The Quarantine Stream: 'Community' Broke The Sitcom Mold As One Of TV's Most Unique Network Comedies

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they've been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)The Series: CommunityWhere You Can Stream It: Netflix, HuluThe Pitch: Created by Dan HarmonCommunity is the fiendishly clever cult classic for every pop culture obsessive. Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Donald Glover, Alison Brie, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Chevy Chase star as a group of lovable misfits who form a study group at a community college and grow into a codependent team that go on wild movie and TV show-referencing adventures that routinely shake up the sitcom format. Occasionally they go to class.Why It's Essential Quarantine ViewingCommunity broke the mold for the network TV sitcom, using its 22-episode runtime to frequently play with the format by way of high-concept episodes that would act as both love letter and genre-skewering satire. But what made Community a cult series with a rabid following (six seasons and a movie!) was the pitch-perfect comedic writing by Harmon and co. that could pack five jokes into two minutes, and the hysterical line readings by its stars, many of whom — Glover and Brie specifically — would soon rocket to superstardom. Community started off as an offbeat college comedy, following McHale's disgraced lawyer Jeff Winger as he enrolls in Greendale Community College to earn the bachelor's degree that he had originally faked. Upon spotting a hot blonde named Britta (Gillian Jacobs) in his Spanish class, he makes up a study group to get closer to her, only for the savvy Britta to turn his scam back on him and invite five other students to the group. The unusual group of students — Pudi's slightly autistic pop culture lover Abed, Glover's high school football star, Brie's formerly drug-addicted overachiever, Brown's Jesus-loving single mother, and Chase's bigoted millionaire — become unlikely close friends who go through thick and thin. And Greendale certainly puts them through the wringer, as this lame community college becomes the site of increasingly absurd and genre-skewering shenanigans.

I'm sure you've heard about the "concept" episodes, the pride and glory of Community that were often helmed by would-be Avengers: Endgame directors Joe & Anthony Russo (partially earning them their coveted Marvel gigs). They weren't even a staple of the series until late in the first season, when "Modern Warfare," a parody of action and apocalyptic movies via an out-of-hand paintball game, unleashed the show's pop culture-homaging insanity. From then on, nothing was off the table — Community would satirize conspiracy films, stop-motion Christmas specials, Dungeons and Dragons, and even the oft-derided "clip show," commonly used to pad for time in a sitcom which Community used instead to film all-new scenes referencing off-screen adventures.

Yes, the quality would drop off sharply with the fourth season, when Dan Harmon departed as showrunner over network disagreements, and it would never quite regain its genius even when Harmon returned for the fifth and sixth season. But when it was at its peak, Community was a perfect storm of comedy, featuring writers and stars at the top of their game and giving pop culture lovers the perfect outlet for their movie and TV obsessions.