Six seasons and a movie.
If you’re a fan of Community you will be very familiar with Abed’s catchcry. If you haven’t seen Community (and judging by the show’s ratings you probably haven’t) you may have missed one of the best comedies seen on TV over the past few years. Sadly like other shows that posses the same self-referential razor sharp wit (I’m talking about you Arrested Development) they have only been able to develop a cult following and struggled to find a wider audience. The problem with having a cult audience is that despite almost universal critical acclaim and industry awards, shows like this become casualties of television rating wars. After five seasons Community lost that fight and was officially cancelled on May 19th 2014. All I can say is that decision was very streets behind!
On the other hand, the great thing about having a cult audience is you have a handful of almost scarily obsessive fans that refuse to to accept the networks decision (Star Trek, Arrested Development) about their beloved program and have raised their extremely loud voices in protest. Since its cancellation a couple of months ago, Community fans have kicked up an almighty stink online, so much so it is rumoured Hulu is in talks with Sony Pictures to do what Netflix did with Arrested Development last year and realize its six seasons and a movie destiny.
Now that idea is streets ahead!
So, with season four finally being released on DVD in Australia (seriously guys… long time overdue) I am going to catch you up with the show so we can avoid the same thing happening all over again.
Community is a show that is as much about it’s meta-humoured, pop culturally infused stories as it is about the off kilter, denizen of oddball characters and the weird little world that they inhabit. The show follows the bizarre and hilarious adventures of the students and faculty that attend Greendale Community College, a school run by an avid cross dresser, Dean Craig Pelton (Jim Rash), which offers a wide variety of seemingly useless courses, holds a incredible number of school dances and has a school flag modeled on what looks suspiciously like an anus.
The series focuses on a group of students who are referred to as the Study Group comprising of Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), a silver-tongued, womanizing narcissist ex- lawyer, Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs), an outspoken and opinionated activist, Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), a film student who seems almost aware that he is in fact the subject of a TV show, Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown), a single mother and vocal Christian, Annie Edison (Alison Brie), a compulsive over-achiever, Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), a former high school star quarterback and Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase), a moist towelette millionaire and casual bigot.
The fourth season sees some massive changes both on and off the screen and none of them are for the better. The biggest loss is the unfortunate departure of Chevy Chase as a main cast member as well as frequent episode directors and executive producers Anthony and Joe Russo who leave to direct Captain America: The Winter Soldier. What is perhaps the most perplexing change however, is the firing of show creator and runner Dan Harmon, whose real life experiences at a community college is what the show is based on (don’t worry, he will be back for Season 5). Despite all of these changes Season 4 still delivers, all be it sometimes not quite to the level of the seasons before.
The great thing about the show is that you never quite know what you’re going to get with an episode of Community. An innocent game of Paintball spirals out of control into a school wide war and parody of Sergio Leone style Spaghetti Westerns, Abed’s mental breakdown at Christmas turns into a stop motion, musical version of The Polar Express and an argument about the merits of constructing a blanket fort or pillow fort morphs into a parody of American Civil War documentaries while referencing films like Inglorious Basterds and Rambo.
One of the better examples of the show’s crazed Meta referencing of TV and movies is seen best in the Season1 episode, Contemporary American Poultry. It follows the Study Group’s frustration about Chicken Fingers always being sold out at the cafeteria. This simple problem soon becomes an homage to Mafia films with the episode managing to reference Goodfellas, American Gangster, Mean Streets and the Godfather as well as Sixteen Candles, Predator, Knight Rider, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Gate thrown in for good measure. Not bad for a show with a running time of approx. 22 minutes.
It was a no brainer to recreate this Study Group favorite… they are really easy to cook so make a massive serve, settle in for a 4 series marathon and get ready to channel your inner Greendale Human Being!
Greendale Cafeteria Chicken Fingers
Crispy Chicken Strips with homemade Roast Garlic & Red Wine Ketchup
Serves a hungry Study Group
For the Roast Garlic & Red Wine Vinegar Ketchup
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Knob of Ginger minced
2 Tins of Tomatoes
1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
1 Red Capsicum
½ Cup Brown Sugar
¾ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
½ Cup Water
1 Tbsp. Sea Salt
1 Tbsp. Cracked Black Pepper
For the Chicken Fingers
2 Chicken Breasts
3 Eggs Beaten
1 Cup Flour
2 Cups Panko Crumbs
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp. Oregano Dried
1 Tsp. Thyme Dried
1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tsp. Onion Powder
1 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 Tsp. Paprika
1 Litre Peanut Oil for Frying
For the Roast Garlic & Red Wine Vinegar Ketchup
- Heat Oven to 180 degrees Celsius
- On a greased baking tray place unpeeled Garlic, a peeled Onion cut in half and de-seeded and stemmed Capsicum cut in half.
- Roast until Garlic soft, Onions browned and Capsicum blackened and soft. Remove from oven.
- Place Capsicum into plastic bag and sweat for 5 minutes. Peel skin.
- To a blender add peeled Garlic, Onion, Capsicum, Minced Ginger, Tomatoes, Tomato Paste, Sugar, Red Wine Vinegar, Water Salt and Pepper and blend until ingredients are pureed.
- Place a fine mesh strainer over a sauce pan and in small batches pass the Ketchup mixture through, pressing with plastic spatula.
- Place saucepan over medium heat until mixture comes to simmer then drop to low stirring every 15 minutes.
- Reduce mixture by half or until it becomes thick. Season to taste and reserve in fridge. Ketchup should keep for a week or two if stored properly.
For the Chicken Fingers
- Place the chicken breast on a non-porous cutting board and cut carefully down the long side of the chicken. Cut until halved and then lay out flat. Repeat on second chicken breast.
- Place baking paper over the chicken breast and using the flat side of a meat tenderizer gently pound the thicker end of the breast so it has a uniform thickness (this ensures an even cook).
- Cut into strips and reserve.
- Place three medium bowls on work surface adding Flour to one, Beaten Eggs to the other and Panko Crumbs, Salt, Black Pepper, Oregano, Thyme, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Cayenne Pepper, and Paprika to the third ensuring the spices and Panko Crumb Mix is combined well.
- Place the Chicken pieces one at a time into the bowl with the Flour, mix and coat well, then dunk into the Eggs and then into the Panko Crumb Mix ensuring they are well coated. Repeat with the rest of the Chicken strips and reserve.
- 6. For Deep Fried- Heat Deep fryer to 180 degrees Celsius, place 3-4 pieces in the basket and cook until golden brown. Make sure you test one and check they are cooked through; raw chicken is not good to eat! Remove from oil and let stand for 5 minutes on a wire rack.
- 7. For Shallow Fried- In a high-sided fry pan add about 3-4 cm of oil ensuring that this is no higher than halfway up the side of the pan. On a high flame heat the oil to 180 degrees Celsius, add the Chicken and cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove from oil, check to see if cooked through and let stand for 5 minutes on a wire rack.
- Serve with the homemade Ketchup and all 4 seasons of Community!