Jun 3, 2015

Posted by in Ramblings

#SixSeasons – Part I

#SixSeasons – Part I
All 110 episodes of Community ranked

Recently Mad Men ended.  And now, this week Community came to an end.  Or it didn’t. It’s Community, no-one ever really knows.  Given how many shows get cancelled before before really given a chance these days (Hello there Benched), it’s a modern miracle we got 110 episodes of Dan Harmon’s creation.

Since Abed mentioned it in a season three episode the rallying cry for this constantly on the cancellation bubble show has been #sixseasonsandamovie.  Well, now we’ve had six seasons. And the final episode of that sixth season that premiered on Yahoo! Screen this Tuesday sure felt like a finale so far as the TV show was concerned.

Anyway, I’ve written at length about Community and it’s place in TV history before.  Here in fact.  I mentioned, in that article, that Community, for a whole host of reasons, is my personal favourite TV show of all time.  Mad Men might be ‘better’.  Arrested Development might be ‘smarter’.  I dunno, it’s all sujective anyway, but in terms of sheer enjoyment and personal connection to a show, it’s characters and the, well, the ethos of the show, Community wins hands down for me.  A TV show, perhaps more than other forms of art even, has a way of burrowing into your heart and soul whatever you want to define those as.  Perhaps it’s the week to week nature of it, the unfolding nature, the fact that someone you’ve never met and probably don’t like can just snatch it away before you were done.  Like life in some ways if you want to get a deep about it.

So rather than another article about why I, and dedicated larger than you might’ve imagined following, and critics found it such a great show, or a history of it’s struggles etc (there’s plenty of that on places like Reddit and The Av Club just for starters), I’ve decided to do that thing I like to do.  A list.  Not about the show like I did recently for Mad Men, but a full on one that gives me a chance to relive those 110 half hours.  Here’s a ranking of every single episode according to the very scientific method of my opinion.  It’s obviously going to split over a few different posts. Please feel free to disagree in the comments.

That doesn’t mean that the episode ranked 110 is bad.  It’s just not as good in my eyes as the one at 109.  And, as I always say, a shit episode of Community is still usually better than a good episode of most other shows.  I remember reading a similar blog about Mad Men where each episode was ranked from good to perfect.  So that.

Community_titleObviously this list is fairly SPOILER HEAVY but then if you’re reading this I’m gonna assume it’s because you’re also a fan who’s seen every episode.  And also, please note UK readers, since it’s a US show I’m going to be using seasons to define series and series to define the whole show.  Deal with it.  Finally, obviously, all pictures or screengrabs are owned by Sony or NBC or Yahoo or all of them or one of them.  Oh, and also for numbering purposes I’m using the broadcast order even though some were broadcast out of order. Here we go.

110. Intro to Knots (S4 E10) Written by Andy Bobrow, Directed by Tristram Shapiro

s410Here’s an episode that on paper should flat out work.  Jeff has betrayed the group behind their back, Abed thinks everything’s a movie, the group, all locked together in an apartment essentially have nothing to do but bicker with each other until they realise they’re all as bad as each other.  That’s classic Community and it’s been done brilliantly so many different ways.  So why doesn’t it work in this episode?  It’s hard to say really. Malcom McDowell is a phenomenal actor but he doesn’t really work here.  You can almost see that Gillian Jacobs and Donald Glover have no idea why Britta and Troy are together.  And then when the Dean turns up at the end with a box of kittens for literally no reason at all you think it might’ve just jumped the shark.  Until there’s a weird darkest timeline tag with Annie as Lector.  I honestly don’t know what this episode was for.  At least with other ‘lesser’ episodes you can see a relationship or a story progression buried within it but here, apart from whether Annie or Shirley is going to be valedictorian there’s just nothing go on for me.

Top Line – “As you lumbered around the room we had to assume you were coming after me.  Or Britta.  … Or Shirley.  Who I didn’t mention earlier because she intimidates you sexually”. – Annie.

