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Big Bang Theory VS. Community: Transferring to Greendale
Some Initial points
During the writing of this article, I have just caught up with all of Big Bang Theory and was already caught up with Community, but for the purpose of people reading it in the future, this article was written when these two episodes had just aired six days ago
The Big Bang Theory - The Closet Reconfiguration Season 6 Episode 19
Community - Economics of Marine Biology Season 4 Episode 7
So just a warning, if you're not at least this far in, there may be minor SPOILERS up ahead but I'll try to reword them as much as possible to make it not ruin anything
Also as a side note, you'll notice I use quotation marks for a certain word or two, I really just don't like using that word but I think I kind of have to in this piece and that's pretty much how I do it when having a conversation.
Now let me start this off with telling you right now that I am on the Community bandwagon and have been for a long time. However, it's not like I started on it, I used to be all into The Big Bang Theory and admitted really liked the first two seasons at one point. Just as a side note, I started this series about two episodes into the second season. I was one of those people who thought it was the greatest thing on Earth because it mentioned things I liked. I started watching Community by the time the first season had ended. I initially wanted to watch it because it was about community college students, and having gone to one for a bit, I figured that I could relate to it. Even though I thought that, I just couldn't get myself to do it because NBC had seriously undercut what the show turned out to be with its tv spot. The tv spot made it look like any other sitcom so I kind of put the show in the back of my head and continued to watch my beloved Big Bang Theory. Then one of my friends told me the show shot a scene at his school or something. Still, at this point it was still in the back of my head until I got bored during the start of my summer vacation.
I was randomly browsing things on YouTube and came across the scene where Chang tells the class why he teaches Spanish. Then I started going on this Ken Jeong marathon looking up his stand up comedy, scenes from The Hangover, and finally just his scenes as Senor Chang. That was when I decided to give the show a try. The first episode did seem very slow but I got into it because of Jeff's reason for being in Greendale and the subsequent conversation with Duncan. It just immediately brought me back to when I was a kid and the first time I heard about Columbia University at which my first thought was, "why would you name your school after such a random country?" Yes, I know, I was a dumb kid, but the joke about Jeff's degree really felt funnier because I remembered that. After the first episode, I went on to finish the entire first season in less than a day, watching all the episodes back to back and I just couldn't get enough of it. So what did I do? I watched it all over again.... twice. I thought I was watching too much of it, so I decided to watch old episodes of Big Bang Theory. I did a complete run through all the way to the second to last episode (of the third season.... I think) and thought the show lost a bit of its magic. I also started noticing how annoying the laugh track was. Then I sort of noticed that I always thought the theme song was lame. It went all the way downhill from there.
The scene that started it all
The New Reality
I started to watch the second season of Community and the fourth season of The Big Bang Theory. My brother said the show had declined in quality but I was not ready to give up on Big Bang Theory, I kept looking for something that was remotely as good as The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis episode but I couldn't. Finally both shows ended their seasons and I went back to re-watch both of them all over again (Yes I do that a lot). During the Reviewing I even figured out that my favorite episode in reality wasn't even all that great, it was just the end that was a bit heartwarming. I also re-watched the episode The Cushion Saturation and noticed how little paintball they actually played. I think the chair cushion actually got more paintball action than the people. Not to mention they were fully geared and in the context of the scene, the paintball match was pretty organized. As for Community, even after their first paintball masterpiece Modern Warfare, they decide to make another not one, but two episodes devoted to paintball (A fistful of Paintballs and For a Few Paintballs More). They turned out to be just as or maybe even more epic than the original. Yes, all the paintball episodes were started in a very organized way, but human greed and madness drove them into something amazing. This seemed especially true in the original where the prize was priority registration. Now having gone to college, I know exactly how much registering first for classes really means and I have always dreamed the same dream of Jeff's which is to be able to take a 6 day weekend. That is when I started to understand why I became more fond of Community.
