Thursday, October 29, 2009

Advance Review: Community "Introduction To Statistics"

NBC, hoping to get people to remember that their sitcom Community has now moved to Thursdays at 8PM, sent out screeners of this week's Halloween-themed episode. The sitcom, starring Joel McHale in the lead role, is described like this, for those of you who haven't seen it:

From Emmy Award-winning directors Joe and Anthony Russo ("Arrested Development") comes "Community," a smart comedy series about higher education -- and lower expectations. The student body at Greendale Community College is made up of high-school losers, newly divorced housewives, and old people who want to keep their minds active. Within these not-so-hallowed halls, "Community" focuses on a band of misfits, at the center of which is a fast-talkin' lawyer whose degree has been revoked (Joel McHale, "The Soup"), who form a study group and end up learning a lot more about themselves than they do about their course work. In addition to McHale, the series also stars: Gillian Jacobs ("The Book of Daniel"); Yvette Nicole Brown ("Rules of Engagement"); Danny Pudi ("Greek"); Alison Brie ("Mad Men"); and comedy legend Chevy Chase ("Saturday Night Live"). "Community" is a Krasnoff Foster Entertainment, Harmonious Claptrap and Russo Brothers production in association with Sony Pictures Television and Universal Media Studios. Russ Krasnoff ("The Soloist"), Dan Harmon ("The Sarah Silverman Program"), Joe Russo ("Arrested Development"), Anthony Russo ("Arrested Development") and Gary Foster ("The Soloist") serve as executive producers. Joe and Anthony Russo directed the pilot that was written by Dan Harmon.
Okay, first, the fact that the show's directors share names with Blossom's older brothers is funnier than the actual show. Yes, I'm 12. Anyhow, here's how NBC describes tonight's episode:

JEFF MUST CHOOSE BETWEEN GETTING A DATE OR HONORING A PROMISE TO ANNIE -Jeff (Joel McHale) has the hots for his statistics professor and is determined to take her out on a date. He finds the perfect opportunity to pursue her but it happens to interfere with a Day of the Dead party Annie (Alison Brie) is throwing for their Spanish class. Meanwhile, Pierce (Chevy Chase) comes to terms with being old. Ken Jeong, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi and Donald Glover also star.

This was my first time seeing Community, so I don't know if earlier episodes might give more of a feel for the characters, but based upon this first episode alone, I felt more character depth from Saved by the Bell. I don't think it was due to the cast (I know Joel McHale can and has been funny), and there WERE a few shining moments in the writing (a reference to Urkel made me laugh out loud), but it is nowhere near the kind of solid show that I see in something like How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, or 30 Rock. I will give them one benefit of the doubt - I see some Arrested Development alums among the crew and that was a series that I didn't "get" the first time around that I grew to love later.

As things stand, though, Chevy Chase's Pierce character was the only one I really grabbed onto, and I did get some laughs out of Abed dressed as Batman. I also liked the references to Beastmaster. But the situations of the episode, where Jeff skips out on his friends to hang out with the "big kids" (or in this case, to try and woo a professor), seem right out of the bad teen sitcom playbook. Except without the teens. I think these characters are supposed to be funny and wacky, but when it's adults acting like this it's more on the level of sad. It was more fun when this behavior came from Screech.

(There's a that moment I do admit that I did like later on with the Batman costume guy. Though as other series like Only Fools And Horses have shown to TV history, you can rarely go wrong with that.)

Although I run a series of websites based mostly upon the sci-fi genre (with a few exceptions), I've always been a big TV geek. I remember the powerful Thursday nights of "Must See TV" back when it was Cosby, A Different World, Cheers, and Night Court. And I also remember the 90's when it was usually Friends, Frasier, Will & Grace, and filler sitcoms in between. While Community has a few moments, it's just not the kind of concept or show that is as good as any of those predecessors. But for now, when it comes to Thursday nights at 8, I'll be sticking with The Vampire Diaries, with Flashforward on the DVR. I'm not saying Community is must-not-see TV - I'd probably turn it on if nothing else in the same timeslot interested me, or if a promo caught my attention - but my first impression wasn't the greatest. Hopefully the show can and will improve before it's too late.

Community airs tonight (October 29) at 8PM on NBC.