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The Smartest Show on Television: Community

Hey Folks. I assume that most of you have heard of Community by now. However, based on the ratings it has been getting  -- the CW's Vampire Diaries drew more viewers at one point this season -- my assumption might be wrong. So here is a quick primer.

The premise is rather plain. It's a show about the misadventures of Spanish study group at Greendale Community College. But in a few short seasons, it is proven itself to be one of the most cleverly written and executed shows on television.

The study group is comprised of all the archetypal characters you might expect to find at a community college -- the former  jock, the returning student/working mother, the savant with poor social skills, the hippie/feminist/insert-cause-here person, the overachiever who doesn't realize that he/she goes to community college, and the guy who thinks he's too cool/smart to be there. So what, might you ask, is the big deal?

Well, the big deal is that this show isn't so much about being in community college as it is about pop culture in general. Examples are easy to come by: the episode "Contemporary American Poultry" is a spot-on spoof of the movie Good Fellas where the cocaine has been replaced with cafeteria chicken fingers, in "Epidemiology" students ingest some hazardous material at a party and turn into zombies, and the two-parter "A Fistfull of Paintballs/For a Few Paintballs More" is a spaghetti western where the students play a campus-wide game of paintball to earn free tuition.

But this show isn't just an homage to certain films or genres, it also plays with mediums. They've done a claymation episode ("Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"), Anime ("Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" ), and this week's episode ("Regional Holiday Music") is supposed to be a musical..

Perhaps my favorite thing about the show is it's willingness to really go out on a limb. It does this in a variety of ways. First off, it's willing to take its time to set up a joke, even if no one is sharp enough to catch it. A few episodes ago they pulled off a Beetlejuice joke that was three years in the making and probably 99% of the audience (myself included) didn't know it until later when they read about it on the internet. The writer's are also unafraid to base entire episodes on esoteric pieces of pop culture, like the episode "Critical Film Studies," in which one character is planning a Pulp Fiction themed party only to have another character hijack the plot to make a spoof of the obscure film My Dinner with Andre.

Finally, Community has done some things that I can't recall ever seeing in a television show. My favorite, and final example comes from an episode this season called "Remedial Chaos Theory." In this episode two characters invite the rest of the group over to their apartment for a party. When the doorbell rings, one of the characters suggests that they roll a die to see who has to answer the door. Another character points out that they should never have rolled the die because it has created six different realities. Can you guess what happens next? Sure enough, we the viewers are treated to depictions of what each of those separate realities would have looked like. I mean, how many non-sci-fi television shows have based their plots on the many worlds interpretation? That fact alone is almost enough to garner my nomination as the smartest show on television.

The sad news though, is that this show is struggling. Recently NBC released its midseason schedule and Community was nowhere to be found. Apparently though, this doesn't necessarily mean it is cancelled, as shows like Parks and Recreation have gone through a similar mid-season break and managed to return stronger than before. Still, it can't hurt to show your appreciation and support. I encourage you and your friends to watch, and if you feel like going the extra mile you can Occupy Greendale on facebook.

What do you think? Feel free to agree/disagree/provide your own nominations for smartest show on television in the comments.

This post originally appeared on Stuff Smart People Like. Subscribe to the Podcast.

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