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I could go on for hours or pages, whichever you prefer. I could list my favorite moments, episodes, and lines and what makes them so great. I could talk about the brilliant comedic performances or writing displayed episode by episode. As you've probably guessed by now, I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm going to address two characteristics that make Community unique.
First is just the scale of the show. There are other shows that focus on a small, unimportant person in the world or take place in a nothing town or small business but I have never seen anything that goes out of its way to make fun of how low the stakes are in everything that happens. And most of these shows eventually build into huge dramatic events. To begin with it's a community college, not even “a real college”, to use the Dean's own words. This is highlighted in the numerous genre episodes which bring an epic feel to the show even though the plotlines are borderline pointless: A homicide investigation for a “murdered” yam, a mafia movie based on chicken fingers, the post-apocalyptic survivor film that results from a paintball assassin for priority registration, a Civil War documentary about a pillow fight. My personal favorite episode, the political intrigue/conspiracy thriller, features a scene where the main characters are “sent a message” in which the matchbox car in their diorama is rigged with miniature explosives. The slow-motion sequence where Annie starts the car and is tackled by Jeff is purposely overdone to juxtapose the nonexistent stakes with the undue effort put forth by the characters to both create and unravel the conspiracy. In another episode Britta spells it out explicitly, “I realize the stakes aren't actually that high but somehow that just makes it extra scary.” It's nice to watch a show that revels in being pointless.
Which leads directly to the second characteristic: the episodes don't end with an unrealistic growth moment for its characters. I'm so sick of shows that end with a heavy handed moral lesson that gets shoehorned in at the end (remember this, anyone?). Sure, there are some episodes where characters do grow or have an epiphany, but it is always earned. My jaw literally dropped when Pierce reprimanded Alan for using “gay” as a derogatory term. The moment was basically ruined when Pierce immediately followed it up by saying “Booyah! Good person,” but Pierce's breakthrough was earned. A morning show I have spent many hours listening to while driving to school revels in pointing out that we are conditioned to think that there is always a “right” side and a “wrong” side. This clearly isn't the case and they read many news items to show that often, both people involved in a conflict are just no good jerks. Community often ends episodes with two characters apologizing to each other and admitting fault. That's the way it usually is in life: just because one side was “wrong” doesn't make the other side “right.” Both sides are often at least partly wrong. This happens a lot with Jeff and Annie. She criticizes him for manipulating Troy for personal gain but he calls her out for using her academic skills to monopolize Troy's time. He joins the school election to rub her nose in the fact that the world isn't fair and Annie plays dirty to humiliate Jeff and admits that she was covering up her selfishness with idealism. It happens over and over. Everyone screws up all the time and has to face the music.
Like I said before, these aren't the only things I like about the show but they make it unlike anything else out there. When you throw in all the other great things... well, that's why I love Community.