Jun 11, 2015

Posted by in Ramblings

#SixSeasons – Part IX

#SixSeasons – Part IX
All 110 episodes of Community ranked

In which I continue ranking, according to my own analysis, every single episode of Community.  Top 30.  Bloody hell.  This is where I imagine people are going to start getting real mad.

Thanks to all of you who’ve been reading these and commenting and agreeing and disagreeing in the comments, on Reddit, or Twitter or wherever.  Much appreciated.  Also, the reviews are getting a bit longer as the episodes get ‘better’, so sorry/you’re welcome for that.  Delete as appropriate.

Standard disclaimer

Obviously 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. Also as I said in the first post this ranking is basically ranking from good to perfect, not worst to best as the worst episode of Community is likely better than the best episode of most other comedies.  And it goes without saying it’s all subjective so please feel free to disagree in the comments etc.

30. Contemporary American Poultry (S1 E 21) Written by Emily Cutler & Karey Dornetto

S1e21Such a good episode and one that a lot of people would have in their Top 5 I imagine.  And I totally get why as well.  It’s a brilliant homage to Goodfellas and its ilk.  It’s a great look at what happens to Jeff when he’s not in charge anymore and once again how quick the group can turn into selfish dicks.  There’s a nice resolution to the natural order of things and the ending, with Abed and Jeff sitting on the counter is another nice little reference.  And the whole thing is about chicken strips which is so weird it works. Also, Pierce starts ‘Streets Ahead’.  And Annie’s Boobs. Many people would say this sort of episode is Community at its best. So why have I put 29 episodes ahead of it?  Well, and I get this might come across as odd, it was too accurate a homage to actually be that funny.  I saw it more as the show trying to work out how to do these sorts of episodes, and for a first stab at it, well, it’s better than most shows can do after a dozen goes.  The other thing with this episode, over the other spoofs is, I don’t now that it works so well without an intimate knowledge of said Scorsese film.  A lot of the actual jokes in this would be missed without having seen that film.  Much of it might night even make sense  I don’t the same is true of other spoofs.  You don’t need to have seen the films referenced in the others, it simply adds some layers.  I’m not sure this episode does that.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I loved this episode, it just didn’t hit home to me like it did for most people.  Subjective innit?

Top line – “It’s an animal that looks like a dude. Why don’t I have ten of them?” – Troy

29. Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing (S6 E4) Written by Matt Lawton, Directed by Jim Rash & Nat Faxon

s6e4Jim Rash wrote the best episode of S4 and he returns to direct, with writing and directing partner Nat Faxon, one of the best of S6 as well.  I guess there always had to come a time when someone was going to straight up (no pun intended) make some sort of enquiry about the Dean’s sexuality.  It’s a testament to the show it hadn’t filled the first five seasons with terrible gay jokes like so many others might have.  So, that this enquiry comes from the school board (great to see them again) as part of a PR stunt is unexpected and excellent.  But there’s three major stories running throughout this episode and the extra runtime lets all three really breathe.  Chang and Annie, along with a cameoing Jason Mantzoukas, seem like they’re going to be just the ‘funny’ story with the school staging a version of The Karate Kid.  Instead we get the best Chang story in ages in which he actually gets to have a small win. The play itself is great, and really, really, really benefits from that extra 8 minutes runtime.  So much so that it effects Jeff perhaps even more than the death of Horsebot 3000… That the whole thing ends up being a tough lesson for Annie, in that she really isn’t the best at everything, is a nice touch (Annie Kim!) in what is a much more grounded and darker season of Community.  It also gives Jeff a chance to console Annie and let the internet explode with ‘shipping delight after the ‘M’lady’ exchange.

Abed and Elroy’s story about saving a baby bird is sweet and gives us a chance to see the growth of Abed while we’ve been away and also what sort of guy Elroy is going to be, but in some sense it largely exists to give an ending to the Dean’s own story.

