Jun 9, 2015

Posted by in Ramblings

#SixSeasons – Part VII

#SixSeasons – Part VII
All 110 episodes of Community ranked

In which I continue ranking, according to my own analysis, every single episode of Community.  We’re into the Top 50 now. 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.

50. Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts (S2 E22) Written by Karey Dornetto, Directed vy Jay Chandrasekhar

S2e22Sitcom episodes in which one of the main characters has a baby are usually sweet kind of episodes with a little bit of drama thrown in, but it’s all basically about the baby.  When Shirley gives birth to her son, yes, there’s a sweet ending, but it gets there via a race riot in the carpark over a Food Festival.  Because of course it does. What is effectively a bottle episode, there is a lot going on besides Shirley giving birth, in class, in front of a reporter from a college deans magazine, with Chang willing it to be a ‘Chang Baby’. There’s still room for another small subplot, albeit one that feels a bit superfluous, with Pierce purchasing Abed and Troy’s special handshake.  But the meat and potatoes of the the episode is Shirley and Chang.  Sure, Abed helps out (because he delivered a baby earlier in the background…) and Britta does her best to make it all about her, but it’s that moment of crisis that makes this episode shine.  Chang might be nuts, most likely mentally ill, but in the pinch, he’s able to come through for his ‘friends’.  We don’t get to hear a lot about Shirley’s baby after this and, even though Andre is back on the scene, she seems to take no time off school, but still, this is an episode about Community taking your bog standard sitcom fair and doing something different with it and, once again, making it work.

Top line – “Throw paper balls at her head till she sits down”. – Duncan

49. Intro to Political Science (S2 E17) Written by Adam Countee, Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar

s2e17Not even if CERN prove that an infinite multiverse is likely would the Vice President of the United States of America go to a place like Greendale.  That being said, it’s a bloody good set up for another great Jeff and Annie episode.  The Jeff and Annie stuff has been bubbling under the surface more and more since the season 1 finale and this episode seeks to give it some sort of temporary closure. The need for a school president is no more or less important to either of them than what they actually think about each other.  Whatever that, spoken or unspoken, is. ‘Resolved’ my arse…  That the whole thing also works as a nice, if not so subtle, skewering of political debates, is yet another layer not unlike Asian Population Studies a few episodes earlier.  It’s one of the most direct satirical episodes they’ve done at this point.  The actual election and debate stuff is done really, really well too. Leonard vs Magnitude is wonderful, Troy and Abed’s election coverage is very, very funny and Pierce vs Vicki is everything you’d expect it to be.  Plus the side story with Abed and the Special Agent, whilst not entirely believable, is very sweet.  Also Eliza Coupe, which is never a bad thing. In almost any other sitcom this would be deemed an event episode.  A massive mid season episode but with Community, it’s actually one of the quieter weeks…

Top line – “I only entered this to get back at Vicki for not lending me a pencil”. – Pierce

48. Documentary Filmmaking: Redux (S3 E8) Written by Megan Ganz, Directed by Joe Russo

S3e8When looking at this episode, I tried to overcome just my initial reaction which was just ‘How good is Hearts of Darkness’?’  I mean, it’s phenomenal, obviously. But, in an episode that in many ways seems to be an obvious companion to Ancient Myths, why did I really like this one, and not the other?  It can’t just be Hearts of Darkness love.  Well, no.  There’s a lot of reasons.

This one felt more organic to the characters even though it was more of a direct spoof than that season 2 episode.  Also, amongst all the hijinks, this episode really took the time to humanise the Dean. He’s so often a cartoon but to see his passion for the school (or maybe just his job and/or Jeff) give him some true motivation.  That Abed, the perpertrator of his own disastrous self indulgent movie, comes in to save the ad really hits home because it’s the first big, solid indicator that the Dean is actually part of the group.  He is, despite everything, their friend.  The show needed to do that at this point, and it did it well.  Obviously, the episode itself is full of the funny with Garrett in the mocap suit, Luis Guizman wandering the empty halls, Troy and Britta hugging over and over, Annie basically being Dennis Hopper and a nice little Chuck crossover payback (Danny Pudi and Yvette Nicole Brown popped in Chuck a couple of weeks later).  But Jim Rash is just spectacular in this episode.  He’s making an ad that’s a showcase for Greendale but the episode itself is a showcase of the immense talent of Jim Rash.  Oh, and that one last Troy and Britta hug.  Would’ve been nice to see how Harmon handled that relationship in S4.

