Jun 7, 2015

Posted by in Ramblings

#SixSeasons – Part V

#SixSeasons – Part V
All 110 episodes of Community ranked

In which I continue ranking, according to my own analysis, every single episode of Community. 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.

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.

70. Lawnmower Maintenance & Postnatal Care (S6 E2) Written by Alex Rubens, Directed by Jim Rash & Nat Faxon

s6e2Oscar winners Jim Rash and Nat Faxon co-directed an episode of Community for the first time here having co-directed, and co-written, the excellent feature The Way Way Back.  With two new characters in season 6 to introduce, that’s a lot of groundwork to cover and rather than jam it all in the season opener, Harmon wisely chose to spread it out over two episodes.  I don’t feel like this was as strong an intro to Elroy as we got with Frankie the week before however it is instantly apparent that Keith David is going to fit in just fine.  The teaming up of Frankie and Jeff, almost as the Dean’s parents in some sense, begins this episode and it’s a pairing that works right off the bat. The virtual reality stuff itself is a bit laboured but the story it drives is much better.  Elsewhere meeting Britta’s parents is a welcome surprise to her back story and provides most of the episode’s funniest moments with Annie and Abed hiding behind the couch, Britta’s escape on a three wheeler and her hiding out in Frankie’s car.  Chang’s cat bit hand on the other hand is another example of them not knowing what to do with him before he has one of his best seasons since the first.  Also, another side note, whatever happened to Britta running Shirley’s sandwiches?  And I would totally watch Knee High Mischief.

Top line – “Britta’s a rich genius with super powers and she’s gonna live on our sofa for no reason”. – Abed

69. Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts (S3 E11) Written by Vera Santamaria, Directed by Kyle Newacheck

s3e11The first episode back after that long, weird mid season hiatus in season 3 so it’s appropriate the group return with a wedding episode.  Except they shouldn’t have because this episode was meant to come after Contemporary Impressionists.  So we get this wedding episode, then next week we see the group arriving back after summer break.  Seriously, why do networks do this.  It makes no fucking sense and drives me nuts.  Anyway, the episode itself is obviously not a normal sitcom wedding episode. Between new sandwich shops, Britta’s skill at floral arrangements, Jeff and her resignation to their supposed fates and ‘Troy and Abed being normal’, it’s pretty much a Community wedding including a nice and touching finale.  It’s a shame then that this is basically the last we see of Andre as it would’ve been nice to see a bit of Shirley’s life outside of Greendale fleshed out some more.  This was kind of peak Shirley and the character became less prominent from this point on I kind of felt. She got some really got material, and one of the best straight up gags of the season with the ‘Literally two full minutes later’ aston. How much the downsizing of Shirley bothered you really depends on your opinions on Shirley I guess.  Personally I always felt she was probably the weakest character but Yvette Nicole Brown did a hell of a lot with it making sure she was never just one or two notes that, in the hands of a lesser actor, there was a danger of it becoming at times.  Special note too goes to the tag.  Pierce and the soft serve machine was one of my personal favourite tags of the entire series.  That is Chevy Chase in his absolute element right there.  This episode gets a solid bump up my rankings purely for that I dare say.

Top line – Annie – “You’re anti-weddings now?”

                   Jeff – “No, she’s just pro-anti”.

