Friday, 16 May 2014

Top 100 (97) Community Countdown. 90 - 81.


4x01 History 101
This episode had a lot to shoulder. A small but dedicated following, many keyed into the minutiae of behind the scenes events, asked to stay with a show that had lost it's very loud key speaker. Harmon was gone, and the worry was the show had so much of his DNA woven into that it would not be the same. Or were we all just too tied into the cult of personality? As mentioned in the last segment, it's admirable the new show runners and a few of the key previous writers tried to maintain the structure and offbeat nature of Community but everything is just a degree off. The jokes don't land quite as solid, despite generally sterling work as ever from the cast and even sending in a great ringer like Fred Willard can't pull this up to previous standard. 
"Whatevs, we'll take it next semes. Ter. Semester."

4x10 Intro to Knots
One of those eps where it feels like Harmon would have worked his ass off (and by extension everyone else - one of the things that by some reports made him very hard to work for) to play the gimmick in interesting ways. It's a riff on Rope and for the opening at least gives the one long shot thing a go. McDowell has a lot of fun and the episode toys with the requisite twists and turns in a generally enjoyable manner.
"Good tidings, fellow Christmas celebrators. And to all a good wassailing."

4x12 Heroic Origins
Everything is connected. It seems like the sort of story you tell when you've run out of things to say about your characters. So everybody had random happenstance encounters with others in the Study Group years before without realising it. It's mostly fun but seems to make the world seem too small, and ordaining a sense of Fate to them diminishes their love for each other.
"You linked all our stories, like how the Cosmic Cube assembled the Avengers. That, and the four billion dollar deal with Disney."

5x12 Basic Story
This might be one of the episodes that plays better on rewatching, as it's very clever but not especially funny (some of the best Community are nowhere near the funniest) and features perhaps the single strangest gag the show has ever done (the punchline has someone slurping soup). The angle of Jeff proposing to Britta is (deliberately but still) off putting and abrupt. If the show had keyed in more of the Jeff feeling old arc teased in some earlier seasons and put to the fore in the G.I. Joe riff, maybe this plot would have worked but it feels like some unneeded, forced tension, of not knowing how to bounce the characters off each other anymore despite some sterling work earlier in the fifth year. Jonathan Banks remains brilliant.
"Because once the Internet knows about something, it changes."

2x05 Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples
The first on the list to be from what I shall ridiculously call the 'Classic Years'. To be honest this plays better to me now than a couple of others higher on the countdown but I recall it being the first episode I was less than keen on when it first aired. So it places here. It's pretty funny but the dramatic heft of the Abed and Shirley plotline seemed a little too heavy. Abed has been (and will be) an domineering, controlling dick before but whereas the group take the brunt of it in the Goodfellas ep or Uncontrollable Christmas here it just bullys Shirley alone and feels a bit more mean spirited. But hey, Shirley is great and can take it and it manages one of the sweet, silly resolutions that Community so often does.
"Everybody hates him, that's why he's cool"

4x02 Paranormal Parentage
So many on here could be switched around and I probably wouldn't complain too much. Ranking all the episodes against each other is a dumb kind of folly. There are episodes I really like (a lot of them), episodes I like (most of the rest). This one is ok. It continues the trend of keeping Pierce apart from the bulk of the cast that seemed to begin in series 3 and almost became codified in 4. Giancarlo Esposito is always welcome (had we got a 6th season I'd have loved for him to be in more) even if briefly.
"Ghosts can't go through doors, stupid. They're not fire!"

4x05 Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations
Another where Harmon's loss is really felt. For a while the show had been leading to this point. Winger meeting his father. This should have been the episode for Jeff that Abed and Troy had for their respective birthdays (we'll get to those eventually great episodes almost certainly both Top 10). Something more than a sitcom. The other plot is entirely throwaway and doesn't really manage to tie it's Shawshank riff into anything meaningful.
"I'm just a grown man who can't even look his own friends in the eye for too long because I'm too afraid that they'll see that I am broken. So you get credit for that. "

3x06 Advanced Gay
Community could be a heightened, very silly cartoon reality. Sometimes perhaps it was a bit too much. The Pierce's father story fits in to that. Written off as a ghost in an earlier episode, and not really looking old enough to be Chevy Chase's dad it works but only just. Mostly because Chase is great and it's used to illustrate the differences and similarities between Pierce and Jeff, a pairing that lost some of it's power the more obviously villainous they made Pierce as the show went on. Also merited an apology from Harmon over concerns for the portrayal of gay culture (mea culpa here).
"I'm gonna eat space paninis with black Hitler and there's nothing you can do about it!"

3x09 Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism
Shirley and Jeff get a nice pairing together with a conclusion that raises a slightly weaker episode on the whole. The B plot involving a broken Dark Knight DVD is slight fun but has a splendid Troy freak out. 
"Jeff, you don't have to worry about what foreigners think of you. That's your birthright as an American."

3x11 Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts
The character the show seems to have struggled with the most through it's entire run is Shirley. Brilliantly performed by Yvette Nicole Brown but defined character-wise by kids and religion in ways that were rarely allowed to be interesting. This plays out a couple of plots she was given (her ex coming back and trying to start a business) allowing Brown to utilize a few different beats. Apart from that it's a fairly humdrum episode.
""Webster's Dictionary defines"? That's the Jim Belushi of speech openings. It accomplishes nothing, but everyone keeps using it and nobody knows why."

Be back soon for 80-71. who knows what I will determine to put in there (probably at least including the one with Britta's ex and the one with the trampoline but maybe not)?

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