Last week, I watched 'Community' for the first time in a long time. And even though I was only partly caught up on the show's mythology -- I'd stopped checking in on the show about midway through season 2, but I'd read various stories about it since then -- I greatly enjoyed 'Remedial Chaos Theory.'
But my schedule in this timeline and every other one won't allow me to go back and watch all the episodes that I haven't already seen. So, dear readers, can you recommend a couple of your all-time favorite 'Community' outings?
I should add a few notes to help you refine your recommendations, if you'll indulge me. As AV Club critic Todd VanDerWerff has noted, there tend to be two kinds of 'Community' episodes: the high-concept gambits/homages and the "normal" episodes, for lack of a better adjective.
I may be the one 'Community' viewer who doesn't have a particular preference when it comes to those broadly defined categories. When an episode's meta-commentary aspects are intrusive and/or the show continually points out its homage elements, I tend to lose interest, whether it's a high-concept episode or not. For me, there has to be something at stake for the characters, and I have to be on board with at least a few characters' goals for me to get fully invested in an episode of the show. When 'Community' is clinically dissecting something in pop culture and the characters don't seem at least a little bit three-dimensional, well, that's when the show tends to lose me.
But 'Remedial Chaos Theory' was brilliant because there was a huge gimmick at the heart of it, but it was a wonderfully executed, structurally ambitious half-hour that made me care about these people and ponder about what each one of them brought to the study group. The giddy ambitions of 'Crisis on Infinite Earthas' (a hilarious fan-created name for the episode) were tied to rather sweet emotional themes about friendship, insecurity and fitting in. Though it all took place in a very heightened reality (there was a self-consciousness to the episode that made me think of the the sitcom spoof in the 'Supernatural' episode 'Changing Channels'), seeing what transpired in all those different versions of reality was both deliriously entertaining and emotionally grounded.
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed enjoying 'Community.' So many people I know love the show and it's obviously been a critical favorite forever. But everybody has his or her preferences, and though there are exceptions, of course, the shows I tend to favor aren't usually obsessed with meta-commentary and often aim for emotional immediacy and aesthetic realism. Obviously, 'Community' doesn't do all those things all the time, but, in its first season and a half, it drew attention to the artificiality of the sitcom genre often enough to make me put the show in the "Has its merits but just not for me" category.
I was delighted to find that, even though I hadn't watched the show in a while and even though the episode featured a big, risky gambit, I was very much entertained by 'Chaos' (and I highly recommend Todd's writeup of the episode; he does a great job of breaking down what made it so fun). Kudos to the cast and crew for pulling off such an ambitious story, and a tip o' the hat to writer Chris McKenna for making the timelines easy to follow and yet very cleverly interconnected.
All right, let's get back to the part where I ask for your help. If you feel inclined to do so, please list in the comment area a few 'Community' episodes that you highly recommend (and keep in mind that I've seen about half of the first season and part of the second; also, I don't mind if an episode has a gimmick, but that I tend to respond most enthusiastically to character-focused, emotionally infused outings). By the way, feel free to also recommend another show that I don't write about much. If you have a favorite program you think I should be watching, let me know below (and let's keep those recommendations to shows that are on the air now).
In your recommendations, you don't have to mention the following episodes -- they've already been recommended (and thanks to Todd, Scott Tobias and Ghoti00 on Twitter for listing their favorite episodes):
* 'Cooperative Calligraphy'
* 'Mixology Certification'
* 'Advanced Dungeons and Dragons'
* 'Remedial Chaos Theory' (which I've seen, obviously)
* 'Critical Film Studies'
* 'Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design'
* 'Paradigms of Human Memory' (I've already seen this, actually)
* 'Modern Warfare' (I've seen it)
* 'Social Psychology'
* 'Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking'
And, just for grins, here are some details on Troy and Abed's apartment and here's the whole 'Chaos' episode.
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