Glazomania: Redux – Episodes 1-5

The Classics

And the final chapter of our countdown of the best Community episodes by our very own Communists (in italics). 
 
I want to thank everyone for participating, as the more people we have the more reliable and interesting the results are. I would also like to mention I'll be posting some analysis of the results including breakdowns by gender, age, Americans versus you non-Americans (USA USA USA!), some snazzy graphics, agreeabuddy lists, and many other things. I'll probably post this in two installments when I have time. 
 
Here's a good point to mention this little detail: don't focus too much on the exact order, but the numbers instead. A score of, say, 90 with a standard deviation of 5 means the "true" score is probably somewhere in between 88.5 and 91.5. So when you see two episodes ranked close to each other, depending on how big the standard deviation is, there's probably no statistical significance between the two. Keep that in mind before you blast the Community graders for putting X above Y when it's 93.10 to 93.05.

Community3x04_0710

 
5. Modern Warfare (123) (Average Score – 93.16)

(Average Grade – 4.09/A) (Average Rank – 9.7) (High Rank – 1) (Low Rank – 45) (Standard Deviation – 5.93)

It's probably a safe bet to say that "Modern Warfare" was the first time for many viewers that Community made the jump from "pretty clever and funny little sitcom" to the type of show that Community is generally thought of as these days – an everything-goes genre-parody machine with a surprising amount of character depth and development sneaked in when you aren't looking. Combining riffs on everything from Battle Royale and The Warriors to Die Hard with genuine actions scenes, excellent writing, and an amusingly unceremonious climax (ha! ha!) to Jeff and Britta's season-long will they/won't they arc, "Modern Warfare" is a perfect encapsulation of the first season as a whole, as well as a great example of what the show can do at the top of its game.

–          Stingo

 

4. Mixology Certification (210) (Average Score – 93.56)

(Average Grade – 4.09/A) (Average Rank – 8.0) (High Rank – 1) (Low Rank – 58) (Standard Deviation – 9.74)

"Mixology Certification" is a one-of-a-kind episode of "Community," a character rich episode that serves as an outlier because it takes us out of the comfort zone of Greendale (or any single location), and our formulaic expectations, creating a fresh context where both the anxiety and kindness the study group brings out of each other can't be as easily resolved or laughed off. Through three very separate acts, it takes us from the familiar study room and the group's back-and-forth rapport, to a very foreign bar (and into the nighttime; Whenever Community scenes are set at night, the group tends to lose their armor and be more vulnerable and honest), where Troy and Annie try on more grownup personalities, and see things from a fresh, if not very invigorating, perspective. Then there's an unusually long denouement where Troy and Annie have their first adult conversation, one that's fondly remembered by most of us because it's so removed from the guarded point-of-view that have surrounded Jeff, Britta and the show up to that point. There's an honesty and a complexity of emotion to it, with Troy and Annie, who haven't shared a lot over the course of the show, simultaneously realizing that being an adult isn't as much about the freedom to do what you want, but about the melancholy, the uncertainty that remains afterwards.
 
"Mixology" comes in the midst of a four episode run (Calligraphy – AUC) that tried four very different styles, pushed to extremes with impressive verisimilitude, staking a claim for a mastery of experimentation within the show's established restraints that no other TV show has ever accomplished, or maybe even tried. "Mixology" is probably the least Community-esque of the four episodes, it's realism and soft touch leaving behind a lot of loose ends and a bittersweet feeling of uncertainty that's as topsy-turvy for me as a viewer as it is for Troy and Annie. Part of this exhilarating disorientation comes from the ossification of Jeff and Britta's cooler, more alienated point of view, as the show gently nudges us to seeing through Annie and Troy's eyes and realizing the complacency, even the cowardice that comes with the older characters' sense of superiority, and shifting to a younger, more sincere desire for a hopeful future, a full life ahead of them and a more stable notion of self-worth and self-confidence. Thus S2 of Community makes the brave choice to switch it's identification mid-stream from one journey to another, and "Mixology Certification" is the crux of that, the dizzy, dangerous feeling of that switch as it's taking place.

–          Unregistered Guy Named Eric
 

3. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (214) (Average Score – 93.89)

(Average Grade – 4.12/A) (Average Rank – 7.8) (High Rank – 1) (Low Rank – 25) (Standard Deviation – 5.65)

Is it a surprise that Advanced Dungeons and Dragons appeared this high on the list? Advanced Dungeons and Dragons demonstrates what one can do with seven actors and a really fucking great composer, and is a masterclass in tension, wit, and finesse – a true triumph when you're talking about a sitcom. The villain storyline in season 2 is fleshed out considerably here and we are almost supposed to sympathise with Pierce over how the group are treating him – while still drawing attention to the fact that he's acting like a nine year old. This episode is a marvel, a character study and a really great homage to that fantastic game, and it absolutely deserves to be here.

