Community has wasted no time rolling with the momentum it built in Season 1. Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Chevy Chase and Ken Jeong came together last year to form a motley crew that may be the most entertaining on television.
One part well-written Edgar-Wright style comedy, one-part John Hughes heart, brought together by a fantastic ensemble cast, Season 1 of Dan Harmon’s Community may have been the funniest thing on television since Arrested Development, and one of the biggest Emmy snubs in years (really, The Office still gets recognized but not Community?). So how does a show with that kind of momentum start a Season 2? By getting a lot crazier, of course.
So far – so far, mind you – Season 2 of Community has featured an absolutely insane guest spot by Betty White, Ken Jeong’s character Señor Chang (now a student rather than professor) showing multiple personalities a la Lord of the Rings’ Gollum, Jeff Winger’s (McHale) old lawyer buddies turning out to be Drew Carey and Rob Corddry, a rocket voyage, a rabies outbreak reminiscent of a zombie film and a stop-motion animated Christmas special. While nothing yet has been able to touch last season’s Halloween special or “Modern Warfare,” Season 2 has been more consistently funny and ludicrous than ever before.
And most of it comes with an evident confidence. The Office has been hit-and-miss for several years now, and in the last two seasons 30 Rock has been good, but not quite generating the genius laugher it once did. Outsourced is completely abysmal, and Parks and Recreation has been relegated to the off-season. For all intents and purposes, Community is the strong point of NBC’s Thursday night line-up, and very well may be the funniest thing on television right now.
So it seems Harmon and company have decided to concentrate not so much on viewership numbers and mass appeal, but instead on pleasing the hell out of the people who are watching regularly. Season 2 has taken everything that worked well in the debut season and amplified it by 11. Community has embraced its love for movie references, put Pierce in a motorized wheelchair and has reached into much stranger territory than ever before (Secret Garden and swastika jokes, anyone?). At this point, it would almost seem as though it is coasting effortlessly off of the sheer fun its cast is having, that is if it wasn’t so evident that the episodes are written so well.
And as far as its touching moments go, Season 2 has also let us into the lives of its characters more than ever. We’ve seen Jeff come into contact with his past, and see how the influence of his current friends has changed him. We got an entire episode taking us deeper into Shirley’s religion. Troy came to terms with how alcohol influences people on his 21st birthday, and Abed’s connection with his mother was brought to light in the Christmas special.
Essentially, Community has had the courage to buy into its own greatness and take what has worked to a whole new level. It still continues to find a delicate balance between the silly and sentimental. Its only real challenge is making sure it doesn’t become the next Arrested Development, by buying into itself too much to the point that it goes totally off the rails and becomes inaccessible to anyone but the most continuous and die-hard fans. Because as much as us fans would love the insanity, it would be unfortunate to think this great new comedy has already hit its half-life.