentally opposite?


I've tried both shows but Community is the clear winner for me, by far. Some of it is the usage of a laugh track. (Laugh tracks on current shows throw me right out, but I wouldn't be able to watch something like Roseanne without one. Weird.) But mostly it's because I feel like Big Bang Theory is still contemptuous of its audience. As if the point of it is to point out how you can live a fuller life if you just iron out the geekier elements... Community doesn't give me that feeling whatsoever.
posted by greenland at 8:46 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]



Community in this case is a victim of its own intelligence. For people that are smart, that remember all of the numerous pop culture references that it brings to the table, it gives us a warm sense of comforting nostalgia and we find it genuinely funny.


Probably late to the party, but...huh? Community can be a clever show and the creator's seem to have fun playing with the format, but it doesn't exactly require much from the viewer. It's not incredibly fast-paced, the characters follow the basic sitcom archetypes, and episodes end with everything restored to the status quo. I'd even say the show tends dumb down it's "cleverer" elements by making sure the viewer knows it's doing something clever (the "bottle episode" was pretty egregious about this). I don't think "lots of pop culture references" means "intelligent," no matter how well they're integrated into the plot.

The show doesn't have low ratings because a lot of people watched the show and couldn't understand the premise. It's more likely that it's because there are a bunch of fairly good shows on every week and people (who watch TV) don't want to devote a lot of their free time watching them all. A show you like isn't necessarily unpopular because non-viewers aren't as smart as you. This whole mindset is pretty obnoxious, doubly so when the show itself does this (it really bothered me when Arrested Development, a far better show than Community, did this in the last season).
posted by bittermensch at 8:50 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pierce Hawthorne is a total jerk, but not usually as cruel as he was during the D&D episode. I'm convinced it is part of a larger story dealing with the death of his mother and his addiction to painkillers but we shall see.
posted by sugarfish at 9:01 PM on February 12, 2011


I love Community a lot. The characters really sell it for me. To the point where I regularly dream about them.

The first couple of times it was just kinda cool, because it was like hey, I get a bonus Community episode in my sleep, but now it's getting to the point where it's kind of weird that I wake up after having some kind of adventure organizing something liberal with Britta or helping Troy and Abed with some kind of wacky stunt and am like, hey, I've had more dreams about Community in the past six months than I have about all of the actual people in my life combined.
posted by NoraReed at 11:50 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just found out about Community last week and watched most of it by now. Great little show; I like Parks&Rec too, and they're my two favorite shows now.

I like Community best, but it may be just because it's new and fresh to me. Actually, I think the difference is that in P&R, only Leslie and Andy are always funny; in Community all characters are kickass. 30Rock is a very distant third, I love it in principle but it's more of a series of vignettes than anything cohesive, and it's starting to rehash more and more, I'm afraid. I still love Dr. Spaceman though.

The neat thing about Community is that all characters are unlikeable or at least tepid at first but after a few episodes they all grow on you, and I can't even figure out why, it's not something obvious - more like a genuine attempt to avoid canned reactions and tropes.
posted by rainy at 12:08 AM on February 13, 2011


But mostly it's because I feel like Big Bang Theory is still contemptuous of its audience.

It is the rampant stereotypes that kill me. Blond girl dumb. Nerd wear tee shirt. Smart people talk about science all the time. Smart people have nasally voices. Ethnic person wears colorful clothing and misunderstands. Must have very special episode during sweeps. People who are different cannot have fulfilling romantic lives. Blossom just there for the paycheck.

When I watch shows like this, I get the peculiar feeling that the *characters* are pausing for the laughter.

On the other hand, Community is awfully pleased with itself. I still enjoy it.
posted by gjc at 7:17 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks to others for explaining what is so insipid about Big Bang Theory (which no, is not seminal enough to get a commonly-used abbreviation.) It doesn't love its characters, and it doesn't respect its audience, and apparently it doesn't need to. It is the kind of show, like Two and a Half Men, which I have attempted to watch because they're so highly rated, but within two or three minutes I've reached my threshold and simply cannot watch any more. The jokes are the most facile softballs the writers can be bothered to jot down, the deliveries as broad as the sea, and most importantly, it's all done from an outsider's perspective. This is the key difference.

Big Bang Theory views its subjects like freaks in a terrarium to be studied and laughed at. Community is one of the freaks, and it shows. It's why Community's characters are so, so much more layered and nuanced, while Big Bang Theory's are such stereotyopes: because while Community is by nerd, about nerds, for nerds, Big Bang Theory is only about nerds, by and for everyone else. I almost said that it is hateful to it's audience, but that's only true if you happen to be a nerd. It is a show specifically not for us.

Take the following Community excerpt, wherein jokes layer one atop the other ans Shirley goes from sugary-sweet to Bernie Mac in 15 seconds. In Big Bang Theory it would be enough to just have someone say the word "linear" in a nasal voice, because it is a vaguely smart-person word and we are laughing at smart people for being socially maladroit. But in Community it's just something that a character would say.

