Unfortunately for NBC, their corporate bungling over the course of the last three years and change — Ben Silverman, the Leno/Conan debaucle, the cancellation of Southland, etc. — has created a pervasive sense of anti-Peacock sentiment that hangs, cloudlike, over 30 Rockefeller Center in a manner reminiscent of the ball of dust that Pig-Pen never managed to shake. Sadly, this has prevented the network’s PR flacks from shouting from the rooftops that, each and every Thursday, they air the most magnificent hour of comedy going on television these days.
No, I’m not talking about the 9 p.m. tag team of The Office and 30 Rock, both of which still flash occasional moments of brilliance but are widely regarded as being on the downslope of their respective creative arcs. Rather, I’m talking about Community and Parks and Recreation, both of which have consistently outclassed their more established counterparts in both laughs and smarts this season.
In particular, VH1 alum Dan Harmon‘s Community has proven to be a network sitcom almost without peer in its freshman season. After a somewhat bumpy start, the show’s eclectic cast has gelled together into a formidable and tight-knit comedic ensemble, and the writers and producers have displayed a willingness to take their show in the kinds of creative directions that most other sitcom showrunners would never dare to explore.
Take, for instance, last night’s epic (in every sense of the world) episode, “Modern Warfare” (written by Emily Cutler).
Not only did the show slyly work in meta references to classic films as varied as Battle Royale, Gotcha!, Roll Bounce, Hard-Boiled and Predator into its outlandish plot about a community campus wide game of paintball, but it also was bold enough to take a not-at-all veiled potshot at the current darling of TV critics everywhere, Glee.
Now, I recognize that a lot of you out there — including some of my esteemed BWE colleagues — are head over heels in luuurve with Glee. And while I understand the many reasons why it carries such great appeal to a country that’s unhealthily obsessed with Karaoke Culture, personally, I don’t get all the fuss. Don’t get it twisted, I’m a huge proponent of pastiche as a means of making an artistic and cultural statement, but to me, Glee seems little more than a boring string of flavorless interpretations of songs we’re all suckers for. But this isn’t about me, it’s about Community! Their critique of the show, as spoken by lead character Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), is brilliant in its brevity: “WRITE SOME ORIGINAL SONGS!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.