68. Basic RV Repair and Palmistry (S6 E10) Written by Dan Guterman, Directed by Jay  Chandrasekhar

s6e10Up there with Meowmeowbeenz as one of the weirder, more experimental episodes Community has done but I think this one works a bit better.  By the time you’re into S6, it’s fair enough you’re going to be trying out some new things and parts of this episode were out there, even for Community.  I mean, it wasn’t really a time travel episode but it kinda was.  It could’ve been a standard road trip episode in any other sitcom but this show had to go and, as Abed puts it, Christopher Nolan it. Difference being this was better than anything Christopher Nolan has done since The Prestige (hate mail to the usual address, thanks).  What is essentially meant to be the story of some people delivering a giant hand across the country in an RV (which is as normal as you’ll get) turns into a nice meta commentary on the group and the show, specifically the fans of the show I think, about letting go.  A couple of times it looked like the episode might lose itself but managed to catch itself largely thanks to more great acting from one Danny Pudi.  In almost anyone else’s hands this sort of thing could come unravelled very quickly.  Overall, it was the sort of episode that could only have been this late in the run.  Comedically, there are some top shelf highlights this episode.  The Dean is fantastic, as is Elroy.  Space Elder Britta was a thing of joy.  And that dark as dark end tag was a hell of thing. And I’ve just realised this is going to be quite a season 6 heavy section for whatever reason.

Top line – “I’m sick of it! It’s a show. It’s not a show. It’s your show. It’s my show. It’s a good show. It’s a bad show. I’m sick of it. I don’t want to hear the word ‘show’ again.” – Jeff

67. Romantic Expressionism (S1 E15) Written by Andrew Guest, Directed by Joe Russo

s1e15I grew tired of Vaughn quite quickly.  He was a character that just seemed a bit of a cartoon compared to the others.  I mean, everyone was ridiculous, but they always felt real and grounded in a way Vaughn didn’t.  He was more a collection of stereotypes to serve a narrative purpose.  I mean, that’s fine I guess, it just didn’t interest me.  As such, the whole Annie needing Britta’s permission to date him just didn’t do it for me as a storyline.  The subtext of it though, with Jeff and Britta thinking they know what’s best for everyone else because clearly they’re the adults, that they’re the parents of the group, that played much better and much funnier as well via the manipulation of Troy and the inevitable study room blow up involving everyone that culminates in that ‘stare off’ around the table since they are potential sexual objects to each other.  The B story though was the episode’s big strength.  The first arrival of Kickpuncher at Troy and Abed’s movie night and Pierce’s desperate attempts to be included and funny are what save the episode for me.  That and the great end tag of Troy and Abed making their own version of Kickpuncher which was much needed after Annie’s song and that weird crane shot pull out that felt like it was from an episode of pretty much any other sitcom but this one.  Community pulled it off but better than any others had but still it felt very out of place.

Top line – “I did eat all the macaroni. It’s messed up that he knows”. – Jeff

66. Beginner Pottery (S1 E19) Written by Hilary Winston, Directed by Anthony Russo

s1e19Here’s what I liked about this episode.  It offered up something that most TV shows, especially network sitcoms don’t ever do in terms of its final moral or message.  That most people are unremarkable.  They are, as Jeff’s vision mother basically says, good at some things and shit at others.  That’s the truth of it but most shows won’t say that either because it’s hard to make that message funny or entertaining, or secondly, because TV quite often likes to peddle the message that we are all the greatest people in the world capable of whatever we set our minds to.  We are all timeless unique gifts.  This is of course bullshit.  I’d love to play in the NBA but if I really put my mind to it and dreamed and prayed every night, and practised every day from when I was small, I’d still be a not that talented basketball player under 6 ft except now in his thirties.  Whether it’s via Pierce or his pottery rival Rich, Jeff wakes up to the world this episode, and it’s great to watch.  But how can you make that, arguably bleak, personal discovery entertaining.  Well, bring in Tony Hale, have half the group sail a yacht past a classroom in the carpark, have Annie sexualise a vase and get Joel McHale to perform a pitch perfect Jeff Goldblum impersonation for starters.

Top line – “But I think I can still reach it. It landed on that Hyundai… I mean, mermaid’s car” – Troy

