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Community: Study Notes to Improve the Show

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I liked the first episode of Community. Joel McHale's sarcastic protagonist, using the same brand of snark he employs so well on The Soup, seemed like a winning anti-hero. The rest of the cast was funny and talented, and surprisingly diverse for a network sitcom. They even let Chevy Chase be in it! But since then, Community has been kind of uneven. I want to like this show, but they're making it hard.

The second episode, about McHale's Jeff and Chase's Pierce working together on a presentation for Spanish class, was the weakest so far. McHale went from charming to way too self-important, and Chase was more weird than funny. Ken Jeong, as the Spanish teacher, equated yelling with comedy and forgot to tell jokes. Jeong has been around for a while, but we first noticed him as the doctor in Knocked Up, where his "tell me if you have ever smoked a cigarette" bit was one of the funniest scenes of the movie. But in Community, his opening monologue about refusing to explain why a Chinese man was teaching Spanish fell flat. It's not that weird for a Chinese-American to become a Spanish teacher at an American school. The joke may have been that he was so preoccupied with the question, but the scene went on too long and was too over-the-top. After this episode, we were worried.

Last week's third episode was more encouraging. Danny Pudi's delivery as Abed is amazing, and last week was a showcase for it. When Britta (Gillian Jacobs) found out that Abed's father would not pay for a film class, she chipped in. As Abed took advantage of her more and more, his deadpan humor was the highlight of the episode. Even better, Jeff's arrogance was toned down when he couldn't breeze through a gut class taught by John Michael Higgins, (basically) playing himself. I don't want Jeff to learn a lesson in every episode, but it will work once in a while.

From the first three episodes, Community looks to be about Jeff's education in how to not be a self-centered a**hole, and his relationship with Britta. We're more interested in the former. Tonight on The Office, Jim and Pam are getting married. We wouldn't mind if that were the last long-term romance ever on a sitcom. Love stories have their place on television, but too many comedies center around two characters taking forever to get together, and it's tiresome. It would be interesting to see something other than Britta repelling Jeff's advances until she sees something else in him, around the first season finale, and realizes she's been in love with him the whole time, only it's too late because he met Julie on his paleontologist trip to China. Or something.

Going forward, I have a few requests, because as I said, I want to like Community: Spend less time on Jeff and Britta and focus on the jokes, work on making Jeff not quite so smarmy, and in the name of Ty Webb, give Chevy Chase some better lines!

Community airs on Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. on NBC

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