Community’s Ten Best Episodes: Ten-Year Anniversary Edition

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CREDIT: NBC

Community, my favorite TV show of all time, premiered on NBC ten years ago, September 17, 2009. So it’s a pretty good time to do some episode rankings. Below, I have selected the ten best outings in the show’s six-season run. I would like to rank all 110 episodes at some point in the future, but that is quite a project. For now, ten will do. (But stay tuned.)

1. “Remedial Chaos Theory” – Knowledge of timelines deepens friendship.
2. “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” – The future looks cyclical, in a comforting way.
3 “Cooperative Calligraphy” – A bottle episode at breakneck wit and speed.
4. “Virtual Systems Analysis” – Experimentalism at full emotional depth.
5. “Paradigms of Human Memory” – The ultimate in expense-adding clip shows.
6. “Critical Film Studies” – As fulfilling as two ants getting down to brass tacks.
7. “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” – The reveals spill out with equal parts full logic and full nonsense.
8. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” – The meaning of Community episodes is that we find meaning in them.
9. “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” – The power of the mind is truly remarkable.
10. “Debate 109” – Character dynamics calcify and influence so much of what is to come.

‘A.P. Bio’ Has a Striking Amount of ‘Community’ DNA

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CREDIT: NBC

Over the past few months, the delightful high school-set sitcom A.P. Bio has become one of my favorite shows on the air, but then NBC went a little cuckoo and cancelled it. There’s been some effort on the part of the cast, crew, and fans to find the show a new home, but unless that happens, we will have to be satisfied with two short-but-sweet seasons.

One of the reasons I love A.P. Bio so much is because it shares a lot of DNA with my favorite show of all time, which would be Community, another former NBC sitcom that was constantly on the brink of cancellation (though unlike A.P. Bio, it kept beating the renewal odds). Their premises and central characters are strikingly similar. In Community, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) is a high-powered lawyer who gets disbarred and must enroll at a community college. Meanwhile, A.P. Bio stars Glenn Howerton as Jack Griffin, a disgraced Harvard philosophy professor who is forced to take a lowly part-time teaching job at a high school in Toledo, Ohio.

As I watched and grew to love A.P. Bio, I kept noticing more and more Community similarities, to the point that I could detect analogues for all the major characters. So I’ve assembled below a side-by-side comparison of the Greendale Human Beings and their corresponding Whitlock Rams. Enjoy, and let me know if you need help reacting to riding that ram.

(Thank you to my fellow commenters at the AV Club and Disqus for helping me out with these comparisons!)

Jack (Glenn Howerton) = Jeff (Joel McHale)

CREDIT: YouTube

The protagonists who try to act above it all but eventually embrace the crazy scholastic ecosystems they’ve become an integral part of.

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Links to Dan Harmon’s Season 6 Communitary

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I still haven’t re-watched every Community Season 6 episode with the addition of Dan Harmon’s commentary tracks, so I decided to make a post with some handy-dandy links for easy access.

1. “Ladders
2. “Lawnmower Maintenance and Postnatal Care
3. “Basic Crisis Room Decorum
4. “Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing
5. “Laws of Robotics and Party Rights
6. “Basic Email Security
7. “Advanced Safety Features
8. “Intro to Recycled Cinema
9. “Grifting 101
10. “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry
11. “Modern Espionage
12. “Wedding Videography
13. “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television

Jeffrey Malone’s 50 Favorite TV Shows of All Time

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You can learn a lot about people from their favorite television programs. TV viewing involves spending a lot of time with fictional characters and more or less forming relationships with them. Who we choose to spend our time with says a lot about our own personalities. With that in mind, here are the current standings for my 50 favorite shows of all time.

Arrested-Development-Season-5

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Señor Chang’s “Shining” Moment

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SPOILER WARNING: This essay discusses in depth the endings of an episode of Community, a 35-year-old movie, and a classic piece of sketch comedy. If you are reading this, you are probably already familiar with Community’s twist. The Shining works perfectly fine even if you know the ending. But if you have not seen the Key & Peele bit yet, do yourself a favor and watch it before reading.

