If there’s anything we love around here, it’s discussing spiritual successors of popular movies and TV shows, and Community. Because we will always love Community. Which is why it brings me such great joy to bring to you news that we’ve found Community’s next iteration. And no, it’s not Dan Harmon’s other show Rick and Morty. You’ll never guess. It’ll be completely shocking when I tell you what show it is. You already know? Did I forget to update the header photo? And it’s that still from iZombie?
Surprise! It’s iZombie. iZombie is Community’s spiritual successor. Which is still either surprising or enraging depending on how you feel about Community and iZombie respectively.
But hear me out on this because it actually makes a fair amount of sense. Community was seemingly a community college-based sitcom about the lives of six wildly different students. Except it also included the lives of the teachers and staff at Greendale, and a surprisingly flush Air Conditioning Repair School. And the students also did absurdly unexpected things like stage campus-wide paintball battles that go on for days. And how were the students able to form gangs so quickly? It made no sense. Where were they getting the costumes from? Who still has that many rollerskates?
iZombie, on the other hand, is seemingly a zombie-based dramedy-mystery with soap opera flares about the life of one particular med-student-turned-zombie. Except it also includes the lives of her roommate/best friend, coworker/accomplice, partner/”the gruff one”, on-again-off-again-boyfriend, zombie villain, human villains, and Andrea Fucking Savage. And various zombies do absurdly unexpected things based on the brains they’ve recently ingested like fall in love with vanilla extract or wrestler-shout their undying friendship to an ex at a bar. And how did Ravi manage that wardrobe montage during just one playing of that RuPaul song? It makes no sense. Was it on repeat? Wouldn’t it lose its charm after a while?
That’s not to say that other shows, even other odd couple cop procedurals haven’t used the “going undercover as an excuse to role play” plot before (Bones, I’m looking in your general direction). The difference is that in both Community and iZombie’s case, this isn’t playing. The paint gun battle might not have actually killed anyone, but it was treated deadly seriously. Liv isn’t getting into the head of her murder victim to solve the case, she’s getting the head of the murder victim into her in order to actually become said murder victim. Or, more concisely, spending this much time on your hair in order to fully become the person whose death you’re trying to solve isn’t playing.
Which covers the similar post-modernist form of each show (man, do they both like exploring genre), but not the content. Because on its face, Community was about absurd superficiality. It was an instance of one guy dealing with his “wacky” classmates. It was silly. Except for that part where they delved pretty deeply into Abed’s estrangement from his mother, which he blamed on himself for possibly having undiagnosed Aspberger’s, and how that guilt and estrangement affected his mental health. Or Annie’s substance abuse issues. Or Britta’s crisis of identity. Or Troy’s fear of peaking in high school. Or everything that cripples me about Jeff Winger admitting that he spends all day texting to himself so that the people closest to him don’t see how lonely and scared he is. To his estranged father. What an upbeat comedy, guys!
iZombie doesn’t get as deep into the humor gold of chronic depression as Community, but it’s also far from being a “zombie” show. I mean, yes, it has zombies, has them raging out, and the central premise is pretty heavily invested in brain eating, but there’s no slow, lumbering zombie chasing after anyone. There’s very little chasing at all. This isn’t about a zombie apocalypse destroying civilization. It’s about a relatively small pocket of zombies integrating into civilization, and how unmet needs can be a source of corruption. It’s the economic and social justice take on what happens when we discover a group of “others” living in our midst and the ways in which those “others” can inflict and receive pain because of their secrecy. And the political ramifications of what happens when society, on the whole, turns a blind eye to the pain of those we’d rather not deal with. You know, just regular, brain-eating zombie fun!
Most importantly? No one is showing up for plot. Shirley did or didn’t graduate? No one cares. Major is a zombie, but maybe not? Irrelevant. Are the very likable characters on both shows going to have some sort of dance party? They are. And I am here for it. The group dynamics make the shows, and then the shows get to do whatever they want. It’s so enjoyable to watch any/all of the characters together, I don’t even care when it doesn’t make sense. In fact, the unusual pairing just makes things better. Did you know Clive and Peyton would be great together in all of their eye-rolling-non-brain-eating-glory? Because I didn’t, but now I only want to watch them reacting to shit together. And I’ll never care what that particular shit is. New Seattle can be quarantined, Greendale can be abandoned, but if we still have one character convincing everyone else to go along with their insane plan for escape/rebuilding, I’ll always be here for it.