65. Basic Rocket Science (S2 E4) Written by Andy Bobrow, Directed by Anthony Russo

s2e4It is probably a surprise to see this ranked so high especially since it is not usually regarded as a great episode.  To be honest, it’s probably not.  It’s here for a production reason, especially bearing in mind this ranking is being written by someone who works in that world.  Product placement is hard to get right.  You can over the top, and it can work fine, as Community and 30 Rock have done.  You can kind of awkwardly make it part of the world, like Chuck did.  Or it can just be there, a bit too blatantly for it to be an accident and act like it’s no thing at all which is just embarrassing, like Ricky Gervais did in The Invention of Lying.  But, the fact of the matter is, to get anything made these dates, sponsorship or product placement is usually necessary.  The way Harmon and co went about integrating KFC in this episode is probably the finest example of it I’ve ever seen.  It fits within the world, it makes sense, but you could’ve also made this exact, weird episode calling it Bob’s Burger Van.  Now, that’s not to say the episode’s not good, or funny, because it is.  The Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff, ah, stuff, works well.  Pierce’s freak out is great, as is Annie again sabotaging the group for her own benefit. And we also get our first look at the Greendale flag.  But for me, it’s another one of those ‘Step back and have a look at what this show is doing’ episodes.  And be impressed.  Be real fucking impressed.

64. Digital Exploration of Interior Design (S3 E13) Written by Chris McKenna, Directed by Dan Eckman

s3e13The first part of a loose two parter that revisits the blanket fort idea and is probably the weakest of the three that use that as a plot device.  That said, it’s still a very good episode and works completely as a set up for the second part.  It’s also only one of the three plots in this episode.  Subway arrives on campus, in more ways than one, and is the basis of a great Britta story that also feeds into a look at Britta’s failed love life, we’ revisit in two episodes time and then directly three seasons later.  Subway himself, played by Travis Shuldt, is one of the more rounded of the one (later two) episode guest stars as well. That same storyline is another chance for one of the show’s most underated parings, Pierce and Shirley, to work together on what will eventually become Shirley’s Sandwiches.  The other story this episode focuses on Jeff apologising to Kim, a student he’s wronged in the past.  It turns out Kim is not who Jeff, or Annie who’s put him up to it, thought he was, in that it’s a guy, not a girl. It’s one of the better examples of Annie acting like she’s just trying to help when really it’s all about personal gain, except this time it actually does end up helping Jeff, just not the way she imagined.  That’s poorly explained, but you’ve seen the episode, you know what I mean.  The point is, it’s the first time Annie tries something like this that ends up having a positive effect without requiring a massive blow up on route.  And this episode also features one of best play of words titles they’ve ever done.  Also, John Goodman’s going through some stuff…

And as a side note to my selected top line for this episode.  It’s quite possibly my favourite one liner of the entire series and Chevy Chase fucking nails it to the wall.

Top line – “Look at these idiots.  Cattle.  Sheep.  What other animals move in herds?  I wanna say snakes”. – Pierce.

63. Origins of Vampire Mythology (S3 E15) Written by Dan Harmon, Directed by Steve Tsuchida

s3e15A rare episode written directly by Harmon himself. There’s lots of little Harmon-esque things in here but at the end of the day this is just another good episode of a very good show.  The main thing I took out of this episode, and it’s the sort of thing Harmon does so well, was the texting between Troy and Britta.  And the little looks they all exchange at the end.  When you’ve got the cast he’s got, sometimes you shouldn’t write dialogue and just let key moments play out by trusting your actors. And when, in this case, those actors are Alison Brie, Donald Glover and Gillian Jacobs, there’s basically nothing to worry about.  Outside of that story, but still linked over at a carnival, it’s nice to see some Jeff and Shirley time even it is another case of Jeff/Harmon needing to get to the bottom of how someone could possibly be better than him.  It’s a recurring theme, one that’s visited often and frankly damn impressive they keep finding new ways to look at it. Sometimes Community gets criticised for that but think about it, name one person you know who changes their whole personality following a few ‘eye opening experiences’.  You can’t.  Because for all the weirdness, and Pierce and Chang romcom montages and Blade references, Community is one of the most real shows on TV something it rarely gets credit for.  Also, Abed’s stand up set. Brilliant.

