“Community” is NBC’s attempt to fight back in the ratings war that they are so badly losing. It stars Joel McHale, host of the wildly popular “The Soup” (absolutely the only watchable show on the E! Network), and Chevy Chase (if he needs an introduction, shame on you), and the show will debut behind NBC’s most popular comedy, “The Office”. It’s safe to say they’re putting a whole lot of chips in that basket. On September 1st, NBC held an event for Facebook and Twitter users, KROQ listeners, and a few press at Los Angeles Community College to have a screening of the pilot and hold a Q&A with members of the cast and the show’s creator, Dan Harmon. What did I think of it all? Find out after the jump.
“Community” screened very well with the relatively packed house in LACC’s Theater. It was hard to hear some of the lines over the raucous laughter that filled the auditorium, and I got the feeling that a lot of people were really just laughing at anything and everything thrown at them rather than at specific jokes or situations. To be fair, the pilot is quite funny, but so much of it has already been shown in the relentless promos for the show on NBC. I felt as though there may have been 5 minutes of the pilot I hadn’t already seen months ago when they first started building up “Community” as their big fall show.
The show is set at Greendale Community College, a fictional CC where all the losers who have made bad life decisions go to make up for their mistakes. Obvious insensitivity to people who utilize our community colleges for the inexpensive, quality educational institutes that they are aside, main character Jeff (McHale) is there to coast through his four years at Greendale so he can get his law degree back. He plans to cheat his way through by having his friend, The Dean (John Oliver), hook him up with the answers. He gets distracted by a pretty girl, Britta, (Gillian Jacobs), and organizes a fake Spanish study group to get close to her. Unbeknownst to Jeff, Britta has invited Abed (Danny Pudi), an eccentric with an encyclopedic knowledge of film, who in turn has invited several others. They include Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), Annie (Alison Brie), and Pierce (Chase), and from there you have a “dysfunctional ‘The Breakfast Club'” type set up. Ken Jeong, who is not in the pilot, appears in later episodes.
The show works because of the talent involved. The dialogue is snappy, thanks to Joel McHale’s sharp tongue, and the role feels very natural for him. It bodes well for a pilot that you feel at least some connection to the characters out of the gate, and I can tell that subsequent episodes will have a much easier time transitioning into comedic situations without the feeling of forced, tired awkwardness. Chevy Chase plays a wealthy business man with a lecherous streak, and it’s great to see him back in form. He truly is a funny guy, and I think people are going to realize they missed having him around. Series creator Dan Harmon also seems to know his characters, and a preview of one of the shows “webisodes” proves that Harmon has some comedic acting chops of his own.
The real meat of the night, however, was the Q&A portion after the screening, if only for seeing Joel McHale and Chevy Chase share the same stage. The two riffed off each other for the majority of the session, and the results were hilarious. The cast (McHale, Chase, Brown, Brie, Gillian, and Jeong) and creator (Harmon) answered questions from Facebook, Twitter, and the audience, fielding the requisite questions about whether or not they’d had any special college experiences that contributed to their attachment to their respective roles and questions about whether or not there would be any guest stars showing up as “substitute teachers”. One of the funnier moments was when someone asked Joel McHale if Ryan Seacrest would make an appearance on the show (McHale and Seacrest have an ongoing pseudo-feud). McHale said that he would, they were just trying to put in the “double-level” floors so that Seacrest wouldn’t look too much shorter than the other actors. It was a great moment. Overall, all of the cast seemed to really get along, and it was a lot of fun to watch them interact and share their chemistry with the rest of us.
Overall, I really enjoyed the evening and am looking forward to seeing what the show does with its interesting premise. You can catch “Community” starting September 17th at 9:30pm on NBC, and you can also head over to www.nbc.com/community-show to check out a preview of the show and some of the series’ “webisodes”.
Below we’ve embedded the video for the Q&A portion of the evening. It’s divided into 3 parts, each about 10 minutes long. You can catch my question in the first clip with about a minute and a half remaining. Enjoy!