Community, 30 Rock, Arrested Development: Reinventing the Sitcom

The brilliant ensemble cast of NBC's Community

The brilliant ensemble cast of NBC’s Community (Pardee)

In recent years the biggest innovation in the television industry has occurred in writing style, which now focuses more on genuine character development and thoroughly polished fast paced humor. Three shows in particular have lead the charge towards a new age in television: Arrested Development, 30 Rock and Community.

The most notable innovators who revolutionized the television industry—Tina Fey, Mitchell Hurwitz and Dan Harmon have transformed the 20-minute situational comedy into a respected art form.

The first show to break through and rise above the cesspool of average television programming was Arrested Development. In the summer of 2002, the veteran television actor, producer and writer Ron Howard enlisted the help of an up and coming writer by the name of Mitch Hurwitz to help create a new sitcom about a dysfunctional family that went from riches to rags.  Hurwitz developed his characters more before Arrested Development started than most sitcoms do after several seasons. The effort he put in gave his characters greater depth and authenticity and created a more genuine world for them to inhabit. The show was incredibly quick and had much more complex storylines than the average sitcom. Because the humor was so fast-paced, witty and at times so subtle that it required viewers to rewind and watch several times in order to fully appreciate every episode.

Arrested Development influenced many following sitcoms, pushing writers and producers to increase the quality of their shows even if they would not necessarily be commercial hits. The show proved that sitcoms could be more than just mindless entertainment. A documentary was even made to examine just how groundbreaking and influential. Just from watching the trailer you can get an idea:

The year Arrested Development ended, a new show emerged to take its place as the smartest comedy on television—30 Rock. With all of the obstacles that face a television show, Fey managed to create something that stood out amongst all the bland sitcoms that seemed to be an endless repetition of tropes and stereotypes. Fey’s show set itself apart from other shows by creating a realistic world inhabited by genuine, well-developed characters. The most impressive thing about 30 Rock is the writing; each episode is packed with fast-paced jokes that move the plot forward (Edgerton). 30 Rock is especially successful when it comes to social and political commentary, perfectly weaving ernest commentary into every hilarious joke.

Tina Fey’s 30 Rock has been recognized by critics and fans as one of the most imaginative and unique shows on television. Over the course of its seven-year run, the show won 14 primetime Emmy awards and six Golden Globe awards (IMBd). The show also marked a significant breakthrough for women in comedy, becoming the most critically acclaimed show to be created by a woman.  The show exemplifies a sitcom made for the fans and not for the network executives—not worrying primarily about its Nielsen Rating but rather focusing on pleasing its fan base.

The most recent show to revolutionize the sitcom was Community. Dan Harmon created the show in 2009 and immediately committed to character development. Dan Harmon said that no matter what happens in the show, the continuity of the characters and their personalities are the primary concerns. Aside from the incredibly real, genuine characters and the fast, witty humor, Community managed to do something more than Arrested Development and 30 Rockgenre hopping (Tigges). Community is primarily a comedy, but it is not afraid to go where no show has gone before and practically rearrange the entire setup of the show (as you can see in the image below), while still keeping the characters firmly grounded in the real world.

The best word to describe Community would be “meta;” it is very self aware, which makes the show incredibly unique. Watching Community can be seen as a study of television. The show often takes a step back and tells the viewers that it is changing directions or using a trope, showing viewers the inside tricks of the television industry. This is best exemplified by the character in the show named Abed. Abed is a major television geek who knows everything there is to know about the entertainment industry. The storyline also suggests that he might have aspergers. Abed is constantly relating his life to television, which might sound like a cheap plot device but his character is so well developed and so genuine that it is completely believable. Abed’s disease combined with his imagination allows for some incredibly entertaining explorations of different genres and tropes used in television. Community’s never before seen style revolutionized the sitcom by showing people that even in what has become the most formulaic of art forms, there is nothing that cannot be done.

Abed, in the famous "paintball episode," Modern Warfare

Abed in the famous “paintball episode,” Modern Warfare

In conclusion, Mitch Hurwitz, Tina Fey and Dan Harmon revolutionized the television industry simply by focusing more on character development and not being afraid to stray from the norms. Hurwitz, Fey and Harmon created shows that featured incredibly realistic and genuine characters with very fast-paced, smart writing. Each show has been praised for its unique qualities and originality; all three stand out amongst the often-formulaic plethora of sitcoms created each year. These three shows have already had an impact on the industry by inspiring other writers and producers to risk creating other unique new shows. Arrested Development, 30 Rock and Community will continue to influence and inspire future minds and will continue to change television and popularize the sitcom for decades to come.



