“Community” Died For Our Creative Sins

April 23, 2012

The NBC sitcom “Community” returned to the air after a brief mid-season hiatus. Let’s be clear – a mid-season break is rarely a good sign. It’s usually a device employed by the networks to avoid airing low-performing shows during the critical (and outdated) sweeps periods (which help determine advertising rates).

Many shows put on “indefinite” hiatus don’t see the light of day again. However, give credit where credit is due. NBC did one of two things:

  • Listened to a groundswell of fans & critics who have praised the show for its originality and creative genius;
  • Or some uber-smart executive at NBC recognized the genius of the show and brought it back from the dead – at least for now.  Either way, Community is back in all its glory!

And in case you were wondering, I don’t like the show.

But, let me back up a second.

For readers who aren’t familiar with the series (and it seems there are A LOT of you), Community is a half-hour sitcom that follows the friendship and antics of a hopelessly multi-cultural/-generational study group at the fictional Greendale Community College.  And it is INSANELY creative, breaking 50-year-old conventions left and right.

To begin with, it eschews dreaded sitcom laugh track. It doesn’t follow predictable sitcom story arcs (“Put Him In a Dress!”  “He Has Two Dates Booked on the Same Night!”  “They Embark on a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme!”). They introduce main characters which are profoundly unlikable. There are few happy endings and many lessons, which are, to put it mildly, suspect in their value or moral standing.

But it goes beyond that. They produce entire episodes in Claymation. One episode dealt with the pesky problem of six different alternate realities. They expose – rather than exploit – stereotypes.  And the writing is obviously well-crafted, never mailed-in. It’s even funny sometimes.

But most of the time… I don’t know – I just don’t care for the show. It’s often too smart for its own good. It tries too hard to be snarky. The acting can be uneven. And sometimes, it’s downright unfunny. But I watch it anyway. Why? Because I need to support it. We all do. Breakthrough creative on network television is rare at best. And again – this show is profoundly creative. If we want more shows that truly break through the miasma of crap out there, we MUST support Community.

Now, on a purely intellectual level, I realize that this argument isn’t super-compelling. I’m not a Neilson household. My viewing habits don’t really impact the choices that networks make. And frankly, since I watch everything on TiVo anyways, advertisers (and therefore, NBC) won’t care about my opinions.  But I’m going to support it anyway. Karma rocks.  So if you haven’t watched the show, give it a try. And if you already watch it, continue. Support break through creativity. Always.

As Creative and Insights Catalyst, Marc provides creative and strategic counsel to account teams and specialists to evolve program concepts from idea to execution.