Tag Archives: Community

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2015 Edition: 54-51

21 Mar

Our first comedy of the rankings shows up along with three cable dramas that only have the potential of conspiracy in common.

Intro here and 58-55 here.

54. True Detective – 2014: 21

True Detective

Thousands of words have been spilled over the disappointing second season of True Detective, some by me, and I’m not sure I have more to add; one-dimensional characters, frustrating plot choices, and misguided casting, let to a somewhat sad season of television. It’s not lower than this because it was strangely ambitious in a way other bad shows aren’t; Flash and Arrow failed on a lower percentage of what they tried, but True Detective tried way more. There was something interesting enough in the failure of True Detective to probably ensure I’d watch another season, but that doesn’t make it a success. Recently, this past season of True Detective made me think of the Star Wars prequels; unquestionably failures, but, especially compared to The Force Awakens, surprisingly ambitious failures which actually really went for it.

53. Community – 2014: 10


The Yahoo! Screen (and points if you remember that Yahoo!’s short-lived video service was called Yahoo! Screen) season of Community really made me sad. It’s fair to say I had no right to be disappointed by the season, consider how up-and-down Community has been over the years, and considering the turmoil behind-the-scenes including the cast changes and the new network. Still, it was one of the more disappointing seasons of TV I can remember considering what a special place Community has held in my heart at times, and considering this was going to be its likely last impression (unless they actually get around to that movie). There were fleeting glimpses of what made Community great; but they were gobbled up by so much mediocrity, poor choices, reused plots, unbalanced character usage, overdone jokes and just a seeming running out of ideas. The fifth season, upon reflection, I found to be better than I had believed initially; with the sixth, it’s sadly the opposite. There’s way too much Dean, a side character elevated to a larger role than his character could handle, and again just rehashing and overusing what worked well when done subtly and in moderation. Quite simply, the magic was gone.

52. Orphan Black – 2014: 25

Orphan Black

Orphan Black post-Season 1 is a bit of a mess rendered worth viewing simply due to the powers of Tatiana Maslany. The plot was clearly put together with only one season in mind and since then there have had to be incomprehensible secret organization on top of incomprehensible secret organization on top of incomprehensible secret organization to prevent the Clone Club from finding all the answers, past the point where it makes all that much sense. Fortunately through for Orphan Black, the show has a sense of humor, which many shows in this tier (see: House of Cards, AMC’s The Walking Dead) lack, especially in regards to the generally enjoyable Alison plotlines. Orphan Black is hardly appointment television; but I don’t think I’ll be giving it up just yet because I like the clones enough to eventually catch up, even if that means on a lazy Saturday weeks after the episodes have aired.

51. AMC’s The Walking Dead – 2014: 34

The Walking Dead

I’m in a strange place with AMC’s The Walking Dead. Objectively, this has been one of, if not the single strongest year in the show’s existence. It’s hardly spectacular; but the year is notable more for the absence of the bigger problems that plagued swaths of AMC’s The Walking Dead past; glacial pacing, bringing the Governor back well past his due date, focus on the wrong characters, young Carl. AMC’s The Walking Dead has never been a great show but it’s had spurts of promise that have always, until now, kept me watching, and on paper, this past year would certainly appear to be composed largely of such spurts. Subjectively though, while I recognize the show is actually in a fairly solid place, for whatever it’s worth, I simply seem to have a case of AMC’s The Walking Dead fatigue. I’m just tired of the show. The novelty and the fun have worn on me, and while the plot changes, I’ve felt some sense of sameness that has been grating on me over the seasons. Several times in the past couple of months I planned to put on an episode, just to realize I really didn’t want to watch one. Will I ever get back to it, or will I simply fade away from the show? Tune into next year’s rankings to find out.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 Edition: 11-8

27 Mar

We move into the top ten. Three comedies and an HBO miniseries. Moving on along…

Intro here and 43-40 here and 39-36 here and 35-32 here and 31-28 here and 27-24 here and 23-20 here and 19-16 here and one-offs/shows ineligible for the list here and 15-12 here.

