NBC has posted the pilot episode of its new fall sitcom, “Community,” on Facebook, and it’s available for free watching through the end of the week. I urge you to do it. It’s smart, funny stuff set at a community college, and I laughed (or at least grinned contentedly) for the two-thirds I could watch before the video playback crapped out.
Not many sitcoms can coax a grin out of me these days — so black has become my heart — but “Community” has the right kind of snark, hiptitude and cynicism that’s going to make “30 Rock” step up its game, I should think. It skewers academia like a Richard Russo novel, while making fun of its own “Breakfast Club” collision of diverse worlds, all of it stitched together with snappy dialog from yuksters such as Joel McHale (“The Soup”), John Oliver (“The Daily Show”), and Chevy Chase (The Karate Dog). Yes, I said Chevy Chase, whose aging Toastmaster character just may find this comedian back in form. (Seriously: The Karate Dog, 2004. Look it up.)
“Community” has a few hurdles, namely that it’s kind of mean-spirited, and the main character, Jeff, seems to be an irredeemable cad. Cads can be a hoot, but he’ll need to be sympathetic before long if he’s going to be a cad in the spotlight. Still, “Community” is buoyed by the sound of me choking on my unexpected laughter through sips of Coke Zero.
Not every TV show can give you an exchange like this. Jeff, the disbarred lawyer new to community college, is looking for test answers from Duncan, a professor who is a former client of Jeff’s:
DUNCAN: Are you trying to use reverse psychology on a psychologist?
JEFF: No, I’m using regular psychology on a spineless, British twit.
DUNCAN: I’m a professor! You can’t talk to me that way.
JEFF: A six-year-old girl could talk to you that way!
DUNCAN: Yes, because that would be adorable!
JEFF: No, because you’re a five-year-old girl, and there’s a pecking order!
Paired with “30 Rock” on Thursday nights this fall, “Community”‘s Sept. 17 debut may be NBC’s best chance to reclaim its Must-See-TV Thursday glories of yesteryear. And wouldn’t it be sweet if Fletch himself were part of the reason?