Community, Dan Harmon’s gift to television, is one of those shows that it feels like a gift that it’s on network television. Such is network television, and the show has struggled with ratings, but pound for pound each episode offers more laughs than pretty much everything else out there, and it comes with a unique sensibility. As great as shows like Parks and Rec, etc. are, Community feels like something new. Perhaps it’s the self-awareness – which can be partly traced to shows like Spaced – but it’s got its own energy, and an unmatched ensemble. Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Chevy Chase, Yvette Nicole Brown, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie, Ken Jeong and Jim Rash offer such different characters and comic approaches than the mixing and matching always makes for fun. Our review of Community Season Two on DVD follows after the jump.
McHale is the de facto leader in Jeff Winger, a former attorney who’s forced back into college after having been disbarred. As established in the first season, he makes a study group with some of the students. The older students are Pierce Hawthorne (Chase) – a handy-wipe magnet who goes to community college for fun – Britta Perry (Jacobs) – who’s going to school to find order in her life – and Shirley Bennett (Brown) – who is looking to start a business. Abed Nadir (Pudi), Troy Barnes (Glover) and Annie Edison (Brie) are all the kids, while Senor Chang (Jeong) is a former teacher turned student, and Dean Pelton (Rash) runs the school, and constantly shows up wearing interesting costumes.
Everyone has their issues, and are of a type. Winger is a former lawyer, and keeps himself in great physical shape, so in one episode he’s drawn in to his old world, and learns that he’s no longer the selfish jerk he once was, while in another his high cholesterol forces him to accept his mortality. Britta is attracted to a certain type, so when Troy says he was molested to get attention, she falls for him, she also wants to be the cool outsider, so she goes to a dance with a girl she thinks is a lesbian, only to find out that that girl is straight and thought she was a lesbian as well.
Annie is the innocent do-gooder, who faces the moral greys when she’s given money by Pierce to change the play she wrote, and when she runs for school president. Shirley gets pregnant and isn’t sure if Chang is the father, and wrestles with her husband Andre (Malcolm Jamal-Warner) who originally left her for a stipper. Troy turns 21 and learns about what it means to drink in one episode, while much of his hijinks are paired with his best friend Abed, who makes a movie and meets a secret service agent who’s a lot like him. Pierce becomes the villain of the group when he ruins a secret trampoline area, and gets addicted to pain pills.
It seems a lot of the best episodes focus around Abed. Possibly autistic, he is the focus of the show’s Christmas special, where he sees everyone in the cast as stop motion characters. Then, in one of the ultimate Community episodes, Abed is about to have a birthday, which Jeff plans in a Pulp Fiction theme, only for Abed to want to have dinner with Jeff in an homage to My Dinner with Andre.
It summarizes what makes the show so great. There’s the obvious pop culture allusions are there, but the show subverts your expectations by going with a reference within the reference, to something even more obscure. Abed’s personality (someone who doesn’t really understand others) also comes into great play when he learns how women treat each other, and learns how to be a mean girl. Abed also gets a great running reference to the show Cougar Town, to which there was a crossover (in the season finale, two Cougar Town regulars make an appearance). This is done out of love, I’ve been told.
And like most shows has seasonal, flashback and bottle episodes, Community makes great hay out of them. The Halloween episode has the school turn into zombies, the flashback episode goes mostly to events that were never seen, and the bottle episode makes itself known as such, and has fun with the group locked in their study room while there’s a puppy parade going on. Then there’s the episode that is about having a space simulator on campus that starts as a parody of The Right Stuff. Smart writing, imminently quotable, great cast, plenty of great laughs. What more can you want from a show?
And what more can you want from a DVD set? Every episode of season two comes in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) with 5.1 surround audio, and with audio commentaries. The only downside to this is that there’s currently no Blu-ray releases for this or the first season (add that to the list of shows that would be great to have on Blu-ray, like Friday Night Lights and The Wire)
Disc one offers two deleted scenes (1 min.) outtakes (5 min.) and features commentary by stars Gillian Jacobs, Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, Donald Glover, Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, Ken Jeong, Richard Erdman, guest star Rob Corddry, directors Joe Russo, Anthony Hemingway and Anthony Russo, writer/creator Dan Harmon, executive producer Garrett Donovan, and writers Chris McKenna, Emily Cutler, Hilary Winston and Andy Bobrow.
Disc two offers “Creating Wonderland” (18 min.) which covers the making of the stop motion Christmas episode, and the storyboard animatic (22 min.) and the in-process animatic (22 min.) for Abed’s Unctonrollable Christmas. There’s also outtakes (7 min.) and a deleted scene (1 min.). Commentarians on disc two include stars Yvette Nicole Brown, Gillian Jacobs, Donald Glover, Joel McHale, Jim Rash, and Danny Pudi, co-star/series consultant Dino Stamatopoloulos, writer/creator Dan Harmon, Directors Joe Russo and Duke Johnson, writers Adam Countee, Megan Ganz, Chris McKenna, and Andy Bobrow, composer Ludwig Goransson, producer Jake Aust, and executive producer Neil Goldman.
Disc three offers “Season Two Cast Evaluations” (11 min.), which lets the cast talk about how they did for the year – mostly it’s a goof. “DJ Steve Porter Remixes Season One” (2 min.) makes a two minute highlight reel of the first season to help sell the second. There’s also outtakes (7 min.), and three deleted scenes (1 min.). Commentaries on this disc offers words from Chevy Chase, Jim Rash, Joel McHale, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Writer/Creator Dan Harmon, co-star/series consultant Dino Stamatopoloulos, directors Anthony and Joe Russo, Writers Hilary Winston, Andrew Guest, Adam Countee Andy Bobrow and Megan Ganz, editor Steven Sprung, and cameos from Robert Smigel and Andy Dick.
Disc four offers “The Paintball Finale: From Script to Screen” (20 min.), outtakes (6 min.), and two deleted scenes (2 min.). Commentarians include Ken Jeong, Donald Glover Danny Pudi, Jim Rash, Yvette Nicole Brown, Gillian Jacobs, Writer/Creator Dan Harmon, directors Joe Russo and Tistram Shapeero, executive producers Neil Goldman and Garret Donovan, writer Sona Poras, Andrew Guest, Hilary Winston, and Chris McKenna, and producer Jake Aust. The disc also has previews.