109. Conventions of Space and Time (S4 E3) Written by Maggie Bandur, Directed by Michael P Jann

s4e3I guess it’s not going to come as a huge surprise that the bottom of the list is going to fairly season 4 heavy is it?  Now, I’m not like a lot of people who dismiss S4 as being entirely shithouse. There’s some genuinely good stuff and episodes in there. Conventions of Space and Time, which sees the study group head to an Inspector Spacetime convention, has some funny moments particularly with Pierce trying to create a new American version of Inspector Spacetime but overall it just doesn’t really hang together.  Matt Lucas is a bit out of place, Anna’s fantasy doesn’t really sit with how she’s progressed in the season before and the whole Troy and Britta relationship, which through Abed is the episodes focus, feels weirder in this episode than it ever has before.  And that the episode opens with Gillian Jacobs running round in her underwear, to me, is the biggest reminder of all that Dan Harmon isn’t around anymore.  Community was never that show NBC. It wasn’t written into the contract, like it seemed to be in Scrubs, that the good looking blonde needed to take her shirt off every other episode.

Top line – “It’s Troy!  You know it’s Troy!  OK!?  It’s the first part of Troy and Abed.  Toby and Abed in the Morning!?  That’s ridiculous!  I’m not psycho!” – Troy

108. Advanced Introduction to Finality (S4 E13) Written by Megan Ganz, Directed by Tristram Shapiro

s4e13Look, props to Megan Ganz and Tristram Shapiro.  They’d be around Community long enough and they most likely thought this was to be the last ever episode so they tried to send it off with a bang.  With a big weird bang pulling in all the fan favourite aspects like paintball, the darkest timeline the ‘shipping (fuck I hate that phrase.  Bad internet.  Bad) of Jeff and Annie and so on. It was the end of the four year college degree they were all there for so ‘something’ had to happen. In the end everything tried to happen at once, but then it didn’t because it was all in Jeff’s head. There’s also the bitterness people had with this episode when it aired.  What if this was the last episode.  It couldn’t go out like this could it.  That said, there are some genuinely funny moments, especially with Troy meeting Evil Troy, it’s just that overall it feels more like a fanmade episode than an actual one which was always season 4’s problems.  It was never through lack of love or lack of effort on anyone’s behalf it was just, well, not the same show.  Which wouldn’t have been an issue if it tried to be it’s own show rather than an impression of the one before it.  It was never more obvious than in this episode. 

Top line – “Don’t logic this one away from me” – Abed

107. Advanced Documentary Filmmaking (S4 E6) Written by Hunter Covington, Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar

S46The bottom thirteen episodes aren’t all going to be season 4, honestly they’re not.  But here’s the thing about this episode.  It was about the only one I couldn’t place what it was just from the title without looking it up. It’s not that was so forgettable as much as it was just another season 4 episode that rehashed an old idea in an attempt to find the old Community.  Dan Harmon and co did that too, but it always felt it had a greater purpose rather than ‘People liked this last time didn’t they’.  That and that this episode largely focuses on the Changnesia storyline which was too ridiculous to be believable even by Community standards and that’s saying something.  This episode, behind the scenes, marked the beginning of the end for Chevy Chase as well.  Angry that his character was just becoming a racist cartoon (it kinda was) he took a leave of absence the next episode and was barely around after that.  Still, there are moments.  That’s what separates Community from other sitcoms for me. Most other sitcoms just had bad episodes.  Even the ‘bad’ episodes of Community still featured a solid amount of laugh out loud moments for me.  In this we got Britta’s inability to use a camera, Troy and Annie at the trout farm and Abed’s crane shot with added New Radicals for example.