Top line – “It just keeps jumping and scaring.  You think you’re prepared and then it scares again”. – Dean

47. Biology 101 (S3 E1)

s3e01As I’ve said before, season premieres are really hard things.  Here is another example of Community doing it right.  That opening song verges delicately on the edge of ‘too much’ but this is a show that can pull that off.  It’s funny, meta and, well, just a catchy little diddy to be fair.  But for all of that, and Jeff’s meltdown and table axing as he is forced out of the group, he who never even wanted a study group in the first place, the thing that sells it all is one line from the Dean delivered to absolute perfection by Jim Rash.

“I just came out to tell everyone this year isn’t gonna be that different. With the notable exception we really won’t have any money. Have a nice night”. 

By the way, that is my top line, but I’ll pick another for below so I’m not doubling up because that’s lazy.

What Biology 101 does is really set up the season more than the S1 and S2 premieres.  NBC had requested a full season arc up front this year and seeds of that are sown this episode.  There’s a thematic shift to something a bit darker, (ironic since it’s the most brightly lit, sitcomy visuals of the whole series) to Jeff’s need to be loved by the group rather than the other way around. There’s the arrival of the excellent John Goodman and the air conditioner school linking to the budget issues and the security guards.  And, although we’re past it mentioning it each time at this point surely, it’s also damn funny.  Seriously, there’s so many good one liners in this episode it’s mental.

Top line – “You are human tennis elbow, you are a pizza burn on the roof of the world’s mouth. You are the opposite of Batman” – Troy

46. Physical Education (S1 E17) Written by Jesse Miller, Directed by Anthony Miller

S1e17A naked Joel McHale, leg up on the pool table, lining up the winning shot became one of the images of S1. Something people latched onto to define the show one way or another.  Either as a show that was really out there, or going for cheap laughs, or jumping the shark, or being really clever, or really funny, or whatever.  At this point I remember reading one review (It was in a UK paper but I can’t remember which one) that Community was trying, and failing, to be nothing more than a live action version of Family Guy.  No.  Just no.  Because the truth is, this is just another really good, really funny episode of a really good show in which the main character grows as a person. ‘Just another’ he says likes that’s an easy thing to pull off.  The pool tournament is not just a thing that happens, as it would be in Family Guy, an excuse for some good gags, it’s a big life lesson for Jeff.  In the B story, the same thing happens.  Having a ‘white Abed’ could easily just be a gimmick except it actually has something important to say about these characters and their perceptions of each other.  This episode illustrates that Community isn’t a one note show in the very episode many proclaimed as proof that it was.  Also, and I’m not trying to diss Family Guy because that has it’s place and it’s clearly a very successful show, but there’s a bit more going on in a Community reference I’d argue.  Take Abed doing Don Draper to Trudy, sorry, Annie as an example this week if you like…

Top line – “Abed, you are a God. If you’ll all excuse me, I have a man to beat in pool while wearing shorts”. – Jeff