When I took on this assignment, I thought I was going to be able to cover a whole survey of Shining homages. But then I realized that besides Chang’s misadventures in “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality,” the only other one I am really familiar with is the Key & Peele sketch “Continental Breakfast.” So I looked up some more to make sure that my suspicion of their proliferance was correct. There’s a 2014 IKEA commercial in which a Danny bikes around a store. The Simpsons did it (“Treehouse of Horror V”). So of course Family Guy also did it. There are plenty of directions one can take with a Shining parody: hammy Jack Nicholson impressions, creepy little kid acting, Shelly Duvall’s big eyes, etc. Focusing on a comparison between Community and Key & Peele is instructive because the crux of both homages is the ending and what they say about the nature of reality.

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Community 6.13: “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television”

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Community, “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” (CREDIT: Yahoo! Screen)

Even if there ends up being a movie or a season 7, I’ll still consider this one of the best series finales of all time.

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in June 2015.

“You saved my life, and changed it forever.”

Just as Jeff Winger was irrevocably changed by his friends forcing their way into his life, so too have “Community” fans been profoundly affected by this deeply personal show. This program and its lead character have always been marked by a push-pull between cynicism and sincerity. The guy who made a fake study group just to sleep with someone now cares so much that he cannot let go of the people he met through it. The sitcom that was so distrustful of institutions and deconstructive of all conventions ended the season (and possibly series) with the most heartfelt message from its creator about how much his audience has meant to him.

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Community 6.12: “Wedding Videography”

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Community, “Wedding Videography” (CREDIT: Yahoo! Screen)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in May 2015.

“Homer’s Enemy,” a classic episode of “The Simpsons” featured the story of Frank Grimes, a mild-mannered new hire at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, driven insane while forced to work alongside incompetent buffoon Homer. Since that episode aired, “Frank Grimes” has become shorthand in certain TV nerd circles for a one-off guest character who is a sort of audience surrogate who demonstrates just how maddening it would be to actually live alongside crazy TV people.

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Community 6.11: “Modern Espionage”

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Community, “Modern Espionage” (CREDIT: Yahoo! Screen)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in May 2015.

“Do you try to evolve, or do you try to know who you are?” Season 1 ended with Jeff facing this dilemma. As the years have gone on, this issue has come to define his show as a whole. Season 6 has brought this conflict to a head. Do you try to evolve beyond paintball, or do you try to know who you are and recapture your original homage episode glory?

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Community 6.10: “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry”

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Community, “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” (CREDIT: Yahoo! Screen)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in May 2015.

It is quite the challenge to make a good sitcom episode based around boredom. But that was what Abed – and by extension, “Community” – was attempting to create for this road trip gone awry. He knows the difference between real life and TV, and when he has blended the two, he has done so in a way that felt natural, that is, as natural for someone as odd as him. But imposing explanatory flashbacks onto his actual reality is in physically impossible territory.

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Community 6.9: “Grifting 101”

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Community, “Grifting 101” (CREDIT: Yahoo! Screen)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in May 2015.

“Grifting 101” is the first fully themed episode of “Community” Season 6. The typical Greendale shenanigans have been present this year, but not quite in a way that has overwhelmed everything for a half hour. The pop cultural references have also been there, of course. Just last week, “Intro to Recycled Cinema” took inspiration from “Star Wars” and its schlocky knockoffs, but it was not a full-on pastiche. Greendale was making a space movie, but it had not become a space movie. “Grifting 101” actually was a con man story that purposely mimicked the genre’s tropes. The elements lifted from “The Sting” – the hand-drawn chapter title shots and the ragtime version of the theme song – ensured that this is still a show that can be ambitious in this fashion.

 

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