That story is obviously the episode’s real strength as the Dean comes out as approximately two sevenths of what he is.  It’s got some really nice statements to make about homophobia and broader politics and manages to do it in a damn funny way and, remarkably, in a way that I’ve not seen done before.  That Community is still finding fresh ways to do stuff in S6 is a towering achievement almost no other sitcom can lay claim to.  And that Gay Dean song really is fantastic. And when the Dean and Jeff exchange looks as they try to work out Frankie’s sexuality during a discussion about how sexuality doesn’t matter, well, that’s damn fine writing right there.  If, after these first four episodes of S6 you were still one of the people saying the new season wasn’t very good I do wonder what it was you actually enjoyed about the first five.

Top line – “So reabsorb that disgusting droplet of salt and bad choices back into your doughy body and then call your mother to see if you can be reabsorbed back into her doughy body or so help me god I will take that tear, I will freeze it, and I will stab you in the eye with it you waste of a soul shaped hole forgotten by God”. – Matt Lundergard

28. Basic Lupine Urology (S3 E17) Written by Megan Ganz, Directed by Rob Schrab

s3e17So here is a concept episode that hits all the right beats of the genre without you ever having to have actually watched Law and Order.  For example, I’ve never seen a full episode and yet everything works for me.  They nail every single detail of any police procedural, from the titles to the costumes to the final office scene twist and fade to black, and of course everything in between.  But mostly this is another example of an episode where everyone’s just gone, ‘This week we’re just gonna throw 200 jokes at you in 21 minutes because let’s face facts, while you’re all going on about how smart we are, please don’t forget how stupidly funny we are’.  In some way, it’s kind of like Airplane. There’s a very basic narrative style we’re all familiar with so the writer’s can just focus on jamming it full of jokes. Didn’t like that joke?  No worries, wait five seconds. Out of curiosity, when I was writing this I just decided to count the gags in a single passage of plot.  I went for when Abed and Troy ‘arrest’ Starburns since that is a key plot point so might be light on jokes.  That’s 87 seconds of screen time.  There’s basically 15 gags in that stretch.  That’s a joke every 5 and a bit seconds.  And that’s all this episode seems intent on doing.  Being machine gun funny.  And that’s real hard to do and maintain a plot and have a twist at the end.  Two twists really with Neil and Vicki’s confession and then Starburns’ death.  And then, just when you think they’re done, comes one of the all time great tags as the Dean sings Troy and Abed to sleep.

Top line – “A passing grade? Like a C? Why don’t I just get pregnant at a bus station?” – Annie

27. Introduction to Film (S1 E3) Written by tim Hobert & Jeff Pollack, Directed by Anthony Russo

s1e3This was the third episode.  This is what Community did for episode 3.  I mean, wow.  That takes some balls that does.  To set up Jeff and Britta as parental figures so quickly instead of still just hammering the potential relationship angle is a bold move.  To have Abed’s father Gubi turn up and be upset for people meddling with his and his son’s life seems like pretty standard sitcom fare until Abed screens them his film. It seems like a weird mess and one that’s not even that funny, except for the ‘Cool Abed Films’ at the end.  But then that cut.  That cut to Gubi crying.  And that’s not a joke.  It’s not ‘Ha ha, look at the silly man laughing at the shitty movie’.  It’s real.  And, in a network sitcom, it’s jarring.  It’s not what we’ve been conditioned to expect.  And then, ‘I never said I blamed you for her leaving’ with some of Ludwig’s music.  There’s no joke there.  None.  Episode 3.  Oh fine then Harmon you’re gonna make that sort of show are you?  Like, a really fucking good one, not just another sitcom. You’re a mad man.  NBC is going to hate you.  That might even fire you one day.  But you might also be a genius.

Because played against all of that is John Michael Higgins running a ‘Seize the Day’ class which is quite frankly hilarious.  That it all builds up to Britta kissing Jeff purely to help him pass the class would be good enough, especially since Higgins scurries up a tree after it, but that it gets there via some obscure references to Mork and Mindy is something else.  I’d already figured out by now that I was going to really like this show.  When Higgins ripped up the menu and demanded that he would like a birthday cake (Easily my top line but again, I won’t repeat lines) I was certain I was going to love it.  And then came Abed’s film.  Episode 3.  Dan Harmon ladies and gentlemen.