45. Ladders (S6 E1) Written by Dan Harmon & Chris McKenna, Directed by Rob Schrab

s6e01Another season premiere with a tonne of pressure on it.  This time it was all about recovering from what was seen as a lacklustre season 5 finale, plus the curiosity of how it was going to work on Yahoo Screen instead of normal TV.  Add in some more cast departures with S5 regulars John Oliver and Jonathon Banks and, of course, original study group member Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley, gone, and once again, Community was up against it.  Once again, they delivered.  The difference this time was, after actually getting cancelled for realsies by NBC this time, the opening of the fabled season 6 had a real air of ‘I can’t believe we made it to it’.  People were just happy it existed but that didn’t mean it was going to coast.  Ladders did a great job of introducing the new season and Paget Brewster as Frankie, a character who fitted in perfectly right away for me, whilst offering a bit of all that makes Community great.  Some callbacks, some meta, some references, some heart and some great jokes.  It was also great to see the extended runtime put to early, good use.  It’s difficult to image the Abed and Jeff apology scene could’ve worked even half as good with a 21 minute restriction.  Likewise the excellent ‘The Butcher and the Baker’ tag.  What I liked most about this episode, what really knocked it out of the park for me, was that everything this show had gone through, on screen and off screen, that it could survive 6 seasons and open with an episode this good was not, like many shows, a testimony to its ratings, or network politics, or a network’s lack of ambition.  It was because this was a fucking great show made by incredibly talented people.  It was proof that sometimes you can just make something that you would want to watch yourself, and if you make it good, then everything else be damned, because it will find a home, a life and fans.  Watching Ladders just made me happy for some sort of victory for quality.

Top line – “That’s the most interesting take on not being interesting that I’ve ever heard”. – Abed

44. Digital Estate Planning (S3 E20) Written by Matt Warburton, Directed by Adam Davidson

s3e21This is a weird one for me.  One the one hand, I love it. I like that Pierce gets a resolution to his arc for the season.  I think it’s damn funny.  I love, love, love the visuals.  I love the references to these sorts of 8 Bit games I grew up playing.  I love Abed going all Her before there even was a Her .  I love Gilbert.  But.  I mean, but…

I can only assume this episode aired where it aired because it took so long to make.  Because jammed right in the middle of the big two part season finale makes literally zero sense.  It’s jarring to say the least, madness to say the worst.  It makes no sense that the characters would just wander off from the events with John Hodgman’s character last episode to go and do this.  It wasn’t hugely time sensitive.  They fixed the order for the DVD but still, come on NBC, use your damn heads.  Also the bit where Jeff gets up from his chair in the middle and it doesn’t reset after the allocated amount of time annoys me a bit.

Then there’s the tag.  The wrong tag.  The tag that was last minute because the right one, the best one that Harmon had ready involving Abed and Pierce and some video game revenge against his father, was never filmed because Chevy Chase hated it.  The big bust up between him and Harmon followed.  Who knows what would’ve happened without that.  Something about straws and camels I think.  But for all of that, I still go back to the love I had for the episode, not the negatives.  It could’ve been one of the greatest they ever made with a tweak here or there and none of the off screen stuff but instead it’s left just being really, really good.  Which is hardly an insult.

Top line – “Oh my, what an unexplained tragedy”. – Shirley

43. Studies in Modern Movement (S3 E7) Written by Adam Countee, Directed by Tristram Shapeero

S3e7This is the point where I looked back at my list of rankings and went, ‘Hang on, why is this so low’. Then I couldn’t work out what I’d bump down to move this up and had another moment of, ‘Fuck a duck Community is good isn’t it?’  Annie moving in with Troy and Abed is such a momentous moment for those three characters you’re left feeling amazed that they could pull it off in an single episode.  An episode that’s got more twists and turns in it in 21 minutes than some shows pull off in a season.  Think about it.  There’s the act of moving, Britta and Shirley picking up the hitchhiker, the two shadow puppet shows, Annie’s freak out over the Dreamatorium, Pierce getting high on paint, Jeff hanging out with the Dean, Jeff actually admitting he was an areshole to the group, Kiss From a Rose… In one episode of television.  It’s funny and genuinely touching at the end when Troy and Abed give Annie their room.  It’s genuinely powerful when Annie wonders why she’s always the one that has to change for other people.  It’s hilarious when Pierce is playing piano on a stack of boxes.  And it’s just gut wrenching when Horsebot 300 dies.  Seriously, McHale’s delivery of that line should be morning one of day in ‘Comedy Acting for the Screen’ classes.

