Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Troy and Abed Are In Mourning

Okay, so the title of this post will only make sense if you have been familiar with the funniest show on TV. If you don't know what show I'm talking about, you clearly didn't watch it... or are dead inside. I'm talking, of course, about Community. Last week, news broke that NBC has cancelled the show that we all hoped would make it through six seasons and a movie. Unfortunately, the study group at Greendale only got through five.

What can I say about Community? It's a show I didn't give a chance in the beginning. Like a fool, I allowed the entire first season to pass me by before jumping on board. But, thanks to the recommendation of the Charlatan and the magic of Hulu, I got caught up. And I was so glad that I did.

I don't think any other network sitcom has written episodes as outside the box as this one did. Community was streets ahead of all other TV shows. For Christmas one year, we got a stop-motion animated special. Just this season, we got a fully animated homage to classic G.I. Joe, complete with commercials for action figures featuring the people of Greendale. In an episode guest starring Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito, the study group was transported into a video game where they became 8-bit versions of themselves. And those paintball wars? Well, they'll go down in history as some of history's finest half-hours of television in history.

Also, because I can't seem to get into Mad Men, Community introduced me to Alison Brie, who plays uptight Annie Edison. And for that, I am forever grateful.

There's a slight (albeit unlikely) chance that the show could get picked up by another network or some other outlet for a sixth season. In the meantime, if you have a subscription to Hulu Plus, do yourself a favor and binge watch all five seasons. Because they're all available. Below is a list of my top 10 episodes.

10. Contemporary American Poultry - This episode from late in season 1 is a beautiful homage to mafia movies like The Godfather and Goodfellas. And there's also a throwback to Sixteen Candles near the end. It's awesome.

9. Regional Holiday Music - This is season 3's Christmas episode. And it's a musical. Of course a musical episode made my list. Each member of the study group is coerced one by one to join Greendale's glee club. It's a little more sinister than your typical musical episode.

8. Digital Estate Planning - Also a season 3 gem, this is the 8-bit video game episode I mentioned above. Chevy Chase's Pierce is forced to compete with his study group and his unknown half-brother for an inheritance left by his deceased father. The competition takes place in the digital world of an old school video game.

7. Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking - After Pierce suffers from an overdose of pain pills and makes the group believe that he's dying. One of his dying wishes is to have Abed create a documentary that revolves around Pierce supposedly bequeathing his belongings to everyone in the study group.

6. Paradigms of Human Memory - Who doesn't love a flashback episode. It's not something that you see very often in sitcoms these days, but back in the 80s and 90s, it was a staple. It's an easy episode to come up with if your budget is running low or your writers are on strike. But Community did it differently. All their flashback scenes were original. They were scenes from episodes that would have taken place between episodes throughout season 2. Brilliant.

5. Cooperative Calligraphy - Another television staple is the "bottle episode." It's an episode that takes place entirely on one or two sets throughout the show and focuses on only the key players without wasting time and money on guest stars. Again, this is the kind of thing that showrunners do when they're low on cash or saving their budget for a bigger episode down the line. Community was self aware, acknowledging that they were doing a bottle episode, confined completely to the study room.

4. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons - The study group pretty much just plays Dungeons and Dragons. Not that complicated. But it's done really well. They kind of set the stakes for the game really high within the confines of the episode. It was awesome. And I'm not even a fan of Dungeons and Dragons.

3. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas - The season 2 Christmas special. The entire thing was done with stop-motion animation, just like all those old classic Christmas specials. It's got a touch of the musical to it too. Just do yourself a favor and watch it.

2. Remedial Chaos Theory - The gang gets together at Troy and Abed's apartment for a housewarming. When the pizza arrives, no one wants to go get the pizza, so Jeff rolls a die, assigning a number to each member of the study group (except himself). Abed tries to stop him, believing that by rolling the die, he's splitting reality into six possible timelines. The viewer gets to see how each roll of the die plays out by experiencing events with one character missing.

1. Modern Warfare - This is the paintball episode from the first season. There were other paintball episodes and while they went bigger, they weren't better. The original couldn't be touched. The students are given paintball guns with a fabulous prize going to the last man standing. Everyone goes a little crazy. Then they go a lot crazy. This is the episode that will make you want to watch the entire series.

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