11. New Girl

New Girl

No show has had more ups and downs than New Girl. New Girl has for periods of times, in the 2nd season particularly, hovered among my favorites shows on TV, only to, after a stretch of great episodes, like a cartoon character, look down, realize there was nothing below it, and come back down to its frequent inconsistency. New Girl four seasons in still hasn’t quite figured out how to be at its best for any length of time and part of the reason is because the cast is so damn good that it keeps the quality of the show always one level above the writing, helping to downplay shoddily written episodes and not forcing the writers to dig deep and focus on what works. New Girl does get on these streaks of brilliance though, and one of these streaks was the first half of the fourth season, which made me temporarily forget about my frustration with the extremely up and down third season, as the show banged out classic episodes one after another, with two of the biggest winners being Landline and Background Check New Girl may never put together a whole season this great, but the fact that this streak has the show ranked this well tells you how high New Girl flies when all is well.

10. Community


I’ll make a comparison I’ve made many times before but still continues to stand. Community will never and has never enjoyed the startling consistency of former NBC-mate Parks and Recreation, but the show has moments where every aspect comes together and makes an entire season worthwhile in one episode. The fifth season was not the show’s strongest, though upon looking back at the episode list, it was much better than I remembered offhand. More episodes were hits than misses, and some of the hits were very good. Best, unquestionably, was Cooperative Polygraphy, where the group receives their bequeathments from Pierce’s will, and was the kind of episode that explains why people are fanaticall about Community. The writing and acting are both on fire and in sync; the show deals with Pierce, the lack thereof, the characters, their relationship, and the world, all while being very funny. Community has its problems, but it also explores areas few comedies do, which buys it some purchase on its shortcomings. It will never be a perfect show and its best days are likely behind, but it is singular and that characteristic in and of itself can be underrated.

9. Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge

I put off HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge for months, knowing little about its premise other than it was based on a book. Based on the name, I assumed the source material was from the late 1800s rather than 2008, and that it would be, even if eventually proven worthwhile, a slog to get through. And on paper, it seems like it should be. It’s depressing as hell and Kitteridge, played by the brilliant Frances McDormand, is frequently a miserable person, tearing down her less intelligent happy-go-lucky husband and son as she lashes out from her own serious depression. The miniseries follows her over a nearly 30-year period, as she and her family grow old. It accomplishes the impressively saddening double as you squirm in your seat at her behavior while feeling awful for her at the same time. Against all odds though, it’s actually incredibly riveting stuff. Watching is compelling, even without any obvious narrative hook (there’s no natural beginning, middle, or ending). Kitteridge is simply a deeply complex character, endlessly frustrating, and endlessly heartbreaking as well, from a place and a time where she didn’t have the proper outlets to help herself. Watch, and while during the first 20 minutes, you may feel like it’ll be hard to get through the whole thing, a short couple of hours later you’ll be wondering how you thought that before.

8. Broad City

Broad City

I knew Broad City existed, and I knew it was going to be good, but for some reason I can’t explain in hindsight it took me a few months to catch on with and one drunken evening to dive in and watch the first six in a row on demand. By year two, I was heavily anticipating each episode, watching it live, and sometimes watching it again soon after. Broad City for a time this year became the buzziest television half hour since Girls, and although the plaudits for best comedy on TV may have initially seemed to come too soon, they may just as well have been on the money. Broad City, more than any other show, takes place in my New York City, neighborhoods and places I know and recognize and speaks to my generation. Broad City doesn’t simply buck TV conventions by consciously doing the opposite. Rather it ignores those conventions completely, making the show as creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer see fit, entirely peripheral to when and where it fits in with conventions or avoids them. The show succeeds both in more sitcom-y episodes and in wacky gimmick episodes, such as Destination: Wedding, when Abbi and Ilana are rushing to get to a wedding on time by whatever mode of transportation gets them there. The side characters (Lincoln, Jaimé, Tre, etc.) are great and not to be underestimated, but the core friendship of Abbi and Ilana is even through just a single season one of the strongest on TV, and the center of everything the show builds around.

End of Season Report: Community, Season 5

23 Apr

The Study Group, Season 5

While this season was Community was at times uneven, it was overall  a triumphant and welcome return to form.

