Sometimes it's hard to work out why television programme chiefs buy in certain foreign shows and completely overlook others. For example, why did E4 buy the dull One Tree Hill, but not the savvy Veronica Mars? Why has no one picked up the charming Bored to Death or the clever Party Down? Why was there no interest in United States of Tara, despite a script by Juno's Diablo Cody and the presence of Toni Collette in the lead role?
Most baffling of all why has no one snapped up NBC's satirical Community? The sitcom, which is set in Greendale Community College, whose attendees are linked only by the ways in which they have failed, is not only notable for being one of the few US shows to eschew the idea of a "moral message", but also for being the smartest half-hour on TV right now.
From the pitch-perfect movie references – one episode parodied Goodfellas through a battle for control of the canteen, another used a paintball competition to reference everything from John Woo to Mad Max – to the way in which every character from Joel McHale's cynical lawyer to Chevy Chase's deluded senior citizen was slowly revealed to be utterly unhinged, Community has rarely faltered.
And while McHale, until recently best known as the snarky host of gossip show The Soup, deserves credit for holding the whole thing together with just the right amount of sleazy charm, it's the supporting cast who really make it come to life. Yvette Nicole Brown's turn as possibly the only sympathetic, funny Christian character on US TV and Chase's willingness to send up his former image as the king of cool, show that Community is one of the few sitcoms to recognise that a good supporting cast is often more important than a strong lead.
Most of all, Community's charm lies in the fact that like that other great US sitcom, Arrested Development, everything is fair game. We might root for our ragtag band of lunatics, but we also recognise that they are completely wrong about most things. It's that recognition that pushes Community closer to British loser-coms like Peep Show or Black Books than to the slick likes of 30 Rock or Modern Family.