Top line – “What gets Kool-Aid stains out?” – Abed

               “We already know the opposite color Kool-Aid doesn’t work”. – Troy

42. Analysis of Cork-Based Networking (S5 E6) Written by Monica Padrick, Directed by Tristram Shapeero

S5e6It’s not exactly a homage to The West Wing, but there’s vibe along those lines in this episode. There’s a lot of walking and talking and ‘Corridors of Power’ type negotiations going on.  Even though so some of the cameos can feel a bit forced (Although Paget Brewster later acknowledging she can’t get old of the IT lady in S6 is pretty damned great), watching Annie and Hickey negotiate is an absolute treat.  Brie and Banks are so on point this episode it’s fantastic. In the other stories it’s great to see Chang get something of a meaty story after so long in the wilderness.  Ken Jeong himself has said this was his favourite Chang moment in the show and his comic timing in his emotional breakdown is top shelf.  ‘Bear down for midterms’ for some weird reason is one of my favourite catchphrases, not that it really is one or that Community really has them anyway, of the whole series.  Britta messing with Abed is fun, especially when Britta realises she’s gone too far, but more so when it brings us back to the Brie Larson character.  It’s almost like even Harmon is going, ‘Yeah, ok, that bit of Season 4 was pretty good’.  Season 5 copped a lot of flak for reasons that bewilder me when there’s episodes like this just right there in the middle, being awesome.  It’s also the episode that we might look back on much more fondly when the inevitable #andamovie arrives, what with that non-celebrity companion captured by pirates… Oh, and Alison Brie wins best Gary Oldman of the season.

Top line – ““Fly on the wall” is an expression. But if I want to pitch “Fly on the wall for midterms.” You might ask, “What do you mean?” – Duncan

41. G.I. Jeff (S5 E11) Written by Dino Stamatopoulos, Directed by Rob Schrab

S5e11Obviously how into GI Joe you were as a kid has a major bearing on how much you liked this episode.  I was really into GI Joe.  And Transformers.  And He-Man.  And Rock Lords, a show which until very recently my wife was convinced I’d just made up.  But with these sorts of episodes it’s not just enough to Michael McIntyre it and say, ‘Hey, look, remember this thing’ and then we all remember it together and laugh because apparently not having amnesia is hilarious.  Nine nights at The O2.  I mean, really?

No, you’ve got to do something with the spoof.  You’ve got to use it as a vehicle to say something about, not just the thing you’re taking the piss out of, but the characters involved. And Community did both with this episode.  Basically the absurdity of a kid’s show that promoted the military but somehow no-one ever died, played against a very confused man who’s convinced his life might as well be over.  When you think about it, as funny as this episode is, it’s one of the absolute darkest they’ve ever done.  I mean, Jeff nearly killed himself for Christ’s sake, albeit accidentally, by drinking a bit too much, amongst other things, of his dead friend’s whiskey.  The episode has a lot to say about living in the past, about nostalgia and the pain of growing old, which is you can rgue is basically what the entire show is about in some form or another.  And it would be wrong not to point out, besides Schrab’s perfect 80s cartoon direction and Dino’s bang on script, the look of the episode.  Everything is more or less perfect.  If you took the dialogue out, it could easily stand in as an episode from the 80s. It is so on point it’s terrifying.  But not half as terrifying as just how utterly spot on Schrab’s Cobra Commander impression is.  

Top line – “The first time I met Destro, he asked me if he should have his entire head coated in chrome. I said “No! How would you do that? How would that even work?” – Cobra Commander

Ok, Top 40 tomorrow.  Like those music countdowns I used to listen to back when Bros was still a thing.

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 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50-41 […]
  2. #SixSeasons – Part I | Trunk Talk - […] to 110-101 * Jump to 90-81 *  Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50-41 * Jump to […]
  3. #SixSeasons – Part III | Trunk Talk - […] to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50-41 * Jump to […]
  4. #Six Seasons – Part IV | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  5. #SixSeasons – Part VI | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  6. #SixSeasons – Part X | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  7. #SixSeasons – Part VIII | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  8. #SixSeasons – Part XIII | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  9. #SixSeasons – Part XI | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  10. #SixSeasons – Part XV | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  11. #SixSeasons – Part XII | Trunk Talk - […] 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…
  12. #SixSeasons – Part IX | Trunk Talk - […] 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…

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