There’s nothing that makes you appreciate something you like as much as, even more than its total absence, its replacement by a vastly inferior version. Rarely does television pull off that trick; usually a far inferior season of television is a symbol of a downward trend indicating that a show will never hit the heights it once did again. Community, fittingly, remains unique in this sense.

Everyone knows the story by now. Mercurial creator and show runner Dan Harmon was fired after the show’s third season. He was replaced by two well-meaning outsiders who attempted to capture what people loved about Community, but badly missed the mark. I’m not nearly as much o f a fourth season hater as some, but no matter what you think, it’s both not up to the quality we expect, and there’s something off about the show, like staring at a clone of someone you know well; externally it looks the same but it’s dead inside (that comes off as too harsh, maybe, but I don’t really want to use this space to defend the fourth season’s approach at mediocrity).

There were a couple of episodes that didn’t entirely put it together for me, but there have been some of those in almost every season. One of the consequences of Community’s sheer ambition to have everything at once means that when they miss they mark, they really miss it. Compare it to its Thursday night partner Parks and Recreation, another of the best comedies of the 21st century. While some episodes are better than others, Parks never has a complete swing as a miss, but it also rarely reaches the ethereal mind-blowing highs of the mega-ambitious Community episodes that manage to get everything right.

This season wasn’t the best in the show’s run, but it contained a couple of all-time episodes, several more solid wee-to-week classics, and easily more than enough to justify me being way more excited about wanting more Community in the future than I was coming into this season. Community fans went through a rough couple of years, and it was rewarding to see our favorite characters returned to their former glory, and to not end the show’s story with the ugly, metallic taste (the taste of the gas leak, if you will) of the fourth season stuck in our mouths.

Cooperative Polygraphy was this season’s moment of absolute brilliance. Community was graced with the presence of Walton Goggins, and the group were required to answer questions to a lie detector to determine who received gifts from Pierce’s estate. Part of the brilliance of the episode was that it felt as if Pierce was there, though he wasn’t. The episode just all came together; the high concept premise melded into truths about the characters and the group dynamics between them, and a course on the science of human relationships, which is what most great Community episodes are ultimately about.

First episode Repliot, Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality, and Basic Sandwich were the next tier of quality episodes, not merging every stray strand into genius like Polygrpahy, but delivering comprehensive and excellent episodes, both funny and pathos filled. The finale in particular, which might turn out to be the series finale, was excellent and felt right for the show, and a finale; it’s meta-finale could have taken it too far, but instead the looming emptiness of losing what all of the characters were holding onto was humorous and melancholy. The team came together and gave me lots of warm fuzzy feelings that a cynic like me isn’t supposed to be feeling very often.

App Development and Condiments didn’t work on as many levels but was one of the funniest episodes, and VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing featured what may have been the funniest single scene of the season, Abed and Annie competing in the VCR board game featuring cowboy Vince Gilligan.

Basic Intergluteal Numismatics was a high-concept episode that didn’t much work for me; the ass-crack bandit felt like a second tier version of many other similar episodes including the Law & Order episode; I got what they were going for, and stylistically it was right on in the manner of David Fincher and similar directors, but I don’t think the jokes were as good or the writing was as smooth.

Overall, though, the batting average was close to that of the first three seasons, if not equal, and reminded me why I loved Community so much and what the difference was between Dan Harmon and his replacements. I knew the replacement episodes were worse, but I was concerned that I was constantly biasing myself against them. I’ll never be able to be sure that I wasn’t, and I’m honestly pretty sure I was, but I feel more confident than ever after watching the fifth season in understanding what made the Dan Harmon episodes better and what made the fourth season feel like it was TV in Dan Harmon skin. Community, now, and forever, and let’s all cross our fingers for six seasons and a movie.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 44-41

30 Dec

Next four up – we inch towards shows that I actually like! A note that I may have forgotten to make early – differences between one show and the next are often slight; sometimes it’s the difference of which side of the bed I got up in the morning; if two shows are next to each other, which one I like more may switch on the day; if one show is 15 higher, I probably like it more. Moving on.

44. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.-1

You know that feeling, when you really just want a show to be better? I mean, of course you want every show you watch to be better, but some feel like they’re worse for a reason, or it would be more difficult to make them better, or they’re just tired out and honestly, although you want some new ideas, you don’t really have any either. And then there are those shows that just well, should be better, and it honestly shouldn’t be that hard to make them better, and that’s what makes them so frustrating. Marvel’s Agents of Shield is a new show with definite promise from the Whedon empire. There are seeds of interesting characters, but a disappointing lack of characterization and wit which have marked all TV shows Whedon has previously been associated with. It’s delivered on juuuust enough promise that I’m going to continue to watch because I decided I would at least until the end of the first season. After that, well, I’d rather just hope and say I’m glad I don’t have to make that call now. Be better, Marvel’s Angets of Shield. I know you can be.

43. Community

Season 4 Never Happened

If you read the internet, you know the basic deal surrounding Community this past season (and this upcoming one). Creator and genius Dan Harmon fired, but show kept on the air, taken over by new show-runners. Opinions of the fourth season range from mediocre to unspeakably make-you-want-to-kill-yourself bad, and Dan Harmon isn’t the only one to share that latter end of the spectrum. It’s not a good season and it’s worse because it’s Community, because it’s the characters and the universe we fanboys and fangirls (so few people actually watch Community that you’re a fanboy or fangirl by definition if you do) care so much about and are so deeply invested in. Still, I lean towards the season being mediocre. It’s not good; and it’s vastly disappointing but it’s not like it’s actually awful by regular TV standards, just by the high standards we’ve grown accustomed to as Community fans. More than bad, it’s just off; the tone felt different and not in a good way. The great cast made it watchable even when they could have used better material to work with. Still, let’s get excited for this year. Three years ago, I never thought Community would see a fifth season.

42. Downton Abbey

Residents of Downton Abbey

This has become one of those shows that I think I might stop watching, start watching a couple months after the season started, get just engulfed enough to finish the episodes pretty quickly, and then promptly forget pretty quickly after finishing. That sums up where Downton Abbey is at this point. It’s a soap that doesn’t have a huge amount of long-term thought-provoking value, but it does have redeeming qualities, and though I won’t think about it for a while and probably won’t watch any of the episodes remotely around when they air, I will actually watch them before the next season comes around. We Americans may mock the UK left and right for its aristocracy and royalty, and with good reason, but we can also admit to being mildly enchanted by it, and honestly, more than anything by the amazing buildings in which they seem to live and their endless sheer amount of rooms. As long as Maggie Smith remains, I’m probably not going anywhere.

41. Homeland

Carrie and Brody

I’ve expounded on this in great depth so I’ll spare you the grisly details. But suffice to say, I viewed this season as something of a make or break. I gave the show a partial mulligan for Season 2’s disappointment. They had stuck themselves in a tough place and I wanted to give them a chance to start something new with a clean slate. The writers chose not to go in that direction and instead retread old ground in not particularly interesting and more so not particularly convincing ways. They had a chance to start anew, to be different, to accept the successes of the first season but move on, realizing they couldn’t reach those highs the same way again. If they had gone in that direction, it might not have worked, but it would have been a real attempt. Instead, Homeland moved another step towards 24, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if it didn’t want so badly to be more than that and I didn’t know that it once was. It’s still above some other shows because the acting is very good and even in the disappointing season there are isolated strong moments and plotlines. But it’s little solace from a show with one of the best debut seasons out there.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 edition: 6-4

22 Feb

We’re nearing the end of my ranking of shows that I watched in 2012 – the intro explaining what qualifies is here and 6, 5, and 4 are below.