And so Community is able to pull of an astounding degree of heart in it's episodes because underneath all of the cynicism is a genuine love for the characters. And that's part of the reason I imagine we'll see a third season, at least. For one thing, yes, the ratings aren't great, but nothing on NBC has good ratings right now, and they've put it up against the before mentioned piece of shit show which is inexplicably one of the most popular things on t.v. right now. There's no reason for Community to specifically be on the chopping block, in other words.

But there's also the fact that the word of mouth on "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" is kind of astounding right now. I'd never seen more than an episode of Community until about a week ago. Then a friend directed me to that episode, and now I have seen them all, sometimes more than once, and done my duty to pay it forward. A week ago, I knew some people who really loved the show. Now, it's all anyone's talking about. That's anecdotal, for sure, but as this FPP shows it's happening elsewhere as well.

As for whether Pierce is always that much of a prick, no he's not. The latest episode gives some more context to it, but he's basically losing it because he feels excluded from the group, plus he's getting addicted to painkillers. It took a second viewing of "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" for me to really get the point that Pierce saved Fat Neil from an implicit impending suicide (a subject that the show handles with exactly the right touch) not by including him, but by showing him that someone else is going through something similar, and that he's not really alone. (Great explanation of this here.)

And that goes back to love for the characters, love for their quirks and their goals and their fears and their ability to come together as a motley group with more in common than anyone would originally think. That's how you can get moments that straddle absurd comedy and heart-melting touchingness. Like This.

Show me another series that could've puled that off.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:12 PM on February 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


The father son story of Abed and his family seemed so well done (and [like the other Character development that occurs] not contained to one episode, but continuing lines, sometimes under the radar), I liked the idea of "my son is difficult to understand, anything that helps him to be understood is a good thing to me"... We can sympathize with a pencil, we can forgive a shark, and we can give ben Affleck an academy award for screenwriting... People can find the good in just about anything except their own selves.

lol, Abed, the Lizard man, when his friends tried to get him to talk to the girl, and said be yourself by her...but he said he wouldn't do that... they said then could you be a version of yourself that would go over there... maybe he was a vampire. Abed "gotcha'ing" Troy, "cus that's what friends do"...
This one... Basically best human friendship ever. And Shirley is amazing (and actually so is Pierce when you look closely, Chevey Chase is doing very well with his role here), and so was the Abed makes a movie about Abed as metaphor to teach the story of Jesus one (ok, ok, I will stop short of just listing all of them [oh, not the 6 candles movie, the one where they figure out a way to talk about religion without a] saying "das Stupid", or b] lolreligion, or c] preach ; also the Christmas episode was incredible, and Troys Birthday).

I first looked at it because an interview with the writer where he said he had basically gone to a school feeling the same as jeff, aloof, above things, and then found a group with quirks, time went on, and suddenly he realized... they weren't just a group of friends... they were his group of friends. I am not sure, but I think this may speak to a semi-universal experience the serendipity or epiphany which is first realization upon becoming new friends.
posted by infinite intimation at 6:49 PM on February 13, 2011


I love this show more than anything at the moment and the fact that it is slowly gathering fans makes me so happy. I love the humour, I love the callbacks, I love the relationships, I love its cynical heart and I love the attention to detail (the stealing of the pen in the bottle episode being a particularly high point) I tell anyone who will listen that they just, must watch the show.

I love how in the first season they managed to get a bulk of the usual sitcom stuff resolved and over and done with in the first half and then just went ballsout crazy for the next half.

And the I.T. Crowd? Takes a bit to get used to but totally worth watching for the episodes that hit home hard. Watch the first season just so you can make it to the second and see 'The
Company Outing' which is one of the funniest episodes of TV comedy I've ever seen.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 7:43 PM on February 13, 2011


When I watch shows like this, I get the peculiar feeling that the *characters* are pausing for the laughter.

Definitely; there are some examples of this on YouTube of BBT with the laugh track / studio audience removed.
posted by theclaw at 8:08 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok, that D&D episode was genuinely terrific. The following Valentine's Day episode was so-so and isn't the sort of thing that would compel me to follow up on the show, but the D&D episode has probably guaranteed I'll watch them all.
posted by painquale at 9:35 PM on February 13, 2011


One of the few things getting me through this year's "hey you know how you're not happy about your romantic situation but were trying not to think about it! well screw you!" day is the tacos bit on the valentine's episode.

It's really something that the valentine's episode could actually be making me smile on valentine's day.

The christmas episode pulled off a similar coup.

(I don't do well with holidays, alright?)

I love that show.
posted by flaterik at 12:30 PM on February 14, 2011


Well, thanks to you guys I'm now a fan of the show. Have worked my way through nearly all of it now. For some reason it keeps reminding me of Spaced, but if Spaced had a budget twenty times larger.
posted by Ritchie at 6:38 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Me, I want to watch Gals on the Town... "Love and friendship and having it all! Maybe just a great pair of shoes. One of them has to be Asian, can they be good at their jobs?" 
posted by Artw at 7:30 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


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