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)?

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Top 100 (97) Community Countdown. 97 - 91.


The show is done (barring a resurrection through Hulu or some other means). I'm never going to finish reviewing all the episodes in order. So instead I've decided to do a countdown of all episodes from worst to best. A (not quite) Top 100. 
A note about this list: it's going to be fairly arbitrary, and had I compiled it another day certain episodes would no doubt be in a different order. I am not a season 4 hater by any means but I certainly find them the weakest for the most part so the first bunch on here will be mostly from that year. Also I have not yet rewatched any of season 5, so they have not had a chance to seep in as much as the others and possibly would be judged a little harsher than I will in a years time or so. So, here we go.

4x09. Intro to Felt Surrogacy
To be honest I think the one I am putting at position 96 is probably worse but I wanted to start on a slightly controversial note to kick off discussions, as this ep. seems liked out there by a few people. The whole thing strains too hard to hit the emotional beats (seasons 4 and to lesser extent 5, hit this problem a lot) whilst riffing off a much stronger episode. Even here though, there is stuff to like. It never relaxed into trying to appeal to more people. The gags aren't as strong, the heart is not as tugged but it's clearly trying, the cast are game and the puppets are lovely, if a bit pointless.
"The level to which we respect you as a political activist has definitely not changed."

4x04 Alternative History of the German Invasion
Because nobody demanded it - the Germans (well some) are back. Like some of the season 2 and 3 eps this positions the study group as having a horrible influence. Which can work as an idea but as ever with the fourth year it doesn't quite gel together. 
"Don't worry. If there is one thing Germans don't do, it's hold a grudge."

4x07 Economics of Marine Biology
I might be a little harsh on this one, and suspect my 94 will be many peoples choice for worst but this one was more annoying by being generally bland. It has some fun ideas but I barely remember anything. Maybe the last time the show got anything out of the Pierce/Jeff dynamic
"get your damn hands off my Let’s,”

4x03 Conventions of Space and Time
Poor in a host of ways, it plays out in dull fashion the Jeff and Annie of it all and Troy and Abed torn asunder again. But i still like the setting and there's a few good gags in there. And I still like Inspector Spacetime no matter how played out it may have felt by this point.
"I love doughnuts."

4x13 Advanced Introduction to Finality
The problem with this episode is the character revelations are too insular and tied to one person. The show had already done sequels to fan loved ideas but the references here feel more shallow. Thankfully the show did not end on this slightly bum note.
"Congratulations, Jeffrey. You worked hard not to work hard to earn that degree."

5x13 Basic Sandwich
Unfortunately this one did. Feeling like a fourth season episode where the wackiness (involving hidden treasure and computer hermits) didn't feel earned and a major moment of character love leaves out one of the core remaining cast (though she does get a lovely bit Jonathan Banks to try and make up for it). It's still unlike anything else on teevee, and i will always applaud it for that but this is far from the show's best and sadly now sits as the last.
"Depends on what fails!"

4x06 Advanced Documentary Filmmaking 
Ah, the Changnesia storyline. The show has often struggled with how to play Chang, frequently going to the grotesquely over the top. This manages some nice humanising in the third act but still feels both undercooked and over egged. It gets, like the documentary eps before this, a few good digs at the format.
Science tells us that hitting his head could only cure him if hitting his head was the original cause,

So there is the first instalment of my Community Countdown. The next run of ten episodes will include a bit more stuff that is not season 4. As we've almost run out, and a couple of them will be placed higher than 81. But which ones? We shall see.