6.  Parks and Recreation

The cast of Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation isn’t revelatory or mind-exploding; it’s merely a workmanlike comedy which is funny and great nearly every single week, almost never putting out a weak episode.  Like just about every show on TV that has lasted more than a couple of seasons, Parks and Recreation has threatened to tire and run out of ideas over time.  In its case, the biggest concerns have been the potential hammering into the ground of the single dimensionness of some of the characters, including Tom, Ron, April, Andy, and Chris.  However, the show has somewhat recognized this and begun handling this issue in a better way by fleshing out at least some of these characters; Tom and Ron have had their single-minded ridicouslessness mellowed out by Tom’s new store and business ploy and Ron’s new girlfriend, which make both of them seem at least ever so slightly more like real people.  I oft complain about unearned emotion on television; I hate when shows use songs to rev up emotional feeling towards characters that you wouldn’t care about otherwise.  Contrary to this, Parks and Recreation has earned the right to emotional moments through character building over the years; it was hard not to be moved when Ben proposed to Leslie.  Leslie and Ben are both extremely well built characters, and the show reached its peak period when Ben and Rob Lowe’s Chris Traegar joined the cast and the bland Mark Brendanawicz left at the end of the second season.  Ann is multi-dimensional as well, but sometimes has trouble finding anything to do in the midst of the Parks and Recreation employees who have a tighter bond.  Every one of the characters is  capable of delivering laughs, and many of the recurring bits, like the Eagleton-Pawnee rivalry, and the idiocy of the Pawnee residents at town meetings could easily wear out, but are used just sparingly enough, and are written well enough, that they continue work.  All of these elements add up to a show that while not groundbreaking will be considered a classic for years ago to come and hopefully has a couple more seasons left.

5.  New Girl

Jess and the gang

New Girl is also of the Parks and Recreation school of comedy; there’s no dynamite crazy ambitious episode where everything comes together like in Community (or maybe Louie) but rather sheer episode to episode consistency and hilarity.  After taking a few episodes to find its voice, New Girl has really come into its own over the last season or so, emerging to the point that I found myself talking with several other people who agreed that all of a sudden New Girl had to be considered in the top tier of TV comedies.  There are small kinks; mainly that they’re still slowly figuring out how to use Winston and Cece.  The handling of the other three characters, however, is superb.  Jess turned down the quirk just enough after the first few episodes of the first season and has been incredibly entertaining since.  Schmidt has been the break out character, and has certainly earned the acclaim, expertly playing a lovable pretentious douche with just the right amount of obnoxiousness to love.  Nick is the most underrated of the three, but my personal favorite; his smallest lines and movements I find hilarious and worth repeating over and over again; recently I quoted the short vaguely throwaway line, “I’m not a dad guy” constantly around my brothers who quickly grew tired of it, but I never did.  A Nick b-plot earlier in the season in which a homeless guy came into his bar and told Nick that he was him from the future was fantastic, and perfected walked the line of is-this-real-this-can’t-be-real for both the audience and Nick.  Another small flaw is that the writers haven’t quite properly figured out how to use cutaways – too often they get nothing from the flashback that wasn’t already gotten from the description.  Still, this is great TV just emerging, and if you’re not on the bandwagon yet, it’s time to get on.

4.  Community


As noted in my Parks and Recreation entry, Community, due in part to its ambition and risk taking,  is more inconsistent compared to New Girl or Parks and Recreation but that’s a trade off for the occasional incredible episode in which everything comes together to produce 22 minutes of unforgettable TV.  Gimmick episodes, which work for some shows and don’t for others, have become the stock-in-trade of Community, probably more so than any other show ever. Several shows have attempted the fake clip show, but no one has done it better than Community, in the episode “Curriculum Unavailable”, in which John Hodgman plays a psychologist trying to convince the Greendale crew that they’re in a mental institution rather than a community college. An entire Law & Order homage episode would have been an insane idea for just about any non-Community show and was cat nip to longtime fans of the program including myself, and featured an appearance by real Law & Order medical examiner Leslie Hendrix and spoke to casual and hard core fans of Law & Order.  Virtual Systems Analysis may have been the best episode last spring, in which Annie and Abed take a tour through the Dreamatorium and explore Abed’s unusual psyche. Though that episode and others, Dan Harmon has shown he is the best since Joss Whedon at packing powerful emotional punches in gimmick episodes.  In any given week, Community is more likely to have a couple of attempts fall flat than the two shows listed before it on this list, and John Goodman’s role as head of the air conditioning repair school was an example of something that never quite worked for me as well as it could have (the plotline had its moments, but often felt like it was just off).   Community is also more likely though to produce that brilliant episode, and while I look forward every week to New Girl and Parks and Recreation because I know they’ll be good, I looked forward to Community because there was a shot at brilliance.

