Monday, September 21, 2009

Jordan's Review: Community: Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Better late than never...

To say that Community is taking a walk down some very well worn comedic roads is pretty obvious. Its main character Jeff (Joel McHale) is an asshole who’s also charming and might get a chance at redemption, either through the ragtag band of misfits around him, or through the love of a woman (Gillian Jacobs). The show also features an awkward character, a confident character, an eccentric older guy, and a middle aged black woman. None of this sounds at all original. In fact, add in the fact that most of the pilot is set in the library, and its not too far off from The Breakfast Club.

What, if anything, sets this show apart in its first episode is that, like Glee and unlike most other television shows, it knows that its trading in clich├ęs. That alone doesn’t necessarily make a show good, but that level of self-awareness this early inspires a little confidence. That being said, the pilot is far from riotous. Jeff gets in a few good barbs (“If I wanted to learn something, I wouldn’t have come to community college”) and a few Meta jokes (“I was raised on TV and I was conditioned to believe that every black woman over 50 is a cosmic mentor”) but some of his shtick feels overly done. Each of the characters teeters between annoyingly overdone and winningly offbeat. The fact that John Oliver is around as Duncan, a psychology professor and friend of Jeff’s also inspires confidence.

But if anything warrants a second look at this show in the weeks to come, it would be its deft handling of the topic of moral relativism. As Jeff puts it, “I learned very young that I can convince people that anything is right or wrong. Either I’m God, or truth is relative. Either way, Booyah!” I have seen shows try to redeem their caddish main characters a thousand times before, but rarely if ever have I seen a sitcom tackle the issue in such an interesting way right out of the gate. I hope to see the show take this idea, and the characters its created in interesting and funny directions in the weeks to come, and while this episode isn’t overly hilarious, it does show potential.

The Golden Rule of Pilots is that a show rarely gets to put its best foot forward in week one. Some shows have awful first episodes and go on to be excellent shows (30 Rock anyone?). Others have excellent pilots and then fail to live up to their potential (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip for example). The point is it’s impossible to judge the entirety of a show based on the pilot, especially when the pilot is so middling. When the jokes are good, they are original and funny enough to get me excited about what’s to come. And when they aren’t? Oh well, it’s only the pilot.

Grade: B-

Notes:
-Hey! Its Allison Brie, Pete’s wife on Mad Men!

-“A six-year-old girl could talk to you like that.” “Yes, because that would be adorable.” “No, because you’re a five-year-old girl and there’s a pecking order.”

-“Keg FLIP! It’s very hard to pull off.”

-“You know what makes humans different from any other animal?” “Feet!” “No, come on, bears have feet!”

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