Top line – “I’m not saying that the trout are a vengeful breed but if they were I’d probably be public enemy number one” – Sully the trout farmer

106. Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples (S2 E5) Written by Andrew Guest, Directed by Tristram Shapiro

s2e5Ok, you could probably argue exactly the opposite thing I’m going to about this episode and be equally right. Abed makes a giant film about Jesus that becomes a self indulgent mess.  So, maybe that’s the point.  That this episode itself sometimes plays as a bit of a self indulgent mess?  It’s meta, like much of Community, although it doesn’t land as well as it might here.  Or maybe it’s just the writing team pushing the boat out as far as they could just to see what happens.  It all ties together with Abed and Shirley making a connection that would come back and work really well in later seasons, but for some reason this episode just never worked for me.  The B-Story too with Pierce and the other older members of Greendale seemed to go nowhere beyond the set up joke that they’re all called ‘hipsters’ because of their hip surgeries. That said, the cold open with Prof Duncan just showing his anthropology class YouTube videos is fantastic. 

Top line – “If farts are fair game, then so is God … Top hit.  God of Farts” – Professor Duncan

105. Alternative History of the German Invasion (S4 E4) Written by Ben Wexler, Directed by Steven Tsuchida

s4e4Back to Season 4, yes, I know.  Here’s another episode where they chose to revisit and old idea that first cropped up in mid season 3 with the German foosballers.  Nick Kroll, who played the German gangs leader then is out replaced by Chris Diamantopoulos.  The premise is a solid one built around the obvious question of why does this study group always get that study room?  Aren’t there other students?  Of course there are the Germans continually book out the room until they can be tricked into being expelled over attending an Ocktoberfest.  It’s all very silly but for the most part it makes sense.  I like the episodes where we get a glimpse into the fact that a lot of the time, these seven are kinda awful people always trying to redeem themselves. Plus the online friendship between Abed and one of the German crew over a MMO game works quite well too.  See, the thing is, I’d rank this episode a hell of a lot higher if it weren’t also the episode where the idea of ‘Changnesia’ first raises its head, one of Community’s only big missteps.

Top line – “Should I release the tear gas or has that ship sailed” – Troy

104. Environmental Science (S1 E10) Written by Zach Paez, Directed by Seth Gordon

s1e10The first appearance of a season 1 episode in which Jeff strikes up a false friendship with Senor Chang, still a Spanish teacher at this point, as a way of getting out of assignments.  This is probably the first episode we start to see a glimpse of Chang as a real person that might give some sort of explanation for his behaviour to this point, and possibly even beyond.  It’s also the first episode in which we start to really see the beginning of what will become the true ‘Troy and Abed’ as they hunt for a lost mouse.  Then Pierce helps Shirley with public speaking in a C plot that attempts to explain Shirley and Pierce’s relationship, something that the show will come back to time and time again. It’s a good episode, they all are, but it’s not a hugely memorable, nor funny one by comparison.   Annie’s impression of the gravy train not withstanding because that is fucking hilarious.  I think the thing about it, for me, is that’s it’s all groundwork for later episodes.  It feels like it would’ve been better served out over two episodes. It’s an episode a lot of people have a lot of love for, especially the musical ending, but that bit in particular is the bit that doesn’t work for me. It feels rushed. Like it was a good idea that they committed to then ran out of time to execute properly but had to run with it all the same. Had on has said he liked the concept but was disappointed in the execution and I have to agree. It all just feels a bit unpolished compared to the other nine episodes of the season to this point.

Top line – “Ignore what she’s doing.  We are serious” – Troy

103. Economics of Marine Biology (S4 E7) Written by Tim Saccardo, Directed by Tricia Brock

s4e7One of the few season four episodes that didn’t try to mimic a big concept and remain a normal grounded episode.  And while it’s certainly all the better for it, it still doesn’t quite hang together.  Annie and the Dean are trying to land a ‘whale’ at Greendale.  A rich student who’ll pump money into the school essentially.  That story largely goes nowhere, and the B story of Troy and Shirley (in a rare episode together) taking a physical education education class likewise.  But the off shoot of the main story draws out two quite excellent facets as well.  I always like it when we get to see Jeff and Pierce together.  Two dysfunctional men with absent fathers who, despite their best efforts, actually enjoy each other’s company.  Their scenes together in the barbershop are lovely.  And then I’d rate the brief scene where Annie and the Dean stumble on a wrecked Magnitude, with a blackboard full of new catchphrases after the ‘Whale’ takes ‘Pop! Pop!’ from him one the entire season’s best gags.  Oh, and that Lets potato chips tag is excellent.

