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Reviewed by Will Harris
hen “Community” first premiered in the fall of 2009, it was running neck and neck with “Modern Family” for the honor of being the funniest new sitcom of the season. By the end of the season, it had lost the battle – sorry, but “Modern Family” was ultimately more consistent – but as far as the overall war…well, as we put it in our review of the Season One DVD set, “By the end of the season, ‘Community’ had figured out its strengths and divested itself of its weaknesses, which means that now that Season Two’s here for both shows, it’s game on again!”
Except it isn’t. Not really, anyway.
If Season Two of “Community” has taught us nothing else, it’s that it’s absolutely not in competition with “Modern Family.” It’s a sitcom that stands alone, incomparable to anything else on the airwaves. You might be suspicious of that claim when you pop on the first episode of Season Two and find the show offering up a seemingly obligatory guest appearance by Betty White like so many other series on television, but rest assured that Ms. White’s role as an anthropology professor is just as off-kilter as everything else about “Community.” And, yes, that’s a compliment.
In the show’s second season, executive producer Dan Harmon clearly decided that they were just going to go crazy with the show, trying anything and everything that crossed their minds. Stop-motion animation Christmas episode? Check. Upping the ante with last year’s paintball episode by making this season’s effort a two-part extravaganza with a guest appearance by Josh Holloway, a.k.a. Sawyer from “Lost”? Check. Spending the better part of an episode veering between tributes to “Pulp Fiction” and “My Dinner with Andre”? Oh, hell,yes.
In addition to the eccentricities strewn throughout the plots of “Community,” the series also takes the time to mock the conventions of television, with Abed (Danny Pudi) regularly acknowledging the similarities between what’s going on in his life and what happens on TV. Not that the show doesn’t dip occasionally into traditional aspects of sitcoms, building the buddy relationship between Abed and Troy (Donald Glover), the unrequited love between Jeff (Joel McHale) and Annie (Alison Brie) and the casual sex between Jeff and Britta (Gillian Jacobs), and even the love triangle between Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), her ex-husband (Malcolm Jamal Warner) and Chang (Ken Jeong). As for the embittered Pierce (Chevy Chase), it’s hard to say where he fits into the proceedings, but he’s a great character nonetheless.
As primetime sitcoms go, “Community” is exceedingly peculiar, but it’s those peculiarities that make it such a joy to watch week after week. Unfortunately, they’re also why it perpetually proves to be a hard sell for the average viewer. Yes, the show follows a relatively standard format, sitting in on a study group of disparate community college students and observing how they interact both in school and in their personal lives, but the characters’ offbeat personalities coupled with the writers’ unbridled creativity and a seemingly insatiable desire to work in as many pop culture references as possible have built a sitcom that stands above its peers as…the best comedy on television?
Well, no, we’re still not going to go that far. But “Community” is still pretty damned funny, and as Season Two reveals, it is one of the most creative series on television.
Special Features: As with all good cult comedy series, the cast and producers of “Community” have gone out of their way to keep their existing fanbase happy, filling the Season Two DVD with a plethora of bonus material. In addition to offering audio commentaries for every single episode of the season, each disc includes its own set of outtakes and deleted scenes, and the set also features a few featurettes (“Creating Wonderland,” about the Christmas episode, “The Paintball Finale: From Script to Screen,” and a revisitation of the annual “Cast Evaluations” that was so funny on the Season ONe set), along with storyboard and in-process animatics for the Christmas episode and – wait for it – “DJ Steve Porter Remixes Season One,” which, as the kids say, must be seen to be believed.