–          Evil Jeff
 

2. Cooperative Calligraphy (208) (Average Score – 95.29)

(Average Grade – 4.17/A+) (Average Rank – 6.3) (High Rank – 1) (Low Rank – 26) (Standard Deviation – 5.08)

"Second comes right after first." At an estimated rate of 27.2 jokes/minute, "Cooperative Calligraphy" is a notably funny episode of a notably funny show. The simplicity of the bottle format allows the show to highlight one of its best features, the dynamic table scenes, and sustain their wondrous back-and-forth for most of "Calligraphy"’s runtime. But the seemingly low-stakes pen whodunit becomes nothing less than a lens into the soul of the group and a litmus test for belonging to it.

The subsequent unraveling is beautiful. (And revealing, and funny.) Just last year, Annie had learned to be assertive, put her foot down, and make eye contact; this year, she avails herself of another mode of discourse. During Annie's ad hoc investigation, all manner of vulnerabilities are laid bare: Jeff’s efforts to stay above the personal fray by using his disaffected lawyer powers devolve into anger and childish goading (you wanna make a bet, you jerks?); Britta’s crusading corrodes under hypocrisy and the reminder of personal slights, and her shaky moral one-upmanship threatens to be outdone only by Shirley’s; Abed’s professed emotional illiteracy is found to be moderated by a certain damning notebook; and Pierce, whose subtle slide into addiction is on display here, uncomfortably reminds everyone that he may simply be the voice of their own darker impulses. (Troy, by contrast, mostly has it together, and we should have listened to him all along.)

Hilarious, yes, but the episode also gives us enough time to really probe fractures within the group, strip away veneers (and clothing), and stitch all the pieces back together into an even stronger, ghost-proof study group. The gang's decision to embrace a collective lie out of sheer love for each other is one of the most touching moments in the series. And as if being the gold standard for both Community's brand of heart and humor weren't enough, "Calligraphy" gives attentive viewers – I’m looking at you, Gwenifer – baskets aflow with Easter eggs. An instant classic.

–          snowmania

 
1.      Remedial Chaos Theory (304) (Average Score – 97.61)

(Average Grade – 4.26/A+) (Average Rank – 3.2) (High Rank – 1) (Low Rank – 10) (Standard Deviation – 3.16) 
 
(Uhhh … whoops. This is too long. But it's the number one episode. Oh well. I wrote this really fast too….) 

I only have limited space, and there are a lot of things I could say about the episode. Instead of giving a mini-review I’ll focus on why I think it’s the “best” episode and I’ll try to stay away from stumbling into a massive review. To put it simply, this is episode is number one for me because it’s an incredible example of TV comedy writing. Back in the 90’s when the Simpsons was in its prime, they would typically cram an A- and B-plot into an episode with enough space for “free jokes” – jokes not tied to the plot or any key events. The fast-paced nature of the show, however, led to problems with episode length, and the show often had to use more free jokes and padding. In season 4 you’ll notice they cycle through animation for way too long to use up more time and the full length title sequence was used more often than not. But in other seasons, particularly later ones, episodes were too crammed with jokes and plot, and it was a race to even tie up the plots carefully before the credits rolled. Once commercial time ate more of the show’s time, this was even more difficult, and “free jokes” or even B-plots were soon impossible. All it takes is 30 seconds to throw a network comedy off.  

I mention this because it’s astonishing how they managed to fit seven cohesive storylines together with a cold open to establish the setting and a relatively long tag. These aren’t random stories either; they’re interrelated and by the end you can see certain themes emerge. Of course, this isn’t a wankfest in story structure. The jokes are top-notch even by Community’s standards and many lines are now part of our lexicon – “What? It came up organically”, toilet olives and “Pizza pizza, me so hungee!” A concept episode also isn’t an excuse to do silly things and parody movies. It’s to create new situations to test character dynamics. Remedial Chaos Theory is, if anything, a character study. What happens in a timeline can be read as the social importance of the person removed – when Abed leaves, people are overly emotional; with Shirley gone, the “niceness” is removed and the group is at each other’s throats; when Troy gets the pizza, all hell breaks loose; and when Jeff finally leaves … everyone’s happy. At the beginning of the series, Jeff was the crafty jackrabbit who assembled a fake study group to get into a blond girl’s pants, and soon the group would be following him like a herd of cats to their food bowls. He was the cool lawyer, and he couldn’t shake them off. It wouldn’t take much time for Jeff to fall in love with the band of misfits, and after a couple years Jeff was starting to reassess himself as a person as the group evolved in its own ways. By the end of the season, the once too cool lawyer who cheated his way into the elite would break good. They were once dependent on him, lovingly so, but now they don't need him … he needs them.

