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A concept much abused by politicians, market researchers and other necessary evils, but really it's very simple: a community is a group of people with common interests, which recognises and acts upon those interests. Otherwise it's just a random group of people. Communities have historically been defined by geographical location, ethnicity, religion and so on; actually communities can be based on anything from sexual preference to consumer identification to operating system. The key criterion is: if it thinks of itself as a community, and acts like a community, then it probably is one.

A tribe, a community, a social/cultural/religious sphere; any group of people with common interests or goals. May also be people who simply choose to live in proximity to one another for some reason, usually pertaining to the availability of certain resources.

If we're talking about communities as in a neighborhood in a city, then we have a grouping by proximity to resources. People may choose to collect in one neighborhood over another because of the proximity of water, food, work, bus routes, schools, parks, 7-11's. Levels of crime, cost, taxes, and other less tangible things may also be viewed generally as resources, which factor in when considering communities as grouping by resource proximity.

Another, more interesting type of community, is grouping by interests or values. Everything2 is an excellent example of this type of grouping, since it brings together many people interested in voicing their thoughts and opinions, and in hearing what others have to say. We have geeks, nerds, philosophers, and people who just like a good debate. Lots of diverse interests, but a binding interest in sharing knowledge and experience. Interest type communities are everywhere. Clubs are a prime example of this type of community.

Communities also exist to support. Things like organized religion, support groups, and group therapy exist so that people who have experienced something in common (such as cancer) can come together and share their experience. In the case of religion, and many other support oriented groups, leaders help their followers deal with everyday struggles and help give people some common belief structure to base their lives on. People who belong to such communities find that by exchanging experiences and ideas with each other, they are able feel as if they are part of something bigger than themselves, that they are not alone in the world.

This kind of community, while largely positive and beneficial, can also have negative effects. In the case of religion, especially in cult type organizations, we see individuals stripped of their identities and made into sort of drones; people so devoted to the cause dictated by the leader of the community that they are blind to everything else in the world. In the case of mainstream organized religion, or other groups, the organization may prohibit certain ideas or practices by the membership. The effect of this on the community may be evidenced in different ways. It may serve to enforce the values of the community, or it may be a move simply to keep people within the organization, or to keep the organization seemingly infallible. A prime example of this would be the punishment of Copernicus for asserting that the Earth was not the center of the Universe, as was the view of The Church at the time.

Communities may be formed by any commonality between individuals. People who live in a certain country might describe themselves as members of a community, a community of patriots, or maybe just a community defined by citizenship. The idea of community can be loosely applied to any grouping of people.

poem by John Donne

Good we myst love, and must hate ill,
For ill is ill, and good good still;
But there are things indifferent,
Which wee may neither hate, nor love,
But one, and then another prove,
As we shall find our fancy bent.

If then at first wise Nature had
Made women either good or bad,
Then some wee might hate, and some choose;
But since she did them so create,
That we may neither love, nor hate,
Only this rests, all all may use.

If they were good it would be seen;
Good is as visible as green,
And to all eyes itself betrays.
If they were bad, they could not last;
Bad doth itself, and others waste;
So they deserve nor blame nor praise.

But they are ours as fruits are ours;
He that but tastes, he that devours,
And he that leaves all, doth as well;
Changed loves are but changed sorts of meat;
And when he hath the kernel eat,
Who doth not fling away the shell?

Community is a half-hour NBC sitcom created and directed by Don Harmon. It takes place in and around fictional Greendale Community College and focuses on the relationships and high jinks of a "study group” of students who fulfill the roles of standard community college misfit archetype.

Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), the down on his luck smooth talking professional who thinks he's too good to be slumming but has to anyway. He was disbarred when the a judge found out his degree was from Colombia University...now he needs one from America.

Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs), the self-appointed crusader for under recognized causes who an opinion on everything. She is one of those people who, after taking one class in a subject, thinks them self an expert. Her enthusiasm to make the world a better place is counter balanced by how naïve she is about how the world actually works.

Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), the borderline dysfunctional head-case managing to get by with a skewed world view and the help of others who care too much to let him fail. He suffers from Aspergers with an encyclopedic knowledge of TV and movie tropes. He often uses his knowledge of onscreen stereotypes to navigate the real-life society he can't fully engage with.

Shirley Bennet (Yvette Nicole Brown), the single mother trying to continue her halted education after a divorce while raising two children. She has double billing as the religious nut (well meaning Christian with a side of unintentional bigotry).

Annie Edison (Alison Brie), the honor roll student who burned too brightly and sputtered out. Her drive to fill her life with academic achievements ended with her getting addicted to focus enhancing drugs; eventually leading to a melt down near the end of high school. She is the youngest of the group and serves as their moral compass and meter for innocence.

Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), the high school all star athlete who had no idea how to function in the post-high school world. Often chided for being the least intelligent of the group, while he can be scatter brained, he does have a heart of gold and will call others on their bullshit...when he notices it.

Peirce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase), the "successful" "business owner" and "entrepreneur". He "guides" the others with his years of "wisdom", "keen" mind, and vast "knowledge". Mind the quotation marks. He constantly tries to remain relevant despite his age, but these overtures usually involve him grabbing for the spotlight. In addition, his man from another time role usually results in him saying something flagrantly discriminatory at the drop of a hat.

Along with the inept school dean played by Jim Rash, a deposed tyrant formerly security guard formerly fellow student formerly frightening Spanish teacher played by Ken Jeong, a host of cameo appearances by other prime time actors, and recurring characters, the show chronicles the often bizarre events of the school year which are usually send ups and not-so-subtle parodies of other TV shows and movies.

The dialogue and jokes are fast paced and witty, although frequently rolling off into tangents and non-sequiturs the scenic route is worth the trip. The actors always seem to be having a lot of fun with the material. With an ensemble cast made up of seasoned veterans and talented newcomers there is a nice mixing of delivery styles.


Season 1 ran from September 17, 2009 – May 20, 2010
Season 2 ran from September 23, 2010 – May 12, 2011
Season 3 ran from September 22, 2011 – May 17, 2012
Season 4, due to behind the scenes upsets, is only a half season, and will begin sometime in 2013


Update: Series creator Dan Harmon announced on his blog May 19th, 2012 that he had been replaced. Even though there had been some behind the scenes drama and each season seemed like it would be its last, the show had been renewed every time. The blog entry itself takes about how petty working in TV can be. It's bitter and snarky but rather funny, and the voices for each of the main characters can be seen in his writing style.

"Community" was a situation comedy that ran for six seasons (more or less), from 2009 to 2015. The first three seasons were full, 24 episode seasons, while the last three were half-seasons of 13 episodes, with the last season running on Yahoo! Screen. It was created by Dan Harmon, and many of its episodes were directed by the Russo Brothers.

The original set-up for the show, established in the first episode, and followed through the first season, was that Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), a lawyer, had lost his license to practice law when it turned out he had faked his bachelor's degree, necessitating a return to community college. In an attempt to get closer to a fellow student, Britta Perry, Gillian Jacobs, he creates a study group for the two of them. Unfortunately (for him, he thinks), five other students show up: Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), a Palestinian man who demonstrates signs of having Asperger's Syndrome, Troy Barnes (Donald Glover, in his break out role), a teenage African-American jock, Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase), a rich older man who goes to community college to keep busy, Annie Edison (Allison Brie), a perfectionist teen who left high school due to an Adderall addiction, and Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown), a divorced African-American mother. The original concept of the show was that the manipulative, narcissistic Jeff was going to attempt to woo the sensitive, idealistic Britta, with the other five characters providing wacky subplots as background for the romantic comedy. If you know your sitcoms (and the show's creators certainly did), you might think of Sam Malone and Diane Chambers on Cheers, or perhaps of Dan Fielding and Christine Sullivan on Night Court: player guy and sensitive girl court, while an ensemble of wacky characters has surreal adventures.

But starting in the middle of the first season, and completed by the second season, the show changed. First, the romantic plot between Jeff and Britta stopped being the major focus, and the "background" characters became just as important (which, among other things, this allowed the non-white characters and actors to be more than one-note characters), and secondly, the show started becoming more surrealistic, as well as offering a "meta" deconstruction of itself as a sitcom. The first episode where it became impossible to reconcile the episode's happenings with a "real world" setting was in Season 1, Contemporary American Poultry, where Abed's desire to be in a mafia movie turns him into a kingpin controlling the community college's supply of chicken fingers. After that point, the show bounced between surreal plots parodying different types of movies and television shows--- a Zombie Plague, a paintball game complete with paramilitaries from a competing community college, a trip into alternative timelines, a Civil War Documentary--- while also letting all the characters develop in a realistic way. It also experimented with its format: Community episodes would appear as a claymation style Christmas special, a 8 bit video game parody, and as an animated GI Joe story. One of the interesting things about Community for me was that while its surrealistic episodes were outside the bounds of a normal sitcom, the character dynamics were more realistic: the group's backward and forward bickering and romantic interest were much more realistic than in most sitcoms. Characters become friends, enemies and lovers, but it seems to occur naturally, not as the result of authorial fiat.

