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Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 4: Community

17 Nov

This show contrasts with Parks and Recreation in several ways, and they’re really neck and neck on this list, and could be swapped depending on the last episode I’ve seen of each.  Unlike Parks, which took a while for me to get into, I knew Community was a show I’d like even from the first Community I saw, even if it wasn’t yet it top form.  The show grew over its first season and the second season was even better than the first. Just the first season had already established it as the show I was most excited to watch each week when I watched NBC’s Thursday night line up, and that’s saying a lot, considering that probably consists of half of the comedies I watch on TV.

I think this was because every week there is a chance to get an absolute gem.  In contrast with Parks and Recreation, individual episodes stand out a lot more from the pack, which can be both good and bad.  It’s almost like comparing a great album band to a great singles band.  Community when it hits its absolute peak with particularly great episodes like the paintball episode “Modern Warfare”, this season’s parallel universe oriented “Remedial Chaos Theory,” or the episode I’ll choose below as my favorite, is simply as good as television gets.  Everything works and the episodes can be watched over and over.  The downside is when everything doesn’t completely come together there are episodes that end up slightly subpar.  Parks and Recreation has a hard time hitting the heights of the near-perfect Community episodes, but also has a significantly higher week to week consistency.  These are small concerns, as both are good enough that Parks and Recreations episodes have high ceilings and Community keeps the mini-clunkers to a minimum, but it does highlight the difference in the type of show (Venture Bros. is another show in the Community model in which certain episodes more clearly stand out).

About every fourth episode or so f Community is a massive style pastiche, like the western themed A Fistful of Painballs, or the zombie themed Epidemiology.  Not every one is perfect, but a large majority of the attempts hit their mark.   These  provide some of the best episodes of the series.  Still, the engine that really makes Community run, and that takes even the style homage episodes up a notch in their quality is the relationships between the study group characters.  Abed and Troy are particularly delightful in their camaraderie, but every combination of characters have their own unique relationship.  Over the course of the show, it’s gone from a set up where Jeff was the main character and Britta was maybe second to a full fledged ensemble where just about anyone (haven’t really been many Shirley led episodes) can take the lead.

Why It’s This High:  It’s vying for my favorite comedy on TV – the chemistry between the characters is great, and the homages are generally spot on, and the episodes that are as good

Why It’s Not Higher:  The only thing I can say against this show is, there’s not a perfect level of consistency, some are better than others – though what show non-Wire division doesn’t have that?  And sometimes there’s too much Ken Jeong – it often feels forced when he’s given more than a couple of lines and just doesn’t fit with the rest of the characters.

Best episode of the most recent season:  This is one of the few where I knew exactly which one I was picking before I even get to the category. “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” is my choice.  It’s a ’70s neo-noir homage involving a massive conspiracy theory which Jeff and Annie must unravel as Jeff makes up an independent study class taught by “Professor Professorson.”  The b-plot involves a massive blanket fort built by Troy and Abed, which is the site of a chase sequence for the A-plot.  I don’t want to say too much else, but I’ve seen the episode more than any other Community episode and it makes me smile every time.

I’d like to just put in a special ending note in reference to NBC’s decision to take Community off their schedule in the Spring.  Please watch Community!