COMMUNITY (TV SERIES) - DVD review

Season two takes Community to a new standard, and it's a hilarious one.

dmvanderh

Another academic year packed with silliness is back when the Spanish study group shifts to Anthropology for season two of "Community," landing on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Spread out over four discs that feature all twenty-four episodes and a bundle of extras, "Community" has stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, poised to knock in the game winning run. Knowing these characters, however, it'll likely come not from a hit, but from being hit by a pitch.

The smart, sassy jokes that made season one a success are back again in season two, as are the zany characters who, like it or not, have become people you like and maybe even see part of yourself in. They're all imperfect, of course, and such imperfections are what make their daily interactions worth experiencing in season two.

Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) plays a hot shot lawyer who had life pretty good until the Colorado Bar Association discovered his law degree wasn't all it appeared to be. To prevent disbarment, Jeff signs up as a student at Greendale Community College, and meets the student body with the occasional friendly nudge the wrong way. His first contact is with Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), the loyal and overly smart friend who can do anything with his weird pop-culture obsession and quirky pokes into and out of various situations. In passing, the pair spots Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs), an attractive blonde vegetarian who wants respect for her cultured life outlook more than her physical specifics. Jeff goes in for the kill, but he's got his work cut out for him.

Specifically, he's forced to deal with Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown), a Black single mother who takes life and its circumstances so seriously it's comical, Annie Edison (Alison Brie), the young one in the group who drips with type-A overtones and cheerful enthusiasm, Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), a former high school jock and pretty boy who tends to mask his personal insecurities, and Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase), an older student trying to fit in with his younger counterparts despite his over the top and truly bizarre social inabilities. All seven formed a bond that not even a bizarre Spanish 101, taught by Ben Chang (Ken Jeong), could break.

If you're an avid "Community" fan, you'll know that season one ended with some drama between Jeff, Britta and Annie. Rather than do what most series do these days and drag that drama out over the entire second season, "Community" hits it head on in the first episode, resolves it enough to satisfy the viewer, and then moves on to other things that are so funny and entertaining you might soon forget that drama from a year ago. There are funny lines, funny scenarios, awkward interactions, guest stars and a giant walking ice cream cone. Don't worry, it'll all make sense once you see a few episodes. If you're already a follower, of course, you know what I'm talking about.

In season two, Pierce shows little to no emotion when he discovers his mother has died. His grieving comes and goes quickly because his religion stipulates his mother's remains are encased in a lava lamp he takes everywhere with him. Jeff unearths a little bit more about why and how he was disbarred from the legal field. Abed decides to make an epic religious film. Troy celebrates his twenty-first birthday by not getting drunk and lets his friends settle for the hangovers. Shirley is pregnant all of a sudden, and Senor Chang is thought to be the father. Annie decides to run for student body president. Britta becomes the object of Troy's affection. Everyone occasionally seems to be at odds with everyone else, yet as each episode and the season itself end, the bond these individuals carry somehow gets stronger.

The jokes during season two are an eclectic mix, with some so blatant you'd have to be darn near asleep to miss them, yet others pretty subtle and under the radar. Abed's ability to deliver his perspective without emotion only makes his lines that much funnier, while Jeff's frustration with Greendale is still not powerful enough to overshadow his feelings for those around him. The scenarios everyone gets dumped into test the boundaries television can sustain, but at the same time, it's easy to respect the show's willingness to push things just a bit beyond where they feel comfortable, and with characters this strong and dynamic, they remain believable, even if the plots don't.

In comedy, timing is everything, and the show's pace, lines and flow all coordinate without fail. No one character dominates, and the series, which initially started and appeared it would be about Jeff, has shifted to be about everyone as individuals without forgetting that it's the study group setting that brought everyone together.

Season two takes "Community" to a new standard, and it's a hilarious one. The contextual focus on contemporary issues keeps things current, while the desire to spread the love and be sure everyone gets some face time ensures we won't get bored. "Community" is just as fun this time around, and at this rate, the sky's the limit.

Video:
Sony's transfer for season two is better than season one. Bright colors appear much more lively and grain has lessened, especially in close up shots. The shots with characters moving from place to place are also cleaner, as are the transitions between such shots. The 1.78:1 video transfer is mostly clear and clean, making it a visual delight on top of a comedic one.

Audio:
No issues hearing the jokes, narrations, natural background noise or other Greendale antics thanks to the super well placed English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio soundtrack. All lines come through with no difficulty, as do the insults, secret handshakes, frustrated howls and really funny verbal bickering. English subtitles are available.

Extras:
Buckle up for outtakes and deleted scenes, commentary on every episode, two new featurettes, storyboards, animatics, cast evaluations and a season one remix. As good as these special features are, we all know it's the episodes themselves you'll want to embrace.

A Final Word:
Knowing what I know about life in a community college, "Community" becomes that much funnier. It's smartly written and acted, yet approachable enough for a cautions viewer to try an episode or two out for size before he or she decides they'll buy in. When they do, they'll be glad they took the bet.

Ratings

Video
8
Audio
8
Extras
9
Film Value
8