Despite an iffy start that had some of us wondering if the show had lost its magic, the third season of Community is actually its most ambitious, experimental and creative yet. Having become progressively less interested in being accessible to ‘average’ viewers since finding a fanbase with the cine-literate fanboy crowd, season three also contains more spoof instalments than before. This time, the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Law & Order, Apocalypse Now, The Incredible Hulk TV series, Ocean’s Eleven and (many) others get the inventive, high-concept treatment only this show is capable of. Indeed, where else would you see a brilliant Invasion Of The Body Snatchers sight gag as part of a Glee send-up? Or, for that matter, almost an entire episode played out (brilliantly) as a retro 8-bit video game?
Still, even as an avid film fan who gets most of the references, the best thing about Community is its characters. Whenever it threatens to get too gimmicky and wrapped up in spoofery, it’s the recurring character humour which keeps providing us with wry smiles (see the many variations on Shirley and Annie’s “Awwwww” and everyone saying to Britta “You’re the worst”). Especially noteworthy is Remedial Chaos Theory, an episode which sees the same evening split into six different timelines to give us a neat look at each member of the group (which is a recurring theme of the season). While everyone has their fair share of moments and great lines, by now it’s clear that Donald Glover is the real find as the amusingly-exciteable Troy.
Elsewhere, there’s more of Jim Rash’s Dean Pelton (check out his Deangasm after seeing Jeff in Aviators or when he blackmails him into spending the day together), but the show still hasn’t figured out what to do with Ken Jeong’s Chang (this year he’s a security guard). And while fans of The Wire will welcome Michael Kenneth Williams as a new teacher, he appears too infrequently to really make much of an impression, while the great John Goodman is also underused as the nemesis Vice Dean.