New Ways of Seeing: Community

From Amy Dotson, NWFC Director and PAM Curator, Film & New Media
Series Creator: Dan Harmon
Available on Hulu

Sometimes, I know I should watch something artistic, powerful, and deeply felt…but I turn to comedy instead. There are days when I just need a laugh, a jolt, and something that lifts me up out of the muck of the day.  And when this happens, I turn to Community. A snow globe of a series lovingly created from creator Dan Harmon’s own experiences, there’s nothing else out there like it. The casting—and premise—is almost too wild to be true. Chevy Chase, a young Childish Gambino, Trudy Campbell from Mad Men, the host of The Soup, and a rag-tag group of pals meet around a table with their community college compatriots and deal with what life serves them up. Betty White moonlights as their anthropology professor, Dr. Ken Jong teaches Spanish and John Oliver intermittently shows up with a highball of scotch. Throw in obscure pop culture references, “very special” stop-motion animation episodes and the funniest take on My Dinner with Andre you’ve seen and you’ve barely scratched the surface of all that’s on offer. The strange, gut-punchingly funny and sometimes completely-off-the rails series turned out comedy gold for six seasons (2009–2015) and was the training ground of multi-faceted careers to many of its talented writers and stars. It was also one of the first series to produce webisodes and animated shorts (available on YouTube) that accompanied, built out, and fractured the narrative further. At one point, in 2014, there was even a rumor of a Community movie…and rumors still abound. It’s certainly a premise and a world that deserves more. But for now, start from the beginning—or binge all the way to my favorite episode, season 2’s opener Anthropology 101—and join the class.