Watch it Again: Community – Season 1, Episodes 3 and 4

20 Jul

A while I ago, I began a campaign of re-watching the first season of Community.  Episodes 3 and 4 of season 1 capsuled and commended on below.

Season 1, Episode 3:  Introduction to Film

Community as the Jeff and Britta show continues, now with some Abed.  The A story is about Abed taking a film class which Britta paid for, in opposition to his dad, who wants him to stay in the family falafel business.  Jeff counsels against Britta getting involved, and the two fight over the benefits of getting involved vs. staying out of it for the entire episode, often while being filmed by Abed, and getting into a fight with Abed’s dad.  Britta and Jeff take on a mom and dad role relative to Abed, and eventually Abed’s film moves his dad to understand.  We get a little bit more of Abed’s inability to relate with people, and his use of film as a medium to help him.  The B story involves Jeff taking a class, which he thinks is the ultimate blow-off class, taught by John Michael Higgins (lawyer from Arrested Development, Christopher Guest movie regular, saying “Owner of a Lonely Heart” a capella in those vaguely memorable commercials for The Break Up) whose only criteria for an A is “seizing the day.”  Jeff desperately tries to manufacture a day seized, failing to fool the professor until he kisses Britta, thinking she was into him, but she was only trying to help him ace the project.  The tiny C story involves Pierce trying to teach Troy how to sneeze manly, and converting Troy’s baby sneeze into a far more imposing sneeze (that is way too many times to use sneeze in a sentence).

The C story actually gets the best bang for the buck; Chevy Chase is at his finest when he’s demonstrated the different sneezes in his arsenal.  John Michael Higgins shows of his impulsiveness a couple of times, and he’s used just enough so that he’s not overused; the best scene is the episode may be when he chastises Jeff for ordering an ordinary coffee, and then tears up the coffee menu and asks for a birthday cake.

Rating 7.0 – it’s a good episode, but it’s not a great episode.

Season 1, Episode 4: Social Psychology

The episode starts with a relatively pointless encounter between Chang and Annie.  I’ve never liked Chang.  He’s always been my least favorite part of the show, primarily because Ken Jeong shows absolutely no restraint.  He’s more over the top than any character, ruthlessly so, with the possible exception of the Dean, but, well, the Dean is generally funnier and doesn’t get as big parts.

The A plot of this episode involves Shirley and Jeff learning the only thing they have in common is a love of gossip – Jeff can now stop timing his exit from one class to avoid having to awkwardly walk with Shirley to the next.  Their favorite gossip topic is Britta’s new boyfriend, hackey-sack loving hippie, Vaughn.  Vaughn is a ridiculous stereotype of course, but he gets some choice lines, such as “What makes Frisbee ultimate?  If I had a nickel for every time I wish someone asked me that”  Britta, learning to be friends with Jeff, trusts him with too much information, particularly considering he still has feelings for her.  Although he tries to be a good friend, when Britta shows him the awful poem Vaughn wrote for her, he cracks, and shows it to Shirley, who, incorrigible gossip that she is, shows it to the group.  Of course Vaughn catches them laughing about, and dumps Britta, making her not too pleased with Jeff.

The B plot involves Annie joining Professor Duncan, who is back, in order to help prove his “Duncan Principle,” which is that left waiting for something, in this case, a fake experiment, over time, even the calmest person will erupt in a fit of insane anger.  Annie recruits Abed and Troy to be test subjects for the Duncan principle, however, Abed ruins the principle altogether by sitting calmly in the room for hours upon hours, even when everyone else has broken, forcing Duncan to give up, and Annie to be mad at Abed.

The little C-plot involves Pierce’s use of ear-noculars, which are the equivalent of binoculars for your ears (kind of the same purpose as that awesome directional microphone in Metal Gear Solid, but a lot more dopey looking).  It’s small, but pretty funny.