In the last note about how sharp the writing and conception were, it’s actually a great example of “chaos theory”. The easiest way to understand chaos theory, beyond a creepy encounter with Jeff Goldblum, is to start with some initial conditions and think of how they can change an outcome. To take the example from Jurassic Park, if you drip a droplet of water on your hand, it’s difficult to determine where the water will go. This is because of the small and multiple variations on the surface of your hand. Just one fraction of an inch is enough to send the droplet trickling down the other side. It’s those initial conditions, where the water is dropped, that vastly influence the outcome: where the water goes. This is beautifully illustrated in Remedial Chaos Theory, which is far from remedial and is most appropriately an introduction. When one person leaves, the storyline changes, but this happens in an intriguing fashion. There are patterns to each timeline, and similar events occur like Jeff hitting his head (fun side note: Jeff’s reaction of a pained cry or a masculine muted response depends on where Annie is) or Britta going to the bathroom (prompted by the song’s connection to when she’s gotten stoned before, I imagine.) In one of my classes, we played around with chaos systems on computer programs. One of the most popular images to draw is a leaf or fern. You can tweak the initial conditions by a tiny amount and a new leaf is created. These leafs are all similar in structure with the same patterns, but they are each distinct. And this is Remedial Chaos Theory – tweaking one basic initial condition of the Community friends to uncover a wealth of character interaction, jokes, interesting dynamics and the best episode in the show’s history.

– Capt. Me (I forgot to sign my name!)

 

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http://www.avclub.com/articles/digital-estate-planning-the-first-chang-dynasty-in,73676/#comment-783859994 (page 758)

 

Discussion

    • 1. Mixology Certification
      5. Remedial Chaos Theory
      6. Cooperative Calligraphy
      7. Modern Warfare
      8. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

    • 1. Mixology Certification
      2. Cooperative Calligraphy
      4. Remedial Chaos Theory
      5. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      6. Modern Warfare

    • 1. Modern Warfare
      2. Cooperative Calligraphy
      7. Remedial Chaos Theory
      10. Mixology Certification
      12. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

    • So here's the entire list, in order, if anyone wants to see it in that format:
      1. Remedial Chaos Theory
      2. Cooperative Calligraphy
      3. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
      4. Mixology Certification
      5. Modern Warfare
      6. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
      7. Paradigms of Human Memory
      8. Critical Film Studies
      9. Contemporary American Poultry
      10. Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design
      11. Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking
      12. Regional Holiday Music
      13. Documentary Filmmaking: Redux
      14. Debate 109
      15. A Fistful of Paintballs
      16. Epidemiology
      17. Comparative Religion
      18. Physical Education
      19. Basic Lupine Urology
      20. Introduction to Statistics
      21. Digital Estate Planning
      22. Romantic Expressionism
      23. Pillows and Blankets
      24. Virtual Systems Analysis
      25. Curriculum Unavailable
      26. Accounting For Lawyers
      27. For a Few Paintballs More
      28. Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps
      29. Digital Exploration of Interior Design
      30. Environmental Science
      31. Anthropology 101
      32. Introduction to Finality
      33. Early 21st Century Romanticism
      34. Communication Studies
      35. Origins of Vampire Mythology
      36. The Science of Illusion
      37. The First Chang Dynasty
      38. Spanish 101
      39. Beginner Pottery
      40. Introduction to Film
      41. Pascal's Triangle Revisited
      42. The Psychology of Letting Go
      43. Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism
      44. Aerodynamics of Gender
      45. Basic Rocket Science
      46. Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples
      47. Pilot
      48. English as a Second Language
      49. Social Psychology
      50. Home Economics
      51. Studies in Modern Movements
      52. Football, Feminism and You
      53. Advanced Gay
      54. Investigative Journalism
      55. Biology 101
      56. Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts
      57. Intro to Political Science
      58. Politics of Human Sexuality
      59. Interpretive Dance
      60. The Art of Discourse
      61. Advanced Criminal Law
      62. Asian Population Studies
      63. Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts
      64. Competitive Ecology
      65. Celebrity Pharmacology
      66. Basic Genealogy
      67. Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy
      68. Course Listing Unavailable
      69. Geography of Global Conflict
      70. Contemporary Impressionists
      71. Competitive Wine Tasting

       
    • Jeez, Stephen, you didn't even include the score. DO IT AGAIN! 
       
