Dan Harmon’s hit Community is wrapping up its second season tonight with the other half of the finale, a Western send-up that has given our characters a fabulous excuse for skulking around campus with paintball guns, forming a series of shifting alliances. Deliciously, Community has managed to reference not only iconic pop culture but itself with this reprise of last season’s equally paint-splattered ‘Modern Warfare.’ Let’s hope they don’t try for a third year, or a clever reference might become a tiring tradition.
I was slow to catch on to Community. I watched the pilot last year despite my general dislike of comedies, and didn’t pursue it, although it kept floating across my radar. People just wouldn’t stop talking about it though, so I recently took it up again to see what all the fuss was about. The show is a slow burner that doesn’t usually grab viewers with flashy theatrics: you have to be into Community to enjoy Community, and judging from the following the show is starting to pick up, more and more people are into it.
This is a show steeped in pop culture designed to appeal to pop culturalists of a certain bent, which is part of why some people may find it inaccessible, and why it may be destined for underground fame, as the one thing we love more than pop culture is referencing pop culture. Sure, it’s still funny, but it’s funnier when you catch the layers of references going on. The show is to some extent a parody of itself but it can be difficult to pick up on that when you can’t read the subtext. Community, in other words, is a half hour comedy that requires users to do their homework and come to class prepared for discussion.