Worth noting is that Matt L. Jones, better known as Badger from Breaking Bad shows up for just a second as a stoner-y friend of Vaughn’s.  Also, Abed makes an Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull reference which probably was current at the time.

All right, I feel bad that these episode ratings keep going down, and I know they’ll be going up at least a couple times later in the season, but I guess that’s just the opening pattern.  Remember, all the ratings are simply relative to the first one, which I didn’t want to rate too high (I still rated it fairly high) lest I leave no room for improvement (not to mention, the farther I go in the season, the more ticky-tacky the ratings will naturally get).  There’s plenty of funny parts – John Oliver in particular – but it’s not top level.

Rating:  7.2 – I still don’t understand why John Oliver couldn’t have been shepherded into more episodes instead of Chang – one of Oliver’s best lines, out of context, was “Youre an eight, which si a British 10 – I’m angry.”

Watch it Again: Community

11 Jun

In order to celebrate the three wonderful years of Community before Dan Harmon was fired, and the show may or may not be terrible and cancelled, in that order, I’ve begun a re-watch of the first season.  I was curious to see how it held up to the later seasons, but in terms of how funny it was, but also in terms of tone and personality.  As I watch, I’ll be writing up little summaries and notes, and assessing each episode with a rating, all relative to whatever arbitrary rating I give the first episode.  If you’ve already seen Community, consider this an invitation to re-watch yourself, or at least read and remind yourself of the good times.  If you haven’t seen Community yet, no better day to start than today, what may have been the best comedy on TV of the past couple of years.  Here we go:


It’s very different than what the show has become, but not quite as different as I imagined it would be going back.  We have to deal with the whole introduction to the show, which comes out of Jeff wanting to hook up with Britta, and Community is hardly the ensemble it’s become; rather it’s a Jeff show, with a bit of Britta.  John Oliver shows up as Professor Ian Duncan, a former client of Jeff’s who Jeff tries to get answers to, and it seems like he would be in more episodes from this pilot.  The dean appears for a second with his mangled opening speech, which is a hilarious way to start off the show.  There’s basically two plots which both star Jeff; Jeff arranging the study group to hook up with Britta, and Jeff trying to get the answers from Professor Duncan.  The two parts I remember as particularly memorable are Abed imitating Emilio Estevez from The Breakfast Club and Jeff’s speech about how humans are the only animals who observe Shark Week.  Abed seems far less socially adept in the pilot than later on, though obviously he gets super crazy in other, evil Abed Dreamatorium ways.

Overall, I remember being instantly hooked on the show, and though I was worried this would pale compared to some of the newer episodes, although it was different, I can see again why I was hooked.

Rating:  7.8  – This number is completely arbitrary yet is the number by which I will judge all subsequent episodes; I would put it higher, but I want to give some solid room so I don’t have most episodes crowding between 9 and 10, say.

Spanish 101

Still the Jeff and Britta show, but Pierce becomes our first additional character to play a major role.  The A plot is Jeff and Pierce being paired together for a Spanish project; Jeff trades cards and shirts with Abed to be paired with Britta, but Britta’s traded cards as well, so he’s paired with Pierce.  Jeff’s been avoiding Pierce, and after getting sick of him while Pierce turns a five minute Spanish project into an hours long extremely racist whiskey session, finally comes back around and decides to join Pierce and present their project together.  The B plot is largely forgettable as Annie and Shirley trying to learn from Britta’s protest-y past, forming a protest and candlelight vigil for a Guatamalan journalist, while realizing that Britta talks a big talk about protesting but doesn’t do it herself.

This episode is the birth of the Troy-Abed connection, even thoughTroy’s still barely a character, as they are Spanish project partners, and then conclude the episode in the cold closing with their Spanish rap, which I didn’t realize in hindsight, started as early as the second episode.

The most memorable scenes are probably the Pierce and Jeff performing their Spanish project montage, where they wear all sorts of hilarious costumes, an theTroyand Abed rap at the end.

Rating:  7.2 – it’s not quite as good as the pilot, and the B plot is largely unmemorable.

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!