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COMMUNITY pilot script review

Chevy Chase

Chevy Chase

First of all a little background. NBC’s “Must See TV” branding first entered into usage during the 1982-83 TV schedule when the programming included Fame, Cheers, Taxi and Hill Street Blues, a lineup that whilst I was not an actual viewer (I was 4 years old at the time), I would consider to be “Must See TV”. Skip forward 26 years and the lineup on Thursday nights may not necessarily have the historical significance that it did back in 1982, but save for a couple of exceptions, it certainly has an abundance of quality.

NBC’s current Thursday schedule is My Name is Earl, Parks and Recreation, The Office, 30 Rock, and Southland. I soured on Earl a long time ago and I’ve yet to watch Southland, but the middle pack of shows are fantastic and only promise to get better. So, whilst NBC may no longer use the “Must See TV” moniker, instead settling on “Comedy Night Done Right”, I think that the current Thursday schedule is the closest that NBC has come to “Must See TV” since 1996-97 when the schedule consisted of Friends, The Single Guy, Seinfeld, Suddenly Susan, and ER.

This brings me to the actual topic for this post, NBC’s new comedy Community. I’m hopeful that NBC will finally pull the plug on Earl and shift the lineup a little on Thursdays, especially with Leno being on 5 nights a week from 10pm. After reading the pilot script for Community my dream lineup would be Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office, and 30 Rock; Leno would really only be a bonus if a decent guest was on as I’ve grown tired of his whole routine (bring on Conan in 3+ weeks). I’m not sure if Community would fit at 8pm as it will probably be a little rawer than Earl is (in content not quality), but I like the pairing of Parks and The Office because of their similarities.

So, Community is written by Dan Harmon and tells the story of a bunch of students at Greendale Community College. They are:

  • Jeff (Joel McHale) – A disbarred lawyer who has to go to Greendale because he has a foreign law degree
  • Pierce (Chevy Chase) – 50-ish awkward/creepy guy (not really an apt description but it’s hard to pin down)
  • Abed (Danny Pudi) – Asperger’s suffering Arab
  • Britta (Gillian Jacobs) – The object of Jeff’s affections
  • Duncan (John Oliver) – Psychology Professor who was one of Jeff’s old clients
  • Troy (Donald Glover) – 18 year old jock who lost his scholarship
  • Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) – shy 40-ish mother
  • Annie (Alison Brie) – 18 year old who went to High School with Troy but dropped out

As would be expected, the pilot basically sets the stage for the introduction of all these characters and lays the groundwork for the group dynamic that will be the basis of the show for as long as it runs. It’s actually sharper than I expected it to be, much more in line with The Office than other standard sitcoms like Two and a Half Men. This seems to be a trend with NBC lately and I must say that I like it. I like smart comedies that don’t dumb themselves down to the lowest common denominator, and that’s almost certainly why I think Arrested Development, Seinfeld, and The Office are among the best shows ever.

The script is only 34 pages long and I’m not the fastest reader in the world, but I ripped through this one faster than I typically would (I won’t say how long it took at the risk of being mocked), and to me that indicates that I was really into it. There was a real nice flow to the story and the introduction of the characters, even ones on the periphery like the coach or the hilarious old black woman. In fact, the old black lady was used to great effect as a nice nod to the old sitcom convention of having an older and wiser character guide the central character.

[scrippet]

Jeff is startled to see the old black woman from the cafeteria next to him in the lobby. She’s placing books on a cart, unloading the overnight return bin.

JEFF
Don’t you work in the cafeteria?

OLD BLACK WOMAN
I have many jobs. In many places.

Jeff’s jaw drops. She rolls her eyes at him.

OLD BLACK WOMAN (CONT’D)
I’m not magical, I’m underpaid. You racist jackass.

JEFF
Sorry.

[/scrippet]

Save for some private exchanges between Jeff and Duncan, or Jeff and Britta, the sneak peek promo which NBC released a few days ago pretty much covers the entire first episode. The extent of the material contained in the promo no doubt helped me get into the script that much more, because I was able to attach a face to each character, and with some (Chevy Chase, Joel McHale and John Oliver) I had a good idea of how the lines would be delivered, which only ended up making them better.

Speaking of Chevy Chase, I can’t tell you how excited I am to have him back on TV in a potentially quality show. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, and loved him in Foul Play, Caddyshack, Fletch, Spies Like Us, and even Nothing But Trouble. I really hope that NBC gives Community the time to develop that it did for The Office, 30 Rock, and now Parks and Recreation.

Final Grade: A-

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