I am NOT a sit com person. I have managed to get through my adult life so far without ever having watched even one episode of Seinfeld, Friends or Cheers. Not in first run, not in rerun, not even with the sound off on the treadmill at the gym. My life has still been rich and rewarding.
But NBC is offering up a sit com for Thursday nights called Community that I’m not going to be able to resist. The main reasons: some genius at the network figured out that a) it’s long past time to get Chevy Chase back onto weekly television and b) community college equals Comedy Gold.
As a veteran of half a dozen courses at Community College of San Francisco — and a former English Literature major — I speak with some authority on these matters. Since the Greeks, it’s been a time-tested technique for comedy and drama to introduce some device that gathers together a wildly divergent cast of characters. Then as the network suits love to say: “it practically writes itself”. John Ford did it with a stagecoach. Shakespeare did it several times with shipwrecks. Network TV tends to favor bars, apartment buildings and hospitals.
While schools — especially high schools — have long been a classic TV device, until now, no one has cottoned on to the fact that community college is Degrassi High, West Beverly High and any other TV school to the tenth power. Can you imagine how it ups the comedy or drama ante to have students, not only of many ethnic, economic and temperamental shades, but also wildly divergent ages and backgrounds? Take my classes this Fall, for instance. My Spanish professor is just moonlighting. By day, he’s a family dentist, albeit one with a Spanish mother and a degree in Spanish literature from a University in Madrid. From the first class when he came bouncing in shouting “Que Tal! Hola!“, it was clear he had enough energy for several more careers. My HTML professor? Not that long off the boat from South America, or at least she sounds like it. Two classes in and it’s a bit like learning programming from Charo. Except that she is fiercely intelligent. (The professor, I mean, although I have heard through the years that Charo, despite her cuchi-cuchi schtick, was actually immensely talented and an accomplished flamenco guitarist.) Now that’s just the teachers. In one semester. The students? The full microcosm which you’ll hear hilariously and stereotypically outlined in the clip below. And this being San Francisco, we’re one up on fictional Greendale Community College in that, in my classes, I’ve had the full Rainbow Coalition and even a few transexuals as fellow students. I tell ya: Comedy Gold.
Listen, TV Squad is already predicting Community will be the breakout, must-see hit of the Fall. And NBC seems to be putting all of its marketing muscle behind the show. They’ve even got a fake Greendale Community College website up where you can find out that you’ve already been accepted to this institute of higher learning.
Here’s the premise: a flashy, fast-talking lawyer is found out to have less than legitimate credentials and must go back to school to get a real degree. Once there, he tries to hit on the hot girl who is resuming her education after a stint as a Peace Corps volunteer. His ploy is to say he’s a “board-certified Spanish tutor” when he finds out she’s worried about her upcoming Spanish test. He makes the “study appointment” only to find the full spectrum of Community College types showing up in the library for “study group”. Those types, as stereotypically outlined by that aforementioned bumbling provost, are: “remedial teens, 20-something dropouts, middle aged divorcees and old people keeping their minds active as they circle the drain to eternity.” Yes, that last “type” is the Chevy Chase character. (Before you think that’s the role I’m playing in my own community college comedy, let me remind you: I have a long standing order in to Hollywood that Drew Barrymore is to play me in all TV and film adaptations of my life.) Of course, on my first day at CCSF, I realized these stereotypes are hardly accurate. I’m sure, as the season goes on, we’ll learn the same thing at Greendale, as they say in TV Land, “through our laughter and our tears.”
In any case, if Greendale Community College is even one third as interesting as Community College of San Francisco, I’m telling ya again: Comedy Gold. So NBC, if you need a story consultant, call me. You know where I am on the Internets — except on Monday and Tuesday nights when I’ll be doing research for you. And can you see if Drew Barrymore is available in case we want to introduce a wacky advertising executive turned winemaker and part time student into our cast?