Works Cited

bluthfamilyvalues. “Arrested Development Documentary: Final Trailer.” Youtube. Digital File. 12 Jun. 2009. Web. 9 Dec. 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HC4RToo6XeI

Edgerton, Gary. Brian Rose.  Thinking Outside the Box: A Contemporary Television Genre Reader. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2005. Print.

IMDb. Amazon. 1990. Web. 20 Oct. 2012.

Pardee, Thomas. “Top Five ComicCon Moments” Photograph. Weblog. 26 July, 2010. Web. 9 Dec. 2012. http://thomaspardee.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/my-top-5-comic-con-moments/

Sepinwall, Alan. “Abed goes “Matrix” on “Community”.” Photograph. Hitfix.com. 6 May 2010. Web. 9 Dec. 2012. http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/posts/community-modern-warfare-say-hello-to-my-little-el-tigre

Tigges, Jesse. The List: 10 Best Genre Episodes of Community. Columbus Alive. 31, May. 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. http://www.columbusalive.com/content/stories/2012/05/31/the-list-10-best-genre-episodes-of-community.html

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Community: The most popular show…on the internet

JAMESK. “Community-TV-Guide-Cover.” Photograph. Webshots. Joyhog. http://joyhog.com/2011/12/05/fans-love-community-but-nbc-doesnt/community-tv-guide-cover/

Community is the most popular TV show…on the internet.

The image above shows three magazine covers with the same text but different pictures. Each cover shows a happy group of people that are celebrating an apparent victory that the headline refers to. Seeing as this is the TV guide magazine, it can be easily inferred that these people are cast members of the show “Community.” There is one man that appears in all three covers. Below the headline that declares the show the “winner,” there is a statement that perhaps contradicts the headline: “Why fans are fighting to save their show.” While the picture and headline display the show as a winner, the second headline casts doubt on the shows “success.”

As a fan of the show displayed on the cover, the image above means a lot more to me than it might to the average person. The show “Community” recently won the fans choice award from TV Guide readers. The people on the cover of the magazines are the cast members of the show, and the man that appears on all three covers is the main character in show. Despite having some of the worst ratings on television “Community” consistently wins fans choice awards thanks to its devoted fans. Community fans are known for being the most vocal, devoted, and crazed fans. The TV Guide contest was just another example of the fans taking to the internet to show their appreciation for their favorite show. For the past two seasons, “Community” has been on the brink of cancellation due to its dismal ratings, but thanks to the tenacity of its fans that started online campaigns to save the show. No other show on television has as avid and vocal a following as “Community.” On Reddit, a site known by many as the “front page of the internet,” the Community page has ten times the subscribers of the page for TV’s number 1 rated show “The Big Bang Theory.” The reason that the show’s ratings are so low despite its rabid fan base is because many of its viewers have taken advantage of new technologies such as Tivo and Hulu. Unfortunately these new technologies are not accounted for when calculating viewership.

Thanks to contests like the TV guide magazine one pictured above, “Community” fans have been able to show their appreciation and stave of cancellation for four years. If the fans keep up their strong avocation for the show there may still be hope for the show in the future.

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The Return of Arrested Development

Carp, Jesse. “Arrested Development Gallery.” Movie Blend. July 28, 2012.

The return of the cult classic television series, Arrested Development, in an online format will change the future of the industry and transform the way we consume media.

The image above shows a tattered “Frozen Banana” stand apparently owned by someone with the name of “Bluth.” The stand has “closed” sign displayed over its window. The stand looks as though it has been abandoned for some time. The text below the stand read: “Development continues 2013 exclusively on Netflix.” The text is colored black and white, in contrast to the bright orange background.

To a person viewing this image with a significant knowledge of pop-culture this image means a lot. The image refers to the cult classic television series “Arrested Development,” which came to an end after only three seasons. Despite the critical acclaim and Emmy Awards that the show earned during its short run it could never manage to pull in enough viewers to convince the network to keep the show running. However, after its cancellation the show became a huge success and is now one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, spawning countless internet campaigns to bring the show back in some form and even a documentary about its run. In 2011 the hard work of the fans finally paid off when it was announced that Netflix would pick up the show for a long-awaited fourth season. The image above is the first ad for the return of the show recently released by Netflix. The banana stand, owned by the dysfunctional Bluth family, was a common location in show, and its poor state shown on the poster references the years that the beloved sitcom has been gone. Perhaps the most important part of the poster is the text “…exclusively on Netflix.” The fact that immensely popular show will be available online could potentially change the television industry dramatically. With more and more people already looking towards the internet for television content on websites like Hulu and Netflix, this push for original online content with a show that already has a built in fan base could make online television the next big thing. If season four of Arrested Development is a success, it could change the way people consume media in the future and popularize online television even more.