Some of the things that seemed problematic (and outdated) about the show, early in the first season, became easier to adjust to once the show left reality. Jeff Winger as the pushy, bad boy trying to seduce every woman seems somewhat between dated and offensive now. For anyone who has worked in an academic environment, even flirting between staff and faculty and students is not something to joke about, but it is a regular part of the show in the first season. Two of the series' other stars are Jim Rash, who plays Dean Craig Pelton, and Ken Jeong, who plays Ben Chang, a Spanish instructor who is faking his credentials. Dean Pelton makes obvious advances on Jeff Winger, and Ben Chang is abusive and unstable. In an early episode of the series, where Ben Chang kisses Annie on the forehead, I was shocked: that is the type of thing that would automatically get a teacher fired. But by the third season, when Ben Chang has been fired, rehired, lived in the community college's air vents, and become a warlord controlling the school with an army of preteens he met at a Bar Mitzvah, the show has established that it is far enough from reality that we can suspend our disbelief. And so it is with Dean Pelton, whose sexuality becomes more acceptable as it becomes more ridiculous. (It is not until the sixths and final season that he finally comes out of the closet, although he says "being gay is only 2/7th of who he is").

The show also had an incredible range of guest stars, famous comedians and actors often playing minor bit parts. Along with recurring star John Oliver, we also got to see Betty White, Jack Black, Patton Oswalt, Anthony Michael Hall, Chris Elliot, John Goodman, LeVar Burton, Jason Alexander, Nathan Fillion and Kumail Nanjiani (among others) all show up, often to play a minor character. Despite never being the most popular show on television, this show became somewhat of a "comedian's comedy show", with its experimental nature and cast chemistry making it an important cross-roads of comedic genres. This is, after all, the only place you will get to see Childish Gambino and Betty White rap together.

"Community" was easy to watch, with the episodes being light enough to draw me in, but complicated enough to keep me interested. My problem with the show (as much as it is a problem), was that I kept on wanting to care about what happened, but what happened could be undone by the shows sense of surreality. In Season 2, there is an episode where Ben Chang does something terrible enough that the characters (and by extension, the audience), are actually shocked. The story seems to be veering towards a dramatic moment, a permanent change...but at the last minute, he is released from trouble, and by the next episode, he is back being one of the gang, engaging in wacky hijinks. Throughout the series, there is a place or two where the show seems to be veering into drama, into real character development. Strangely enough, a few of these moments are after the show was past its best years, such as Season 6's "Basic E-Mail Security", where the characters reading each other's leaked e-Mails seems to cause true, dramatic repercussions. But most of the time, the show hijacks its own ability to draw us in by reverting to form. This is especially interesting because often, the real cast dynamics did have permanent repercussions. In an odd parallel, Chevy Chase's character, Pierce Hawthorne, had the same relationship to the characters that Chevy Chase did to the cast. Pierce Hawthorne is played as a somewhat buffoonish, out-of-touch baby boomer whose racist and sexist jokes irritate the rest of the study group, despite Hawthorne's sometimes generous and sensitive nature. In the show, Hawthorne is forgiven every week. In reality, Chevy Chase's attitude towards the cast, which involved some of the same problems as his character, caused him to be fired from the show.

"Community" is a great television show, and even when it missteps, it is worth watching. It has raised the bar for what I expect out of the standard half-hour sitcom format. Its problem, which is not a deal breaker, is that it vacillates between wanting real drama and character development, and wanting to have capers without consequences.


While Community probably does not warrant a total episode guide, there are a few specific episodes that I believe deserve a description of their own, and I will hopefully be doing that at some point in the future.

Com*mu"ni*ty (?), n.; pl. Communities (#). [L. communitas: cf. OF. communit'e. Cf. Commonalty, and see Common.]

1.

Common possession or enjoyment; participation; as, a community of goods.

The original community of all things. Locke.

An unreserved community of thought and feeling. W. Irwing.

2.

A body of people having common rights, privileges, or interests, or living in the same place under the same laws and regulations; as, a community of monks. Hence a number of animals living in a common home or with some apparent association of interests.

Creatures that in communities exist. Wordsworth.

3.

Society at large; a commonwealth or state; a body politic; the public, or people in general.

Burdens upon the poorer classes of the community. Hallam.

⇒ In this sense, the term should be used with the definite article; as, the interests of the community.

4.

Common character; likeness.

[R.]

The essential community of nature between organic growth and inorganic growth. H. Spencer.

5.

Commonness; frequency.

[Obs.]

Eyes . . . sick and blunted with community. Shak.

 

© Webster 1913.

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