By Matt Kiernan
Beating the negative stigma of community college, NBC’s new hit sitcom Community proves that it deserves the attention that it’s been given recently with a cast of characters who are quirky in their own ways and are looking for their place in the world.
The lead role of Jeff Winger, played by The Soup star Joel McHale, is an arrogant lawyer who has been disbarred for having his law degree determined invalid and must attend Greendale Community College in order to gain a valid degree. While attending the college, he meets people of unusual backgrounds who have found themselves at the community college looking to face the realities of their lives.
Chevy Chase returns into a steady role after being seen in bit-parts on different sitcoms and seems to be making a strong comeback as the businessman looking for love, Pierce. Chase brings back his talent for physical comedy as seen during his time on SNL and movies, and shows his determination for laughs when his arm catches on fire during a silent protest in the second episode.
The character of the strong-willed Britta, played by up-and-coming actress Gillian Jacobs, gives a balance to the sarcastic attitude of McHale who are both too caught up in their own social appearances to make a move for each other. A breakthrough in the relationship is seen in the third episode after a film teacher assigns McHale to “seize the day” and she decides to help him with the assignment.
Perhaps one of the funniest characters on the show is Spanish teacher Senor Chang, played by actor in Knocked Up and the Hangover Ken Jeong. Jeong’s sense of comedy flows very naturally as a teacher who wants respect from his students and who’s not willing to take crap from anyone.
The show is filled with pop-culture references, most likely contributed to by McHale’s knowledge of television and culture in general. As seen in the commercials, Abed, played by Danny Pudi, is a strange movie obsessed individual who quotes movies such as in the pilot when he re-enacts Bender’s rant and screams “Smoke up Johnny!” as taken from the 80s classic the Breakfast Club.
Other characters such as the recently divorced Shirley, played by Yvette Nicole Brown, the self-conscious Annie, played by Alison Brie and ex-high school football star Troy, played by Donald Glover work to even out the cast. With two episodes aired in the next two weeks, it would seem that the episodes will be dedicated to bringing these other characters into the spotlight with central storylines.
McHale’s character’s old friend and professor of the college Dr. Ian Duncan, played by Daily Show star John Oliver, attempts to help McHale change his ways. Oliver teaches McHale a lesson in the pilot episode to show him that he must work hard in order to succeed in life.
Community has shown so far that it can produce episodes that are funny and heartfelt at the same time, and looks to have a strong following of viewers that will want to see what will happen to the characters as they attend a community college.
Community airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.