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Why We Need 'Community'
Why We Need 'Community'

As Christians, we know we need community. And as many fans would agree, we also just might need Community, the irreverent NBC sitcom which seemed headed for the chopping block after weak ratings last fall. When NBC announced that its winter lineup would not include Community, loyal fans rose to its defense; the network later said it would bring the show back in March to complete its third season (Thursdays, 8/7c). Barring a miracle spike in the ratings, a fourth season is unlikely.

Which is too bad, because week after week, Community brings depth, story, and character exploration surpassing most network comedies. Calling it TV's smartest comedy might seem silly if you tune in and see a grown man dressed up as Batman living in a blanket fort. It's not a stuffy intelligence; it's just brilliantly innovative, and creator Dan Harmon realizes that works best in the context of character-driven story.

Community is based on Harmon's experience of attending a community college to be near a certain girl. He joined a study group with an odd mix of people with whom he had nothing in common. Like Harmon, the show's lead character, Jeff Winger, is an independent and arrogant hot shot who finds—to his surprise—that he actually sort of likes this band of losers who seemingly have nothing to offer him.

Where Community stands out is that there is method to the madness, a real purpose behind the zany gags, odd characters, and hilarious parodies. For Harmon, the show is all about exploring the power of community. In a captivating Wired article, Harmon explains in his studies of story structure from Joseph Campbell , he breaks down an episode's narrative to these eight steps: 1) a character is in a comfort zone; 2) but they want something; ...

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In the Magazine

May 2012

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