Top line – “Not pop?” – Magnitude 

102. The Art of Discourse (S1 E22) Written by Chris McKenna, Directed by Adam Davison

s1e22An episode that probably suffers because of the excellent one that came before it when initially broadcast, there’s a fair bit of character building done in this episode (most likely since it’s a McKenna episode) that seems essential for the show moving forward but tends to leave the episode itself a bit flat.  Jeff and Britta teaming up as equally childish friends is a great move but personally I just found their battle with the high school kids more annoying than funny.  But here’s the thing.  Now we’re into that point where I’d say each episode from this point on is damn good and until you get into the top 50 or so, I’m starting to split hairs. Pierce finally overstepping the line by pantsing Shirley is another great character move, especially when he’s invited back into the group after his frankly excellent chat with Shirley in the library, building on the relationship between them from Environmental Science.  But first his apologising to the wrong black woman in the quad is a classic Pierce moment that you have to wonder if anyone other than Chevy Chase could sell so well. Also Troy and Abed steal a goat.  It’s also an episode where we’ll get a big pay off later on when Britta finally gets that iPod Nano…

Top line – “And you are a strong, dignified woman who’s raising a family.  A bigger accomplishment than anyone else in that room and nobody can ever strip you of that.  Not even me”. – Pierce

101. Competitive Ecology (S3 E3) Written by Maggie Bandur, Directed by Anthony Russo

s3e3Another riff on the ‘group are all aresehole’s’ motif as they need to pick new lab partners for biology.  This, of course, sees us introduced to the ever excellent David Neher as Todd for the first time.  All of the stuff with the group pairing off works so well.  Troy and Abed spending too much time together.  Shirley and Britta’s bickering, Jeff’s using of Annie and Pierce being Pierce to Todd.  And then the vote to determine final partners, all whilst a turtle lives in a bin, is Community at it’s most pure.  But it’s another ep I’d rank a lot higher if not for the B plot.  Chang’s self invented detective story just doesn’t work for me.  At all.  Even with the excellent Mel Rodriguez to riff off and suggestions that Larry Bird is somehow involved.  That said, it’s impossible to not like the episode overall when it features Michael K Williams confused about Lego

Top line – “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!?  HUH!?!” – Todd

Ok, so there’s the first ten.  The countdown continues tomorrow.

Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31Jump to 30-26 * Jump to 25-21 * Jump to 20-16 * Jump to 15-11 * Jump to 10-6 * Jump to 5-1 * Wrap Up

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. #SixSeasons – Part II | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 […]
  2. #SixSeasons – Part III | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 […]
  3. #Six Seasons – Part IV | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 […]
  4. #SixSeasons – Part V | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 […]
  5. #SixSeasons – Part VI | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 […]
  6. #SixSeasons – Part VII | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 […]
  7. #SixSeasons – Part VIII | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 […]
  8. #SixSeasons – Part IX | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 […]
  9. Community Episode By Episode: Statement of Purpose – Not Worth Reading - […] idea has been banging around in my had for awhile, and yesterday I got caught up in reading “Every…
  10. #SixSeasons – Part X | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to…
  11. #SixSeasons – Part XI | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to…
  12. #SixSeasons – Part XII | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to…
  13. #SixSeasons – Part XIII | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to…
  14. #SixSeasons – Part XV | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to…
  15. #SixSeasons – Final Wrap Up | Trunk Talk - […] 110. Intro to Knots (S4 E10) […]

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