I’ve recently become addicted to the show Community. Since there’s no episode this week due to Turkey Day, I thought I’d do a top five. But it became a top seven, in honor of the seven timelines from “Remedial Chaos Theory.” And because I just don’t want to leave out “Paradigms of Human Memory.”My top five is pretty close to another list, so it seems to be conventional enough.
This was the clip show parody, and one of the episodes I was most intrigued by when I started watching the show. It’s a good example of how Community is different from anything else on television, while still being really, really funny.
Instead of rehashing older material, they featured flashbacks to entirely new adventures. And those adventures are actually referenced in later episodes. It’s a ballsy satire of a sitcom staple, which entirely defeats the purpose of a clip show, by requiring an absurd and expensive amount of work in the creation of multiple new sets and costumes. Though it also results in fifteen minutes of consistently hilarious sight gags.
The story reveals new details about the characters, with one particular announcement revealing that something big’s been going on behind the scenes for the entire season. The decision to make a parody of a youtube video that currently has 70,000 hits might be a symptom of the reasons Community has such low ratings, but the payoff is fantastic.
This episode’s really funny, while pulling off a difficult structure showing multiple realities resulting from the consequences of one seemingly random action. What makes it so effective is what it uncovers about each of the characters, and the effects that their absence can have on the group dynamic. It’s also priceless how some jokes slowly build from a set-up in one universe to a payoff in the next. The biggest downside is that in an episode that’s so detailed and revealing that it’s meant to be rewatched, it’s annoying that Abed’s “six timelines” comment is repeated so many times.
It was a send-up of Christmas claymation specials, that actually worked as an argument for Christmas, complete with a villain with a plot to destroy the holiday. I loved that something could hurt the usually dispassionate Abed so much that he has a complete and total mental breakdown. It took the character in a different direction, for a reason that was seeded in the first episodes.
The music gags and set designs were great. And while it was Abed’s episode, the rest of the group had some poignant moments as well, with some realizing what was at stake and others doing some serious self-reflection.
The first Paintball episode, and the highlight of the freshman season. It was a set-up of action movies that has some cool moments and actual character development. As later episodes would also demonstrate, substituting bullets for paintballs turns out to be a winning formula.
When the school devolves into post-apocalyptic chaos, it results in some of the best sight gags in the show. It’s a gimmick episode that turns out to be quite consequential, with a new development on a relationship that’s been set-up in the first episode.
This episode balances some touching moments (“We’re done feeling sorry for Neil”) with some of the best sight-gags the show’s ever had: Chang’s walking hate crime (technically it’s not, but it makes sense for another character to come to that conclusion), and Annie role-playing as Hector the well-endowed to seduce an elf maiden. And Chevy Chase is pretty persuasive at playing mean.
While it was meant to be aired as a one hour special, I’d consider these as two separate episodes, parodying independent items (spaghetti westerns, Star Wars/ modern action movies) with largely distinct A-plots. The first episode is more about Annie’s relationship with Pierce, while the second episode is about the entire school coming together in a combat situation. It’s not shocking that the episodes are credited to two different writers.
This is still the highlight of the series. It’s never been more fun. Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons may have been slightly better at the serious stuff, but this two-parter holds its own in that category, as a lot of character threads come to a head, and much of the cast gets their crowning moments.
There’s a trend with the best episodes of Community, as these work simultaneously as spoofs and as examples of what is being imitated. Dan Harmon, Joe Russo and company could probably make entertaining big-budget action films if they wanted to. It’s our gain that they’re working on a low-rated sitcom instead.