The exciting return of Arrested Development may bring about a shift in the television industry towards more exclusive online content. This spring Netflix will release 13 new episodes of the cult classic television show, marking the first time a show with such a fan base will be revived on the internet. News of the show has already increased Netflix subscribers, indicating that this new way of releasing exclusive content could mark the beginning of a new era of television.

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Is the World Ready for an Ethnically Diverse Spider-Man?

abrestholecek444, “All New Multiethnic Spider-Man.” Nuke the Fridge. Web.<https://polygrafi.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/donald-glover-spiderman.jpeg&gt;

Is the World Ready for a multiethnic Spider-Man?

The new ethnically diverse version of Spider-Man, met with a lot of negative feedback, is the wake-up call that prejudice is still far too prevalent in today’s society.

The above image shows the commonly Caucasian superhero Spider-man, portrayed as a Black man. The tone of the image is rather dark and it appears that he has just come from a fight because his costume is tarnished and his mask is missing. The teenage superhero also has his backpack draped over his right shoulder. Although it is nighttime and he is in the midst of the city, Spider-Man has a calm expression on his face.

The interpretation of this image is far more complicated than the surface analysis because of all the social implications of the portrayal of Spider-Man as a black man. Based solely on my knowledge of pop-culture, I know that the man in the image is the comedian/actor/rapper Donald Glover (or Childish Gambino). Furthermore, I know that this image has been altered and that the original is from the recently released “The Amazing Spider-Man” starring the White British actor Andrew Garfield. This image comes from an online campaign to make Donald Glover the new Spider-Man that started mostly as a joke. However, around the same time the “Ultimate Universe” comic company released a series of Spider-Man comics featuring a half-Black, half-Hispanic Spider-Man. The combination of the online campaign and the growing popularity of the new Spider-Man comics resulted in a surprisingly large and vicious backlash. In his stand-up routine, Donald Glover plays the negative response for laughs, musing at how people can still be so prejudice and so outraged over something so simple as a superhero comic book. And as Childish Gambino, Donald Glover addresses the negative response as a real problem as he angrily raps about the overwhelming amount of negative emails, tweets, and letters he received. Even in the mainstream media there has been some derision. Glenn Beck, notoriously conservative talk radio host, denounced the change in the comic calling it “stupid.” Meanwhile Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post gave perhaps the most insightful statement about the controversy: “the response to the new black Spider-Man shows why we need one.” (abrestholcek444)

The fact that changing the race of a beloved superhero sparked such a controversy demonstrates that we have not fully erased prejudice from our society. Many people know that prejudice still exists, but sometimes it takes an issue as silly as this to remind us just how prevalent it really is.

abrestholecek444, “All New Multiethnic Spider-Man.” Nuke the Fridge. nukethefridge.com. Web.

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The Enneagram Made Easy

The Enneagram Made Easy. 2009. Search Overdrive. Web. 9 Sept. 2012.
<http://search.overdrive.com/ti/ 89ee7745-5590-43fb-8676-4a54e7e7b8e1-420-1-1-1-1/

Curation #1

The Enneagram: Personality Profiling

In a world with over seven billion unique individuals, it is possible to classify people into nine different categories defined by personality types. In the image above, the authors of a popular book display a method for this categorization.

The book cover draws the observer in with a bright yellow spiral pattern and a mixture of images and text. The title: “The Enneagram Made Easy,” along with the subtitle: “Discover the 9 Types of People,” present the book as a simple display of information about personality types. The accompanying image is a cartoonish illustration of nine caricatures, which correspond with the nine personality types, surrounding a silhouetted face with a question mark in the middle. Each of the nine caricatures is accompanied by a number and a title that coincides with the action that they are doing. At the bottom the names of the two authors are displayed in cursive, a different font from the title and subtitle but the same as the one used for the caricatures’ titles.

The book cover features the nine different personality types that the authors have chosen to present in a way that seems fun and comprehensible. In fact, the whole cover seems as though it is trying to appeal to an audience that wants straight forward, easy to understand information about the enneagram. The topic of the book could be seen as controversial seeing as many people do not like to be “labeled” or “pigeonholed,” however, presenting the book in a simple, almost childlike way might help to lessen the negative connotations associated with personality profiling. The image can be received in many different ways depending on whether or not you have any past experiences or knowledge of the enneagram. To the average person the idea that there are only nine personality types in the world may seem ludicrous. However, if a person has studied the enneagram or even heard about it through word of mouth before hand then they will much more likely to have a positive reaction to the image and the book in general.

“Making the Enneagram Easy,” successfully illustrates the nine different personality types that exist in the world. It is important to note that the classifications are not made to judge people or define them in a single word, but rather to help them interact with one another and form stronger relationships with deeper understandings of how different people function.



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