NBC sitcom available on Hulu; references pop culture, highlights friendship as theme

Dustin Gebel

*Correction appended

In the television industry, Dan Harmon’s “Community” just might be the show that changes everything.

The show first ran in 2009 and, after facing multiple cancellations and a shift in networks, ended last year.

It follows a group of students in their first year of community college. The group begins as a Spanish study group but evolves into a community, or a group that extends beyond the need to study for classes.

The original group of seven — Jeff, Annie, Abed, Troy, Pierce, Britta and Shirley — are all played by relatively unknown actors, with the exception of Pierce, played by long-time comedy star Chevy Chase.

The supporting cast includes: Ken Jeong of “The Hangover,” playing the crazy Spanish professor Ben Chang; Jim Rash as Dean Pelton; and John Oliver as psych professor Ian Duncan.

The show’s most stand out feature is its love-hate relationship with pop culture. Abed, a character known for his love of pop culture and desire to make movies, exhibits all the symptoms of having a developmental disorder. Because of this, he feels the need to try and relate to his peers through movies and believes he is in a television show.

The knowledge that Abed has about pop-culture leads to the idea of concept episodes, or episodes that parody and adhere to the tropes of other genres. One example is the use of action movie tropes in season one’s homage to films like “Die Hard” and “Rambo” in an episode focusing on a campus-wide paintball game.

Within these episodes, Abed either tries to force these movie scenes to occur, or, realizing they are happening naturally, goes with the flow.

Harmon, the show’s creator, is well-versed in these tropes and has the ability to layer his scripts so that even in ridiculous circumstances, characters still hold the spotlight of each episode.

“Community” not only thrives on pop culture references, but also on its characters. For a large ensemble comedy, the writers do a good job of generating stories through various relationships. Though the show tends to focus away from relationships, the dynamics of the large cast are enough to fill large portions of the show’s episodes.

Unlike many other sitcoms, “Community” has no template, formula or single style. This is due to Harmon’s familiarity with television; by randomly switching between character, concept and story episodes, there’s a feeling of irregularity that brings a freshness to the show. It feels like one long experimental piece.

The writing is strong, smart and snappy, and the direction behind the show is also of high quality.

The show’s go-to directors are the Russo brothers, known for directing the second “Captain America” film and who will direct the third and fourth “Avengers” films. They bring a distinct style to the show, influenced by styles found in both western films and “Star Wars.”

The biggest theme that runs through “Community” is that it’s entirely okay that we are broken people — that no matter how bad things get or how horrible we are, there are others out there who will always accept us for what we are. The show depicts friendship as unwavering.

“Community” ultimately has developed a cult following and a loyal fanbase. One of the show’s key phrases, “six seasons and a movie,” which originated in the second season, has become a rally cry for fans. With six seasons now released, word of a movie in development has started to spread.