The Commercial Appeal

‘Community’ plays up its backstage drama

- By Kevin Mcdonough

It’s hard to build an audience when all of your gags are inside jokes. Last week, NBC bid adieu to the clever and cartoonlik­e “30 Rock,” a series that brilliantl­y lampooned the corporate woes of its own flagging network. It was fun to watch, and it won NBC respect for being able to laugh at itself.

But inside jokes did not translate into ratings.

“Community” (7 p.m., WMC-TV Channel 5) returns tonight, with an even tinier frame of reference. It navel-gazes at its own backstage squabbles. At the end of the third season, Dan Harmon, the show’s creator and overall manager (“show runner” in Hollywood-speak), was let go. And before the production of the fourth season was complete, actor Chevy Chase left the series.

Tonight’s “Community” makes the most of this minor buzz by creating a show-within-a-show gimmick. As the gang prepares for its last year at community college, Abed (Danny Pudi) begins to freak out. He doesn’t want to leave school, ever. Britta (Gillian Jacobs) suggests he retreat to a “happy place.” In his mind, this is a sitcom starring himself. It’s an oldschool take on “Community,” complete with a laugh track and knee-slapping jokes. And Chase’s character, Pierce, is replaced (without notice) by Fred Willard.


The Hollywood round continues on “American Idol” (7 p.m., WHBQ-TV Channel 13).

Ann reassesses her failed love life on “Parks and Recreation” (7:30 p.m., WMC-TV Channel 5).

A tech tycoon has the assets and curiosity to expose Reese and Finch on “Person of Interest” (8 p.m., WREG-TV Channel 3).

A Valentine’s Day discount inspires subterfuge on “The Office” (8 p.m., WMC-TV Channel 5).

Diva week erupts on “Glee” (8 p.m., WHBQ-TV Channel 13).

The hospital’s image needs intensive care on “Grey’s Anatomy” (8 p.m., WPTY-TV Channel 24).

Jenni fer’s move makes Kate jealous on “Anger Management” (8:30 p.m., FX).

A drug dealer’s daughter vanishes on “Elementary” (9 p.m., WREGTV Channel 3).

Ian exacts revenge when Jason cuts him off on “Do No Harm” (9 p.m., WMC-TV Channel 5).

David gets the dirt on Cytron on “Scandal” (9 p.m., WPTY-TV Channel 24).

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