      …Kidding. I'll have a nice fancy graph that shows all this information.
       
      Hope my "short" blurb is alright.

       
    • I thought your blurb for RCT was terrific. You really demonstrated why the episode is good (and you took Todd's point about each character causing a different tone and scenario with their absence and helped to illustrate it).

       
    •  Also include P values and confidence levels.

    • While this is very different from my own list in some places, it's pretty satisfying to see a consensus that makes so much sense to me. Especially the Top 10.

    • SpongyandBruised

      Who the fuck wants to see a list in order? Get your head out of your ass.

    • I'm in order?? You're in order!
      This whole courtroom is in order!!

    • I kinda feel like we underrated everything, because it's tough to say that anything is the 50th best episode of Community. Except for Competitive Wine Tasting. That episode sucked. 

    • Yeah, I feel like maybe I ranked Advanced Dungeons & Dragons too low (#17), but looking at my list, there isn't anything above it that I would willingly bump down. Pretty much my whole top 40 is like that.

    • Funny but it makes sense that the top 3 eps are bottle episodes, taking place entirely in one location (plus the one scene of "Pierce's lair" in AD&D) and focused entirely on the study group all together (plus Chang, Garrett and Neil in AD&D and 2 very brief appearances by the Dean in CC) with no B plots. No flashy sets, effects, or very special guests, just Community at its purest.

    • Stingo likes this observation.

    • 1. Remedial Chaos Theory
      6. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      8. Modern Warfare
      16. Cooperative Calligraphy
      20. Mixology Certification

    • GO
      COMMUNISTS
      GO

      13. Modern Warfare
      5. Mixology Cerification
      3. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      2. Cooperative Calligraphy
      1. Remedial Chaos Theory

      If only my rank for MW weren't out there, I would be so fucking normal and a trend-setter and junk.

    • I'm pretty sure you were the only one who had RCT 1 and Calligraphy 2 (I quickly looked, so maybe I skipped a name.) That seems odd considering that's where the group average placed them…. I guess it's because the people who love RCT are ones who don't love Calligraphy as much. I could look into that if I have time and search for patterns.

    • reuelb5427

      Wow, nobody put RCT below 10? That's surprising for some reason. 

      1. Remedial Chaos Theory
      4. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      5. Mixology Certification
      6. Cooperative Calligraphy
      8. Modern Warfare

    • I've always been a little interested in the fact that Mixology Certification has the largest standard deviation of any episode in the top 10. Any idea why that is?

    • Mixology is somber and pretty serious, so I could see it turning off some people.

    • Indeed. I assume it is no coincidence that Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas has the 2nd highest standard deviation in the top ten and Critical Film Studies the 3rd highest.

    • This is what I get for commenting before I read comments. What Capt. Blicero and Stephen77 said.

    • Because it's so different. I know that could be said about pretty much any episode of Community, but Mixology goes places that few other episodes of Community do. VSA, CFS, AUC, and Mixology stand out as unique episodes among an entire series of unique episodes. 

    • It wasn't even in my top 10, but I still think VSA might be the most ambitious episode of a sitcom ever. Definitely on network television.

    • VSA, DEP, and P&B are probably my top three on that list. I love ambition in TV. I love episodes that try something brand new, and go in different ways than anything before them have. I think that's why season 3 is my favorite. 

    • It's been a while since I've seen it, but I think "The Mysterious Voyage of Homer" may be a candidate for most ambitious network television sitcom episode.

    •  I don't know, VSA has a character doing an impression of another character's impression of a third character. That's pretty damn ambitious.

      I'm just gonna leave this fishstick here, because it's so cool.

    • Semi-bored torontonian That's what I'm talking about. And not just once, but multiple actors playing two different characters impersonating them, all seamlessly mixed with fairly insane and detailed costume designs and changes, great camera work and special effects, etc. All that on top of one of the most thorough probing of one character's psychology any sitcom has attempted. It really feels like something David Foster Wallace would have thought up if he wrote sitcoms. More than any Community episode or any episode of a network show I can think of, whenever I watch it, I can't believe it made in not just past the pitch room, but into production and on the air

    • Joel McHale had to play Danny Pudi as Abed's perception of Jeff Winger. The logistics of that are mind boggling. I mean, what the hell did that script look like? And what kind of notes did they get?

