A Look Back at Community: Season 1

This Thursday marks the return of one of my favorite shows on television: NBC’s Community. To celebrate the return of the show, I am taking a look back at each of the previous three seasons. Beware, there may be minor spoilers, but I will try not to reveal any major plot developments. Enjoy!

Almost every new television show takes a couple of episodes to find itself, and Community is no exception. The premise of Community is surprisingly dull. The show centers around a study group at a community college. The show has an ensemble cast, yet many of the actors were relatively unknown when this series first premiered.

The first season of Community does not exactly start out with a bang. The show introduces a promising group of characters, from the self-obsessed former lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) to the quirky pop-culture reference machine Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) who sees the world around him as a television show. Unfortunately, the first couple episodes of the show fail to take advantage of these interesting characters, rarely embracing the unique features that differentiate these characters from those on a generic sitcom. The pilot is generally mediocre, and did not draw me in like some other notable comedy pilots like those of “The Office” and “The Mindy Project”. The episodes that follow are not much better, including some of the more generic sitcom storylines I have seen in television.

Luckily, the show begins to find itself as the season continues. An early highlight is “Debate 109”, the first of many episodes of Community that manages to be genuinely heartwarming without feeling generic or unoriginal. The following episodes, while not quite as good, continue to improve until the show really hits its stride with “Physical Education”, a classic episode that embraces the quirkiness that Community is now known for.

The season continues from this point with great episodes such as “Beginner Pottery” and the Goodfellas parody “Contemporary American Poultry”, and the show peaks with the third-to-last episode in the season, “Modern Warfare”. By this point, the characters on the show have transitioned from total stranger to a tight-knit study group, and in this episode, this newfound friendship can be seen often, and with varying degrees (this episode indulges the audience in a scene that had been a long time coming). “Modern Warfare”, which tells the story of a brutal paintball war that has overtaken the Greendale Community College Campus, is not just a great episode because of the character development. The episode looks like a blockbuster action movie, and presents some fantastic action and horror scenes for a sitcom. This episode showed me that paintball war is truly hell.

The season culminates with two weaker episodes, though it would have been hard to beat “Modern Warfare”. Ironically, the final episodes produce some of the sexual tension and emotional drama that characterizes a more generic sitcom. Even at the end, it seems as though Community never managed to get away from its roots as a much tamer, more conservative show. Luckily, in the following seasons, this will not be a problem.

The first season of Community was definitely a flawed product, but any fan of the other seasons of the show owes it to themselves to watch this one. Also, anyone who enjoys daring and entertaining television owes it to themselves to watch the second half or third of the season.

Essential episodes: “Debate 109”, “Physical Education”, “Contemporary American Poultry”, “Modern Warfare”