Top line ““There’s phones in the refrigerator.”  That’s you”. Annie as Troy

62. Repilot (S5 E1) Written by Dan Harmon & Chris McKenna, Directed by Tristram Shapeero

s5e1In many ways, the most important and difficult episode of Community ever made.  It was, first of all, unprecedented for a showrunner to be fired and then unfired.  As such ‘The Return of Dan Harmon’ meant the show, and this episode, was almost on a hiding to nothing.  Fans and critics alike were all poised to say it was either a triumphant return to form, or Harmon had lost it, or Community was dead and buried or this, that or the other.  There seemed to be no way it could win.  It had to start again after season 4 but it also couldn’t ignore it.  The plots had still happened and needed to be addressed and a show as meta as Community needed to mention the off screen dramas as well.  The characters graduated, that couldn’t just be ignored.  Also, Chevy Chase was gone and Donald Glover was five episodes off of his exit. With that amount of information, plot and setup for what was essentially a pilot episode in season 5, needing to be crammed into 21 minutes, plus making it funny, plus making it old Community, plus all that pressure, plus a reduced budget, and it needed to actually make sense, seriously, it’s a minor miracle that this episode wasn’t a disaster or at the very least slow and tedious.  That it is neither, that Harmon and McKenna chose the ‘repiloting’ approach is, to my mind, a greater measure of the two’s incredible talent than any of the ‘better’ episodes.  Great writers make those sort of decisions.  They have the courage to say, ‘This is going to annoy a lot of fans but to be true to the story, the characters and the world, this is what has to happen and that is the most important thing’.  And the Pierce hologram is so perfectly executed as well.  Is it one of the best episodes?  No.  Is it one the most impressive?  Easily.

Top line – “That son of a bitch, after everything Scrubs did for him!?” – Troy

61. Advanced Safety Features (S6 E7) Written by Carol Kolb, Directed by Rob Schrab

s6e7Almost an episode that had to happen.  Honda pumped a lot of money into season 6 on Yahoo! and fair enough, they wanted a Honda based episode.  So they went all out.  And it made perfect sense to callback to the last time they did as much, with Subway.  By bringing back Subway.  What we got was an episode that was so over the top plugging Honda that it actually worked really well.  Especially since, within that, we got another great Britta story.  Season 6, for the most part, was a super strong one for Britta and this was her highlight in many ways.  Her look of resignation of, well, pretty much everything, when Rick walks away for the last time was not just great writing, but a great performance from the usually required to be manic Gillian Jacobs.  Comedically, this episode offered some top tier highlights as well specifically Frankie’s passive aggressive apologies to the Dean, her later appearance on steel drums and Billy Zane’s terrible attempts at hiding.  And I also need to make special mention of possibly my favourite single moment of the whole season, and something that could not have existed without the extended run time to let the joke really breath. Britta trying to explain a drawbridge to Elroy was platinum plated gold.  The B story however, whilst providing some very funny moments particularly with the ears based boardgame, had Jeff trying to get Elroy to like him and looked at Elroy’s previous relationship with the lead singer of Natalie is Freezing and it just didn’t hit home for me.  It seemed to come out of nowhere and just weirdly resolve itself very quickly. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Chang’s powerpoint presentation.  Some of the funniest moments of the season happened in this episode even if the episode itself wasn’t the high point of the season. 

Top line – “No.  Because why would I?  Because that’s moon man talk”. – Frankie

Tomorrow, we’ll hit the halfway point, see you then.

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 * Jump to 90-81 *  Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 […]
  2. #SixSeasons – Part I | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 90-81 *  Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 […]
  3. #SixSeasons – Part III | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 […]
  4. #Six Seasons – Part IV | Trunk Talk - […] to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to […]
  5. #SixSeasons – Part IX | Trunk Talk - […] to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to […]
  6. #SixSeasons – Part VIII | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  7. #SixSeasons – Part VII | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  8. #SixSeasons – Part VI | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  9. #SixSeasons – Part XII | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  10. #SixSeasons – Part X | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  11. #SixSeasons – Part XIII | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  12. #SixSeasons – Part XV | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  13. #SixSeasons – Final Wrap Up | Trunk Talk - […] 70. Lawnmower Maintenance & Postnatal Care (S6 E2) […]

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