We are now nearly two decades into the 21st
century, and these two decades have seen a drastic shift in the television
landscape. Whilst the shift from procedural network dramas to serialised
anti-hero cable television has been heavily discussed, the shift in the comedy landscape
has been equally as prominent.
The very start of the new century saw the old-school,
multi-camera sitcom reigning supreme with shows like Everybody Loves Raymond
and Frasier dominating the ratings and the Emmys. As the 2000s progressed, several
trailblazing shows ushered in a wave of single camera comedies with increasingly
weird and specific humour. Recently, the comedy trend has been towards
experimental cable comedies like Louie and Master of None, which blend laughter
with social commentary and drama.
And through it all, the one thing that has remained consistent across all
eras of television is the importance of a great cast. But which has been the best so far?
Community is usually lauded for its hilarious, referential dialogue and
ambitious experimental episodes, just as much praise should be afforded to the
cast who make all of that work so well. Without the chemistry of the ‘study
group’, Community could easily have been too weird and alienating for viewers accustomed
to more traditional network sitcoms. Crucially, they give the
show the heart it needs to accompany its cynicism and meta humour.
consistency of the cast meant that the show could do ambitious, format-breaking
concept episodes such as Remedial Chaos Theory and Abed’s Uncontrollable
Christmas without sacrificing the core of the characters and their group
dynamic. Furthermore, the performances and characters resonated intensely with
the shows’ rabid fan base, with Britta’s pretentiousness and Troy and Abed’s charmingly
child-like friendship being particular fan favourites.
The cast even managed to
somewhat salvage a misguided fourth season without creator Dan Harmon, which
could have turned out far worse had the cast not been so strong. Whilst the
final two seasons improved following Harmon’s return, the show never quite
recaptured its original glory with the departure of cast members Chevy Chase,
Yvette Nicole Brown and Donald Glover, which goes to show the importance of the
cast and their chemistry in the success of Community.