Top line – “You go host American Idol, and you stop messing with my son”. – Gubi, Abed’s father    

26. Basic Intergluteal Numismatics (S5 E3) Written by Eric Sommers, Directed by Tristram Shapeero

S5e3David Fincher-esque thrillers are, most of the time, so ridiculous in the first place that it’s even doubly ridiculous that people take them seriously.  I mean, come on, is an Ass Crack Bandit any less plausible than every single minute of Gone Girl?  Any way, this might be another concept episode but again it’s one that’s used to drive something bigger.  There is sometimes criticism that the Jeff and Annie thing just keeps getting dragged back and thrust on the viewers.  To my mind, that’s the wrong way to look at it.  If you are with a person, day in and day out, and there’s something unresolved or unspoken of in the relationship stakes, or there’s sexual tension or something, isn’t it only natural that it’s going to bubble to the surface once and a while?  Have you ever had a guy or a girl at work you fancied and then one day, after you had a bit of a chat about it, suddenly it all just went away?  Of course not, that’s not real life.  It’d be odd if it never came up again.  But to just keep having it pop up wouldn’t be entertaining television so here’s a very funny vehicle for that which organically puts Jeff and Annie working closely together.  The episode itself is, I’d argue, the best concept episode of all S5 and S6.  Not just for the reasons mentioned but it sticks to the Fincher-esque formula so well, sends it up, then makes it feel new somehow.  And there’s so many little moments that just sing. Glover slapping Starburns for one.  Annie picking up her keys without bending over another.   The Dean clicking. And Chang’s backwards disguise is one of the most disturbing things in the history of TV.  And Starburns’ cat car is just perfect.  The creepy guy with the creepy thing in the basement doesn’t always have to involve wicker. And, watching it back now, there really are lots of tiny little hints that suggest that Annie could well be, at least one of, the bandits.  And the final thing that flat out sells this episode for me.  No episode of Community, maybe of any sitcom ever, has ever looked this good.  The cinematography nerd in me goes bananas over this episode.  It is just shot so well it’s unbelievable.  And, to refer back to the chicken fingers episode you don’t need to have seen Se7en or Zodiac specifically to get what this episode is doing and doing so very, very well.  And Ben Folds.  Had that song in my head for weeks.

And the final masterstroke comes at the end, when in amongst all the silliness, in amongst Jeff and Annie once again finding themselves, possibly, on some sort of precipice, Shirley arrives with news of Pierce’s death.  A stark reminder of what really matters.  Which, as we will later learn will give Jeff a lot to think about.  Later in S5 and then S6.  There’s a real feeling that this is the episode that starts Jeff’s fascinating downward spiral.

Top line – “If you wanna make Trouble, go work for Parker Brothers”. – Dean

Some of the writes up for these episodes ended up being quite long so I’ve only posted five rankings today.  Also, I’ve been super busy on some other projects today.  So, sorry to disappoint, if I indeed did.  I’ll do five more 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

  1. Interestingly, Contemporary American Poultry is probably in my top 10 favorite community episodes…and I haven’t seen Goodfellas (I have seen The Godfather).

    So I think bumping it’s ranking down under the assumption that someone who hasn’t seen Goodfellas wouldn’t like it as much is a little unfair. Loved that episode.


  1. #SixSeasons – Part V | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50-41 * Jump to 40-31 * Jump to…
  2. #SixSeasons – Part I | Trunk Talk - […] to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31…
  3. #SixSeasons – Part III | Trunk Talk - […] to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31…
  4. #SixSeasons – Part VIII | Trunk Talk - […] to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31…
  5. #SixSeasons – Part VII | Trunk Talk - […] to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31…
  6. #SixSeasons – Part II | Trunk Talk - […] to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31…
  7. #SixSeasons – Part X | Trunk Talk - […] to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31…
  8. #SixSeasons – Part XI | Trunk Talk - […] to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31…
  9. #SixSeasons – Part XII | Trunk Talk - […] to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31…
  10. #SixSeasons – Part VI | Trunk Talk - […] to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31…
  11. #SixSeasons – Final Wrap Up | Trunk Talk - […] 30. Contemporary American Poultry (S1 E 21) […]
  12. #SixSeasons – Part XIII | Trunk Talk - […] to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31…
  13. #Six Seasons – Part IV | Trunk Talk - […] to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31…
  14. #SixSeasons – Part XIV | Trunk Talk - […] to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31…

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