Since I discovered Friends at the age of 11, I have maintained that it is the best sitcom ever made. A wonderful blend of fun and emotion, combining slapstick with sarcasm and intelligent word-based humour. Comedy catnip for someone like me. I've watched the show from start to finish twice, and it's never lost its appeal.
Friends' place at the top of my sitcom podium has been threatened a few times: Blackadder and Not Going Out are favourites from the UK, while New Girl and the short-lived 8 Simple Rules fought for attention across the pond. The best contender for my top spot was Chuck Lorre's grossly underrated series Dharma and Greg.
But this was all before I found Community.
Considering its low ratings and continual struggle for syndication, it's no surprise that while I was enjoying the glory days of early Big Bang Theory and The I.T. Crowd, I had never heard of the college-based antics happening under the imaginative eye of creator Dan Harmon. It is only thanks to the wonders of Netflix and friends' recommendations that I found the show at all; and boy am I glad that I did.
Community is a fresh 21st Century take on the sitcom. It refuses to get bogged down in the static, multi-camera format so common in American TV (perpetuated, I will concede, by Friends). It never stands still for longer than it needs to, and there is no formula; every episode is different in form, genre and even occasionally medium (spoilers). It expects a lot from its audience: there is no laughter track telling you what to find funny, and its pace and wit often merit dragging back the play bar a minute or two to take everything in. But this lack of condescension to the viewer makes each episode a rich concoction of laughter, intrigue and wacky fun.
The show exudes confidence from every pore. It does not hesitate to reference films, pastiche popular culture, even parody itself. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the overarching theme of the show is learning to laugh at yourself. If you're a fan of Rick and Morty, you know that Dan Harmon never takes himself too seriously, and this carries over in Community as well. Despite being set in the live-action 'real world,' this is a show in which anything can - and does - happen. Giant pillow forts, secret trampolines and a Christmas wizard do not even scratch the surface of what this show has in store.
If you have not seen this show, I strongly urge you to watch it. Persevere through the first few episodes, it takes a while to find its feet but I promise you it's worth it. As in many sitcoms, you'll fall in love with the characters, and maybe find one or two of them insufferable. But unlike any other sitcom, you'll never know what's going to happen next.
So far, no show as ever come as close as Community to knocking Friends off the top spot of my all-time favourite sitcoms, and I'm only on Season 3. I'll let you know if it succeeds.