Community is about to disappear from NBC's lineup, and no one's sure when it's coming back. It's been reported that all 22 of this season's ordered episodes will be shot and aired, and I (like others) am hopeful that the show will return for another season, even a shortened one, before it says goodbye for good. Still, it stings knowing that we won't get to tune in and watch Abed, Troy, Annie, Britta, Pierce, Shirley and Jeff play out some of the smartest, funniest and most daring comedy stories of the decade, all while they learn weekly what it means to create a family from the people that surround you. If there's something that ultimately defines Community, it's that sense of risk, of knowing that even if an episode or idea doesn't totally work, the cast and crew will have given it their all anyway. It's not a safe comedy, and it's certainly not predictable, but when it's in the groove, it can be one of the most intriguing and rewarding sitcoms in a long time. Maybe ever.
With that in mind, here are a few things we'll miss most about the show, and hope to see again soon.
Troy and Abed doing anything When Community began, the characters were roughly formed and not sure yet how they'd work together. Dan Harmon's talked about the intentionality of that, too, and how he wanted to leave room for as many platonic/romantic pairings as possible to avoid narrative traps or predictability. Yet the most wonderful surprise has been the chemistry between Danny Pudi and Donald Glover as Abed and Troy, two equally nerdy misfits who perfectly complement each other. Abed's a pop culture savant but a social outcast; Troy, who started out a bland but entertaining lite-jock, has blossomed into a goofy charmer who gets Abed like no one else. Their adventures together have made the show what it is.
The glorious awkwardness of Britta Perry Similarly, although Britta started out the obvious romatic foil for Jeff, she's really found her own as the awkward, unhip member of the group who tries to do well but who keeps messing up. She overreacts, gives bad advice, screws up every relationship, and dances like she's got some kind of glitch in her nervous system. The instant the show stopped seeing her as the snappy blond and started using her as a comic lethal weapon, she became indispensable.
The crazy concepts that really work Community has pushed every narrative envelope it could think of in its attempt to break new sitcom ground, and it really began to separate itself from the pack with the high-concept, self-referential episodes that blended pop culture and character development in fantastic ways. The first real example was the first season's "Contemporary American Poultry," which took a silly story about chicken fingers and turned it into a mob story wrapped up in real emotion. (The scene with Jeff and Abed at the end is still a series highlight for its deft maneuvering between punch lines and pathos.) Two weeks after that aired, "Modern Warfare" blew the doors off with its pitch-perfect riff on action movies that, again, was all about the relationships of the characters at hand (in this case, Jeff and Britta). Even the metatextual "clip show" was smarter than the average recap. In 20 years, we'll talk about this show and Arrested Development as touchstones.
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The little things But beyond all the explosions and flights of fancy, it's always been the little things that make Community so good. Take last season's "Critical Film Studies." The My Dinner With Andre homage devoted considerable screen time to Abed's story about visiting the set of Cougar Town and going as far as possible down a rabbit hole of critically adored but ratings-starved TV comedy for a joke that paid off in the background of that show and on Community's season finale. But the real heart of the episode was the way Abed just wanted to get the gang back together after they'd gone through some tough times, and the lengths he'd go to make that happen. He and Jeff really did open up to each other. Peppered between the jokes and references were genuine moments of humanity, and that balance has always sustained the show through its rockier stretches. Yes, the show's absence means we won't get our weekly installment of a potentially insane episode that plays with timelines or turns real life into a Western. But the real loss is that we won't get to see these characters do those things. Harmon and company place a premium on the people in their stories, and that's something not a lot of other sitcoms really do these days. So hurry on back, denizens of Greendale Community College. We'll be waiting.
...Oh, what the hell. Let's krump: