The world of comic television is changing, my friends. The classic sitcom complete with a studio audience is dying out, and replacing it in droves is “the mockumentary.” Where once we watched Friends, Seinfeld, and Everybody Loves Raymond, now there is The Office, Modern Family, and Parks and Recreation. There are a few of the old breed left like Two and a Half Men, but that show is getting much weaker in its late seasons, having to grasp at what we’ll call “Apatow humor.” Besides, it could be over soon anyway because, didn’t you hear, CBS is forcing Charlie Sheen into rehab.
The new face of comedy, the mockumentary, struck gold in The Office. It’s dry and ironic wit was smart and sharp, charting new territory and attracting an audience that appreciated smarter humor. Others followed, like the acclaimed shows Arrested Development and Modern Family. The latter is only in its second season.
I do enjoy Modern Family every week, but there’s a glaring problem with the mockumentary style that’s taking over our television–it’s a very hit or miss kind of funny. While some stuff is so hilarious I’ll quote it for days, other episodes are so completely humorless that it makes me cringe. I fear that if this is the direction our programs go completely, we’ll lose out on that laugh-out-loud, sometimes outrageous funny that used to be in every show. Sure, sometimes it’s over the top and makes us roll our eyes, but there’s something to be said for that. Michael Scott should not be the funniest man on TV.
Let me introduce to you, Community.
The show stars Joel McHale, the host of The Soup on E!, which is not coincidentally the only quality program you can watch on that channel. It follows a diverse study group as they navigate academics (sort of) and relationships at a community college. The show is currently the opener for NBC’s big comedy night on Thursdays and is not attracting nearly the audience it should, stirring worries of cancellation. But those who watch it are die-hard fans, and this week, I finally surrendered and decided to watch my way through season one to find out what all the fuss was about.
I’m only half way through, but that’s really all I need to see to tell you this: if you watch just one airing comedy show on TV, it should be this one. In a week of Modern Family, you might get hilarity or you might get an episode of whiny Phil and painfully unfunny pettiness between Cam and Mitchell. Three episodes in, this show is funny every time. Even the characters you don’t like are funny. In fact, the show’s biggest strength is that every character (and actor) is pulling his or her weight. Jeff and Britta bicker and build humor that is greater than the sum of their parts in every scene they have together. The duo of Abed and Troy will crack you up every time. The slightly older Shirley and the much older Pierce, annoying as they can be in some story lines, will get you with their obvious stereotyping and racial profiling. The pop culture references are through the roof, but accessible enough that everyone can get them. This show is going to save comedic television…
…As long as it doesn’t get cancelled. So do yourself a favor and watch the first season or read an online summary and pick it up where it is this Thursday.
And this is an example of a trailer that does something justice. Watch and be hooked: