"Community" could be your new favorite comedy
The show follows several misfits in action at a beleaguered community college, most notably Jeff Winger (McHale, in a name nod to Bill Murray's "Stripes" character, no doubt.), a suspended lawyer who is about to become disbarred because of his phony credentials. While trying to woo Elizabeth Shue look-a-like Britta (Gillian Jacobs) from his Spanish class, Winger resorts to sleazy lawyer tactics, only to see his diabolical plan fall apart thanks to a motley crew study group that includes a semi-creepy seven-time divorcee (Chase), a former pill-popping underachiever (Alison Brie, or Trudy from "Mad Men"), a disgraced jockhead who won't shed his high school letterman's jacket (Donald Glover), a temperamental mom who made bad life decisions (Yvette Nicole Brown) and a fast-talking '80s movie buff with Asperger (or as Troy puts it, "assburger") syndrome (Danny Pudi).
It's a pretty straightforward pilot in terms of plot introduction, but the jokes are rapid-fire and justifiably acidic. Winger, bitter at finally being caught by the law he's supposed to uphold, wants to take every short cut in the book so he can get back to the comfort of his Lexus lifestyle. Since he's above a rinky-dink community college -- playing off that loser stereotype is a huge component of the show -- Winger figures he can bully a former client/psychology professor (Oliver) and perhaps score with Britta before going back to his old tricks.
Except everything that brought these community college rejects to this stage in their lowly life will be turned into something deeper, something redemptive they probably didn't know was there. For instance, Chase's eccentric businessman character, Pierce, seems oblivious to how he is universally perceived. Yet he's harmlessly kooky and might even be incredibly savvy. Same goes for Glover's Troy, who is aware that he's no longer a high school prom king, but still wants to cling to his glory days past while making something of himself in the future. "Community" will likely strike a balance between personal and professional maturation while also allowing its main characters to engage in "Office" like hi-jinx within the fertile community college setting.
After all, it's a half hour comedy, so I'm not sure how much meat you actually want to bite into here. "Community's" pilot already paid tribute to John Hughes (both with a hilarious "Breakfast Club" bit and with a memorial screen at the end) and its characters, while dysfunctional, appear worth rooting for. It's a premise that should work as a sort of sitcom version of "PCU" with a dose of "Revenge of the Nerds" -- and that's just fine considering NBC's Jay Leno experiment is your current alternative to original comedy on network TV.
"Community" airs at 8:30 p.m. Thursday on NBC.
-- Thomas Rozwadowski, email@example.com