New York Mag’s Emily Nussbaum makes the case that NBC’s sitcom Community is the best show, drama or otherwise, on television right now.
So when I choose the network sitcom Community as No. 1, I’m not saying it doesn’t have serious competition: I couldn’t even fit Sons of Anarchy or Men of a Certain Age onto this list, each of which, were I in a different mood today, might rise right to the top. Cable still hosts the most ambitious television experiments, providing a place where oddball art can find a niche audience (and one that buys DVDs).
And yet it’s worth pointing out that smack in the middle of network, there it is: this auteurist sitcom, slamming it out of the park each week of its second season. Half-hour comedies are as potent an art form as one-hour dramas, and at the moment, the schedule is studded with great ones (Parks and Recreation, Eastbound & Down, Modern Family, Raising Hope, Bored to Death, Childrens Hospital, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The Middle). Community is theoretically set at a community college, but it uses that conceit the way The Simpsonsuses Springfield, as a jumping-off point for just about anything. The show explodes TV conventions while working within them, like the boldest meta-TV fromMonty Python’s Flying Circus through 30 Rock. And it’s consistently hilarious, in large part because creator Dan Harmon has such a strong, icy grip on his characters and his idiosyncratic ideas about what’s funny. This season, Community pulled off an action-packed (and sexy) Halloween zombie episode, a self-referential riff on Charlie Kaufman–style self-referentiality, and the single best spiritual trampoline sequence ever. In a competitive environment for comedy, Community is this moment’s top dog.
Nussbaum is really bucking conventional wisdom here, but it’s hard to argue with her. Week in and week out Community is one of the smartest and funniest shows on television. It’s not my number one of the year (tough call between Terriers, Walking Dead, and Fringe [seriously, I know?, not in a million years, but this season has been that good]), but it’s certainly in my top 5.