Community

How ‘Community’ Season 5 Won Back a Frustrated Fan

Community became my favorite TV comedy almost immediately. The 2009 series premiere, which I distinctly remember watching on my computer via a Facebook preview link, wasn’t perfect, but it was strong for a sitcom pilot. I watched it twice. It managed to be expositional without sacrificing quality, full of hints of what the show would eventually become — a clever subversion of sitcom tropes, deep pop culture references, a heavy dose of self-awareness, and a perfect balance of humor and emotion. And did I mention it was funny? It was! Extremely funny. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 12 Review: “Basic Story”

It’s not often that you get to see a major network television show arguing with itself. But that’s one of the surprises, and pleasures, of “Basic Story,” the first installment in Community’s two-part fifth season finale, which spends much of its first half suspiciously tiptoeing around the idea that, for once, Greendale Community College is free of chaos, its staff and students utterly content. “Usually a lot more than this happens in 30 minutes,” notes Abed, at the end of a half-hour of study group playing-on-their-phones time, and that denomination of time isn’t accidental. For a show that spends plenty of time playing in the meta sandbox, this week’s episode represents a continuation (after last week’s “G.I. Jeff”) of the idea of pushing beyond inside jokes and self-awareness, and genuinely exploring (and exploding) the very nature of fiction. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 11 Recap: “G.I. Jeff”

The important fact about Community’s gimmick episodes is that the good ones are never just about the gimmick. The paintball episodes, the Ken Burns spoof, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”—when the show trots out its tricks, it’s like a particularly good magic show, where the illusionist uses the tool of diversion to smuggle in some of the heftiest intellectual and emotional content of the series. This week’s episode, “G.I. Jeff,” replicates the look and feel of the old G.I. Joe syndicated cartoon show flawlessly: the little specs on the image, the choppiness of the cheap-o animation, the stilted dialogue. The recreations of those ‘80s live-action toy commercials are likewise perfect. And while we’re marveling over the perfection of the nostalgia, we can easily miss that this not only of the most ambitiously melancholy Communitys to date, but one that questions the very essence of reality. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 10 Recap: “Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”

PERSONAL CONFESSION ALERT: I’m a pretty nerdy fellow, but I don’t get Dungeons & Dragons. This puts me rather at odds with Dan Harmon, who fucking loves him some Dungeons & Dragons. He put the role-playing game at the center of the season two Community episode “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” and plays a round of it on pretty much every episode of his Harmontown podcast. I usually fast-forward through that part of the show, because for all of the subversion and dick jokes, it’s basically a bunch of people in a self-perpetuating fantasy, awkwardly announcing “I cast the spell of the Sacred Funyon” or whatever, and I got a lotta podcasts to listen to, dude. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 9 Recap: “VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing”

Community is about as dialogue-heavy and joke-dense as any comedy on television, but sometimes, they earn their richest laughs by saying nothing at all. Two of the best moments in last night’s very good “VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing” were pauses, perfectly timed and beautifully executed: the Dean’s deep and rather frightened breath before running out of the study room following a fierce and angry freestyle rap in a Payday candy bar costume, and the looooooong moment of Annie, Abed, Annie’s brother Anthony, and Abed’s girlfriend Rachel just staring blankly at the television, trying to wrap their heads around the “Pile of Bullets” VHS game. If there’s been a longer pause on network television, I’m not aware of it—but the indulgence of that pause wonderfully summarizes the spirit of the show this season. Ah, what the hell, it seems to say. It’s not like we’re scaring any new viewers off! … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 8 Recap: “App Development and Condiments”

When we take the long view of Community, what may be most interesting—and riskiest—about the show is its total inconsistency with regards to “realism.” The word is worth putting in quotes, since it’s such a loaded term when you’re talking about television or film or any of the performing arts; it’s all fake, even the works praised most highly for their naturalism. But there are shows whose proximity to a recognizable reality are closer than others; The Wire is more realistic than, say, The Blacklist. Yet Community won’t let you find your footing; they change up their reality on an almost weekly basis. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 7 Recap: “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality”

The question of how Community would get over the loss of Donald Glover has proven as all-consuming, for fans, as how it would function without Dan Harmon—though with much happier results. After an interminable month off the air for the Olympics, Community returned last night with the provocatively titled “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality,” with… Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 6 Recap: “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking”

Community’s fifth season has, thus far, spent much of its time taking care of old business. First order of said business was jump-starting the show in light of Dan Harmon’s return as show-runner; we had to tie up the loose ends, explain the speed-bumps of the “gas leak year,” and most importantly, establish that the show could be great again. Once that was done, there was the matter of departures: first a proper send-off for the already-absent Chevy Chase, and then last week’s epic farewell to Donald Glover. Now that all of that is out of the way, this week’s episode, “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking,” merely has the job of being a good, solid episode of Community—and our first real look at what that show will be from here on out. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 5 Recap: “Geothermal Escapism”

There are two types of episodes that Community does particularly well, though they seem direct contradictions of each other. The first is tightly focused, character-and-dialogue driven stories—bottle episodes, a bit of television terminology that the show itself made common knowledge in season two’s “Collective Calligraphy.” For all their narrative complexity, “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” and “Paradigms of Human Memory” would also fall into that category, as would last week’s excellent “Cooperative Polygraphy.” And at the other end of the spectrum are the big, high concept, gimmick episodes, wherein character and emotion are smuggled in underneath spoofs of genre tropes. The multiple paintball episodes are the most obvious examples; the Ken Burns-influenced “Pillows and Blankets” and Law & Order-styled “Basic Lupine Urology” also leap to mind. But no stunt episode had as heavy an emotional burden as last night’s farewell to Troy Barnes, “Geothermal Escapism,” which makes the show’s dual success as comedy and drama all the more remarkable. … Read More

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