If you’re trying to decide whether to buy the season-one DVD of Community, on sale today, let me help you out here: Yes. It’s worth it. Let me count the ways.
1. The 25 episodes are fascinating to watch in order, as you see a smart but wobbly colt of a sitcom gain balance and strength to grow into a comedy — er, thoroughbred doesn’t seem like the right word, so I’ll drop the horse metaphor. What I mean is, the show just got better and better.
2. Commentary on every episode. And not just the usual DVD commentaries, where the actors sit around saying, “You were brilliant in that scene!” I mean commentaries that play like insider lessons in how to build a sitcom. Show creator Dan Harmon in particular is admirably frank about many aspects of the show. He admits, for example, that he and the writers initially had no idea how to write for Gillian Jacobs’ Britta because they didn’t have a fix on the character (Jacobs’ cheerfully loopy, ego-free performance helped guide them). He and some of the co-stars do a fascinating breakdown of the character of Allison Brie’s Annie, Harmon admitting he and the writers based Annie on an “Elisabeth Hasselbeck archetype… conservatism mixed with sexuality.” But, Harmon adds, “the actors take over their characters” and “define the tone of the show.” Well, they do when they’re guided by smart producers, who pick up on the performers’ cues.
3. Included in the DVD package: a comic book, Kickpuncher #1, written by “Troy Barnes” based on the show’s infamous bad-action-film fave. The illustrations by Jim Mahfood include a “Bonus Collector’s Item Pin-Up: Annie and Britta Unleashed!!”
4. Outtakes that are actually funny.
Are you sold yet? Community returns with its second-season premiere on Thursday. The DVD is a great way to prepare for it.