First of all I did some research into their credentials by watching some extras on the DVDs and Youtube. Chuck Lorre already had a hit show to mainstream audiences with Two and a Half Men. The humor in that show is quite shallow and brash. They do have a physicist on set but he really doesn't do much but write some facts and equations that the characters have to say to get a cheap laugh. Most of the cast are also nowhere near what their characters are which might make them quite displaced. So for a show liked Big Bang Theory that supposedly tries to target a niche audience of people who would rather be watching old episodes of Doctor Who than partying is kind of hard to accept. Then there is Dan Harmon who has an interesting background with Channel 101 and just comedy in general. He even went to community college himself so he has first hand experience to go by. A lot of the cast have a background in comedy and can actually improvise their lines. Both Joel Mchale and I'm guessing Donald Glover because of his Childish Gambino songs at least play some video games. Even though this has nothing to do with their characters, it is better than the cast of Big Bang Theory. Overall, I started seeing a huge difference in the way both shows seemed to work. However, I can't really judge shows based on what goes on in the back and it is what will eventually end up on screen that counts.
I started to see that Big Bang Theory never really was anything more than Two and a Half Men with fake glasses on. It's like that super popular kid in school looking at the socially awkward kid in the corner with his comics and then thinks he knows everything about that person. It's a show that seems to scratch the surface. The show is also quite ostentatious with their characters being "nerds" and seems to try to beat it into the audiences' head whenever they can. There was this episode where they had all their stuff in the apartment stolen and reported it to the police. Upon listening to the games he listed, not one of them is anything lower than super mainstream. Where's the Portal, or Street Fighter? Even mentioning Mass Effect would have been fine. The show just continually kept disappointing. They also kept making things up like having sex in WoW. I mean seriously, they even dedicated a whole episode and used it as part of character development. They just never go deeper in this show. The whole "Nerd" thing is just a label to try to draw more people in to watch because they think it might be something different. It really isn't and is actually more making fun of people who are socially awkward really. Still, there might be a bit of good in the show.
I found that Big Bang Theory certainly does have its moments. Like last weeks episode was actually quite amazing and I was blown away with Howard's decision, it showed real character. I was also amazed at the resolution that the now group of seven had come up with (Yeah I know it was 6 people who came up with it,but the group is seven, might be 8 soon with some recent developments I guess). The other thing I like is Raj, he had always been my second favorite but now I pretty much could only tolerate the show if he is a big part of a scene which is usually not a lot. He has that whimsical and a bit feminine aspect of him that I always find quite fun to watch. He does not seemed to have lost that part of him even now, and actually took on Howard's role of pathetic lonely guy as well, although probably not as brash and vulgar. That's when I figured out that this show really is not about "nerds" at all but is pretty much just another Friends with better hardware in the apartment and this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a show that turns off people's brains but once in a while you do get to see real growth. This latest episode genuinely shows how good the show can be through the brilliant writing and acting from this episode and a few other ones. Still, at best, Big Bang Theory is a bad attempt at understanding "nerds" and really shines as another sitcom showing how far the characters have gone.
The New Fun
Now for Community, the socially awkward kid at the corner who actually gets a lot of gifts from various aspiring actresses because they admire his videos and is actually best friends with the star athlete who he builds awesome blanket forts with on the weekends. Not once did any of them think they were "nerds" or "geeks," but instead they somehow are friends because they are all just totally insane. A handsome ex lawyer who is super insecure, a former star athlete who is growing into a person who loves things outside of the shallow world he grew up with, a self proclaimed activist and psychologist who wants to seem like she is more than she is, a naïve overachiever who romanticizes the world, a sweet caring Christian mother who might actually be the biggest badass of the group, a pop culture obsessed film student who sees the world as a tv show/movie, and an elderly man who although rude, is still a lovable person at heart. These are just brief descriptions about each of the characters in the Greendale seven (The main characters). This is just the surface, I could write entire papers about each main character and even some of the supporting cast. This show tries to do pop culture and the people who love it justice. It makes its own version of one of the cornerstones of science fiction, Doctor Who with Inspector Spacetime. It links up with Cougar Town, a show created by Bill Lawrence of Scrubs, one of the most loved shows ever. It even had an episode that was made like a PBS documentary that turned out to be amazing. Even the episodes that depict genres that are normally boring became some of the most loved episodes (Cooperative Calligraphy and Remedial Chaos Theory). The two pop culture obsessed characters (Troy and Abed) even have an obsession with Batman and show it in their own funny but obsessive little way rather than just mention it and dress up. They even made an entire episode with stop motion animation and put two characters in an epic battle... 90s anime style. It pays homage to everyone who has ever been obsessed with anything rather than try to bait them in. The amount of dedication this show gives to its fans is reciprocated too and can be felt all over the internet. Quotes fly all over reddit from it, hashtags like #anniesmove and #sixseasonsandamovie trend on twitter. There's even a downloadable game made by a fan that is exactly like the one in one of the episodes. Finally it even looks like it will win Hulu's best in show 2012 by beating Game of Thrones a full 20 percent. But this is probably old news for any of you reading this (since I think a majority might be human beings if you know what I mean), so let's get to the content.
