Wednesday, December 8, 2010
(Photoshopped movie poster courtesy of Jennifer Steadman)
Community's relationship with pop culture is the sort of thing that has already become the topic of countless articles, podcast, Photoshopped images and at least one 12,000-word (36-page) academic essay.
That's because Community is one of those shows that doesn't just reference pieces of pop culture. It pays homage to it. Only 35 episodes in and Community has already spoofed action flicks, mafia movies, Apollo 13, Mean Girls, zombie films, conspiracy thrillers, the budget-saving "bottle episode" and even the brain-wrinkling, self-referential works of Charlie Kaufman. And tomorrow, it will give spoof an all-time classic Christmas genre. (We'll let other media outlets spoil that for you.)
And these aren't just gimmick episodes. They're not like Family Guy's scene-for-scene Star Wars parodies, or the jokey "3-D," "live" and "Guess What's Wrong" episodes of The Drew Carey Show.
Instead, Community's genre homages arise both from character traits (pop-culture-obsessed Abed sees the world through a lens of TV and movies), setting (college is a place where taking small projects way too far is encouraged) and character arc (Jeff has to learn to put aside his ego and throw himself into the silly antics at Greendale Community College).
It's always exciting to hear which genre will be parodied next. But do you know what's even more exciting? Guessing which genres will be parodied preemptively, and then saying "See? Told you so" when they actually are.
So here are the genres I'd most like to see Community parody before it's crushed by American Idol next season and canceled:
1) Title: "Romantic Convergence Theory"
Genre: Love Actually schmaltz
Love Actually, which interwove the love stories of half a dozen romantic couples, was shameless in its cheesiness, and, because of that, it was a major hit with audiences.
Community has already mocked the typical love triangle of a romantic comedy. But, for one episode, it needs to go full Love Actually, giving every single character — even Troy's mischievous monkey, Annie's Boobs — a love interest and a heart-plucking love story, then sending them all in a rush to the — well, since there's
not much of the airport, let's say the Greendale Community College parking lot. Everybody's story should end happily, naturally.
2) "Intro to British Lit"
Genre: Secret agent
Showrunner Dan Harmon loves the James Bond parody. His "Homeless James Bond" series for Acceptable TV is one of my favorite sketches of all time.
Since Jeff already has a penchant for sophistication and fine suits (and fancies himself a ladies man), all it takes is a
Mission Impossible-style break-in into the dean's office to have your
secret agent spoof. Cast Abed as your Q, naturally, and cast the
Dean as a mastermind villain petting a dalmatian puppy in a large chair.
3) "Abnormal Psychology and the History of Weapons"
Genre: Slasher flick
Community has already parodied the zombie flick. This is the next go-to horror genre for a Halloween episode.
Being denied acceptance into the study group for the last time, Chang snaps. On the day before a crucial midterm he incapacitates every Community character, one by one. Annie, naturally, is the last survivor. She's got the scream for it.
And which horror genre after that? Definitely Saw.---
4) "Advanced iTunes Marketing"
Genre: Glee-style musical
Community has long mocked Glee, partly because they share the same recording lot and partly because, well, Glee's been extremely successful. Best of all, Dan Harmon — this is true — is an Emmy-winning songwriter. He penned this show-stopping Oscar opening number.
There is plenty of potential for inside shout-outs (the same actor plays both Principal Figgins and Abed's dad; one of the Glee singers has the last name of Chang). Parodying it is simple — there's a talent show coming up, Troy and Abed discover the magic of Auto-Tune, Shirley belts out the requisite gospel number and the characters' motivations and actions change rapidly for no reason.
5) "Nonverbal Communication"
Genre: Silent movie
As Buffy's "Hush" proved, an episode without dialogue can make for incredible television. Since one of Community's greatest strengths is the nonverbal reactions of its cast members, this genre would fit perfectly.
The study group is particularly stubborn. So when a round of the "quiet game" breaks out, nobody's willing to give in, no matter the cost. The last act, perhaps, could be filmed entirely in the herky-jerky comic look of a Charlie Chaplin movie.
6.) "Basic Brain Surgery"
Genre: Medical drama
True, Children's Hospital has already cornered the market on medical spoofs. But Community, with guest star Patton Oswalt playing the nurse at the health center, could do this one easily.
For this parody, critic Noel Kirkpatrick suggests that Troy's monkey comes down with an awful sickness, requiring the good people of Greendale to operate. Chest pounding and "C'mon, don't die on me, you son of a bitch!" would come from Pierce, naturally.
7) "Quantum Temporal Tachyon Reversal Studies"
Genre: Hard sci-fi time-travel story, a la Primer.
"Time travel is really hard to write about!" Dean Pelton lamented in "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design." The good dean was penning his own novel (it's the cool thing to do) titled Time Desk: The Chronicles of Dean Dangerous. Some hear a one-off joke. I hear foreshadowing.
The only question is how to make it fit inside the world of Greendale (and how to avoid plagiarizing Futurama.) So far, they've stayed away from dreams, hallucinations and fantasies, and while Greendale occasionally has zombies, I doubt they'd have a time machine. So that leaves...
Gee. Time travel is really hard to write about.
For more cooing over Community follow @danieltwalters on Twitter.