Similar to Community, Campus is a highly irreverent, incredibly weird and unpredictably smart show. It surrounds Kirke University, a lower-ranking college dedicated to the local community that desperately wants a higher level. When a professor publishes a respected academic text, the Dean, I mean, Chancellor, decides that his school’s notoriety will increase if he encourages more rigorous academic publications. (um, duh). While the publish-or-perish requirement competitively pulls the two lead professors together, the series splits itself amongst the cast. The most fun surrounds the Vice Chancellor worrying about misplaced funding, casually rocking full-blown dresses, and ambigiously hitting on his favorite male professor.
Math professor Imogen Moffat, the high-ranking academic, is basically Annie. She’s the pretty, high-strung woman dedicated to her studies who needs to have fun. English professor Matt Beer is Jeff, a slacker professor who hides his intelligence by unapologetically chasing young skirt. Flatpack is first season Troy, a slightly clueless yet adorable jock who idolizes Jeff, I mean Matt’s, adult male qualities (and quietly crushes on Annie/Imogen). Mechanical Engineering professor Lydia Tennant incorporates Britta’s worst tendencies of control and know-it-all-ness, even when she clearly does not. The Vice Chancellor is so clearly the Dean, I’d love to see them meet each other and make out with their mirror image. Unfortunately, Abed (evil or otherwise) has no place in this alternate Cougarton Abbey mirrorverse.
I loved watching the characters’ development. Imagine if Jeff never met the Community crew. That’s essentially Matt. Until he starts leaning on Imogen and Flatpack as his own association, he is an unrepenetant, intellectually vain, skirt-chasing Jeff circa season one. Remember the embers that flared between Jeff and Annie during the debate? Imogen and Matt develop similarly, but without the pedophilic creepiness. Despite his occassional jerkiness, I frequently found myself rooting for the two. But, just as Community has the unexpected, yet incredibly sweet May-October relationship (*cough* Britta and Troy *cough*), so does Campus. Cow-eyed Flatpack served as a sweet, adoring alternative for Imogen. Although Matt is her intellectual soulmate, Flatpack makes the better earthly companion by warming her heart in places that competitively vain Matt can’t. Finally, the lipstick-wearing, barracuda-like female consultant brought in to watch the college’s finances, works similar to the Vice Dean. Initially she seems menacing, but then she gets pulled into the Campus perspective.
Although I haven’t detailed the humor, I really can’t, because it’s foicking brilliant. There’s no way to easily describe random association absurdist comedy where the barrel-chested Vice Chancellor dances throughout the campus buildings rocking a green, cleavage-baring ballgown. Although the Campus characters easily map into the Community characters, it’s the blatantly honest, irreverant humor that really reminded me of Dan Harmon’s Community.
According to Wikipedia, channel four cancelled the show due to low ratings and the Vice Chancellor’s racist comments. I’m of two minds on this. There were times when, yes, the Vice Chancellor went too far. For example, he might mock an Asian character’s accent, eyes, and status to the point where we got the joke. But, then he’d top it off with a blatant ethnic slur. While we didn’t need the final insult, overall the monologues (even with the inflammatory slur) didn’t bother me because it truly fit the character and wasn’t done aimlessly (i.e. Nellie on the Office).
Without Dan Harmon, I don’t know what Community’s season four will hold. However, if you want something that feels fresh, new, and similar to Dan Harmon’s vision, I suggest you check out Campus on Hulu. It truly is the British Community.