It looks like hell has frozen over. After spending the better part of the last two years firmly ensconced inside the barrel because of some truly terrible decision making—cough, Knight Rider—NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman might actually deserve some credit. Kings, which premiered last night, was as bizarre and interesting as anything we’ve seen on network television in quite some time; the more commercials we see for Southland, the new cop drama from ER producer John Wells, the more we think it actually looks good—like some pastiche mess of Training Day, Crash, The O.C. and Colors; and for all the negative ink that has been spilled over Jimmy Fallon, the fact remains that he’s done a very good job acquitting himself in late night television during his first two weeks and has the ratings to show for it. Now comes word that the network has cast the once-funny Chevy Chase in a funny-sounding new pilot called Community, which has been described as “Stripes at a community college.”
The new series stars Joel McHale, the snarky host of The Soup, as a lawyer who is forced to go back to community college after he finds out his degree isn’t valid; Mr. Chase is set to play one of the other students, about whom little is known beyond the fact that he’s on wife number five. On the surface, the premise sounds both lame and slight. But since Community’s executive producers, brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, were also a major part of Arrested Development—they directed the pilot episode as well as some of our favorites like “Motherboy XXX” and “Meet the Veals”—we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt (and simultaneously forget that they had anything to do with You, Me and Dupree). And while Mr. Chase hasn’t been funny in nearly 20 years, there is always the chance he can regain a speck of his past glory. Playing the second or third lead on a sitcom seems perfect. Mr. Chase won’t have the pressure to carry the entire show, and the network won’t put any unreal expectations on the series like it would if Mr. Chase were the star. We just hope for NBC’s sake that he didn’t use up all of his comeback mojo during his upcoming guest arc on Chuck.
Of course with only 10 hours of prime-time programming available per week starting in the fall when Jay Leno takes over the 10 p.m. time slot, we’re not exactly sure where Community will fit in on NBC’s schedule. But wherever it lands, we’ll be watching. Dare we say it, but maybe Mr. Silverman knows what he’s doing after all?