Smooth talking ex-lawyer Jeff Winger has got a lot to learn, and he's come to Greendale Community College to avoid every bit of it. Unfortunately for Jeff, he's not the only misfit to enroll here, and people in need have an odd way of finding each other. First, his fake study group becomes a real study group. Then, over the course of a strange year - from Mexican Halloween to the final 'Tranny Dance' - including bad trips, great debates, drunk dials, food fights, epic paintball battles and sinister chicken finger conspiracies - the group becomes a family, something Jeff never wanted, but clearly needs. Starring Joel McHale (TV's The Soup
), Ken Jeong (The Hangover
) and Emmy Award winner Chevy Chase.
hits an ingenious balance: it's both a top-notch sitcom about a gaggle of misfits at a community college and
a satire on the very nature of sitcoms. Jeff (Joel McHale of The Soup
), a fast-talking suspended lawyer seeking an authentic undergraduate degree, forms a Spanish study group for the sole purpose of wooing Britta (Gillian Jacobs, Choke
), a former political activist trying to move into mainstream life--but to his dismay a handful of other students show up as well. As happens in sitcoms, they turn into an alternate family, including Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), a Christian housewife; Abed (Danny Pudi), a business/film student with Asperger's syndrome; Troy (Donald Glover), a former high school football star; Annie (Alison Brie, Mad Men
), an overachieving ex-drug addict; and a former moist-towelette magnate (Chevy Chase, Saturday Night Live
, Foul Play
's plots occasionally revolve around classes--most often abusive assignments from their volatile Spanish teacher, Señor Chang (Ken Jeong, The Hangover
)--but more often the show veers into daffy social territory, such as female bathroom etiquette, excessive political correctness, sexually transmitted disease prevention, the true meaning of Christmas, bullies, and teacher-student affairs. The characters are delightful, the dialogue swift and clever, and the stories skillfully orchestrated.
But the secret pleasure of Community is its sneaky commentary on sitcom mechanics, from the whole concept of an alternate family to the manipulative nature of will-they-won't-they sexual tension to any number of subtle but affectionate digs. The show's pop-culture awareness extends even further in two of the best episodes, one that turns a craving for chicken fingers into a GoodFellas-esque Mafia tale and another about a paintball competition that escalates into a quasi-apocalyptic action thriller. Also, Community: The Complete First Season is packed with delicious extras--in addition to cheerful and entertaining commentaries (which demonstrate how much the cast enjoys working together) and the usual outtakes of the cast breaking character, there are excellent mini-episodes, mock cast interviews, and some very creative use of sound effects. Fans of Arrested Development will enjoy the rich, layered humor and fans of How I Met Your Mother will take similar pleasure in the clever stories, but Community should appeal to anyone seeking smart, high-energy comedy. --Bret Fetzer