NBC is heavily invested in the movie/TV download website Hulu.com. (You could probably tell by all the commercials airing on NBC.) The company is a joint venture of NBCUniversal Media, Fox Entertainment Group and Disney-ABC Television Group. The service has yet to bite the bullet that rival Netflix did and start producing whole seasons’ worth of original TV series. (See last week’s Idiot Box review of “Lilyhammer” for comparison.) But Hulu is doing its damnedest to plug the current TV shows of its corporate overlords. And that isn’t always a bad thing.
Take, for example, NBC’s irreverent sitcom “Community.” It’s pretty much the best show you’re not watching. The show receives rabid fan loyalty online (where there’s no shortage of Alison Brie GIFs) but gets scant Nielsen ratings in its usual Thursday night broadcast time slot. If, like “Arrested Development,” the show goes away before its time, you really can’t blame the network. NBC has more or less stuck by all of its Thursday night comedies.
After a bad case of hiatus, “Community” is finally returning to NBC’s lineup this Thursday night. To celebrate, NBC has created a three-part cartoon “miniseries,” which it’s airing on Hulu. The series consists of three cartoons, each two minutes in length. It’s not much—more of an animated appetizer—but fans of “Community” shouldn’t let it pass unnoticed.
“Abed’s Master Key,” as it’s known, finds the pop culture-loving student (played by Danny Pudi) being elevated to the position of unpaid dean’s assistant. Along with the new title comes the master key to Greendale Community College. But as Spider-Man taught us, “With great power comes great responsibility.” In short order, the other members of Abed’s study group are abusing the power of the master key—forcing Abed to make a Lord of the Rings-style decision.
“Community” has experimented with animation before (an awesome stop-motion Christmas special and an inspired Japanese anime segment from last season). Though the style here isn’t anything more than your basic Flash animation, it fits the parody-heavy humor of the show just fine. Plus, all of the original cast members (including fresh-off-an-Oscar-win Jim Rash) contribute their voices. Sure, it only amounts to six minutes in total, but it’s a funny six minutes and just the thing to whet your appetite for Thursday’s spring season premiere ... which, in case you didn’t get the memo, you should be watching.