Admittedly I think Community has gone on to a weird path this season because of behind the scenes politics among other things and has been in a bit of a bad decline. I still find that it is still a good show and is still leaps and bounds s̶t̶r̶e̶e̶t̶s̶ ahead of Big Bang Theory. I got bored of the latter once season 3 hit but did not ever get bored of Community even now. Yes, I do think the characters have regressed a little but they are still lovable. I also think that there were more heartwarming moments of Community compared to Big Bang Theory. They even come to resolutions in very unorthodox ways. In Cooperative Calligraphy, they come to the conclusion that they would rather believe in something so outrageous than break their friendship apart. This was very touching as it showed compromise between friends and what they would do for each other. Another example of this was at the end of Pillows and Blankets, Jeff actually does something amazingly out of character for his friends even though nobody would know he did it. There are many moments like this in the show and each and every one of them don't just show them growing as characters but as an entire group. Of course there is the more pressing "which one is really for nerds?" question.
Well I am of course saying Community but I'll also tell you why. Yes in Big Bang Theory, they dress up as superheroes and go to a comic book store and have Spock action figures, but it just makes it seem like the show has too much money and they're blowing it on trivial things. Community was using their budget on craploads of blankets, cheap batman costumes with a colorful grappling hook and clay dolls of the cast. The cheap Batman costume was used throughout an entire episode and Abed does not break character as he genuinely believed he was Batman. They go through a paintball episode in a western theme and the entire school acts like any spaghetti western with a Greendale twist. They had a town that came complete with a bar with a dancer. A badass gunslinger for hire with a nonsense name. They even had standoffs. Community shows something I've seen with cosplays plenty of times which is that you can't always get the best quality to work with, but what you do with it matters more. It's like the difference between buying and making a cosplay. If you buy it, of course it's going to have quality, but it is not your own, you aren't fitted to it, you aren't attached to it and above all else, it is not always made the way you want it to look. That's kind of the thing with Community that all fans love, in one point of another on Reddit or any other internet outlet, fans of the show thought of it as "Our Show" and not just another sitcom. The fans of the show love it so much and don't just say one or two stupid catchphrases from the show (what the hell is bazinga anyway? There is seriously no sense in that word). If at one point I got to say something from the show, it immediately feels like an inside joke with other fans. It really feels like the the show is made for anyone who has ever been awkward in any way big or small.
While Big Bang Theory likes to talk a lot about relationships, Sheldon's awkwardness or just getting into any other sitcom situation, Community seems to bring out the inner child in all of us. What is a "nerd" but a child really. As children, we explore, we learn, and we easily become obsessed with things. One of my favorite parts of of the first season was when Troy started eating the giant cookie. Now who as a kid did not want to eat the giant cookie? It was such a child like and pure instinct, he explored it, became obsessed with finishing it and later learned something from it that taught him something about his relationship with his best friend. It was a great way to actually strengthen the relationship between the two. They have many creative ways of showing that it's a comedy but also something more making Greendale a truly special place because as Jeff Winger said, "It's a toilet, but it's OUR toilet!" That seems to be the key, because although it has less references to comic books and video games as Big Bang Theory per minute, it gives fans something else to obsess and be "nerdy" and "geeky" over which is the show itself. It gives people the ability to connect to characters and not just look at them from behind a glass window. Community shows "geekiness" by the characters' existence in their world and not by just putting in random references so you are constantly reminded.
In the end, once I figured out Community was a far better show, I said cool at least 5 times