    •  I remember Alison Bries saying she had no idea what she played and what the episode was about.

    •  Yeah, as much as P&B and DEP were among the strangest things ever to have aired on primetime network TV, VSA may be putting them both to shame.

    • 10. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
      5.  Remedial Chaos Theory
      4. Mixology Certification
      3. Modern Warfare
      1. Cooperative Calligraphy

    • who put Mixology at 58, wtf

      25. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (low rank)
      14. Modern Warfare
      10. Remedial Chaos Theory (low rank)
      2. Cooperative Calligraphy
      1. Mixology Certification

    • You can probably guess who it was. His username describes him quite aptly!

    • My name's Josh Lyman and I'm here to say
      I'll reluctantly compromise with the NRA
      Episode lists are for fetishists so go on obsessing
      I told that Trekkie lady in Season 4 of The West Wing

    • yeah, i don't have any idea.

    • I was seriously angry when I saw that low rank.

    • I'm also quite interested in seeing if there was any significant statistical differences between Americans and non-Americans. I would also be interested in seeing differences between genders but, unfortunately, the female sample size is probably too small (and logicalnonsense doesn't count sadly).

    • Stephen, you'd better not pass this info onto Homeland Security.

    • i am quite interested as well in all the statistical information.

    • I just want each of us to defend our pick that was furthest from the group at large. I've been banging this drum for months, but I think it would be a lot of fun to get viewpoints that were far away from the hivemind. I always come away with a new appreciation for episodes I didn't like as much every time we do something like that. 

    • They were once dependent on him, lovingly so, but now they don't need him … he needs them.
      Yeah, this. It's such a melancholy ending in some ways — Jeff, momentarily forgotten with his floppy pizza, snappy quip unheard, fun kicking up in his wake — but on the other hand, it's a reiteration of the same note the series has been hitting since early in its run, simply that Jeff is becoming a Human Being in every sense of the word, one who genuinely needs people. And that's not sad, that's beautiful. (This isn't a veiled dig at the show for being repetitive, btw; and this happens to be a very lovely expression of that note embedded in an episode of all-around conceptual greatness.) 

    • I'm really glad you picked out that line because it was a last minute edit (forgot to insert it) and I actually had that single line saved in an email draft from like two months ago.

      And it's my job to be repetitive. My job. My job. Repetitiveness is my job!

    • 2. Remedial Chaos Theory
      3. Mixology Certification
      6. Cooperative Calligraphy
      8. Modern Warfare
      9. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

    • RCT's stats are insane. It's like looking at Babe Ruth's Baseball Reference page.

      Eric, I hate you and your stupidly stellar writeups. Snow, you're not much better.

      14. Modern Warfare
      6. Remedial Chaos Theory
      3. Cooperative Calligraphy
      2. Advanced D&D
      1. Mixology Certification

      When Robert Sullivan finished his top 100 sitcom episodes countdown, I looked at the top 20 and counted eight episodes that I've seen. I think that's enough to claim that those five above should be in that top 20 because I can't say any of the eight I saw come close to the quality of Community's top five.

      Big thanks to Stephen and Blicero for all this.

    • As different as your list is – and it's quite different – you somehow managed to have the same top four.

    • Whoops, I listed them wrong, but my 1-7 is pretty much a tie. They're all A+.

    • Sometimes when I feel sad, I just go to Barry Bonds's Baseball-Reference page and stare at the numbers.

    • I'll go into detail on the domination of RCT in the next big post. It's staggering.

    • 2. Modern Warfare
      6. Mixology Certification
      17. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      1. Cooperative Calligraphy
      3. Remedial Chaos Theory

    • 11. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      5. Modern Warfare
      3. Remedial Chaos Theory
      2. Mixology Certification
      1. Cooperative Calligraphy

      (My final top 5 entry was AUC)

    •  Whoa, is RCT the reverse "Epidemiology"? I don't think I've seen such a small difference between the highest and the lowest placement.

    • It is quite beloved. The next smallest difference: well, that's the lowest ranked episode, "Competitive Wine Tasting", which ranged from 59 to 71.

    •  Oh right, I forgot about that one (shocker!).

    • By the way, am I the only one hoping for an acknowledgement from TODD!!!!!! in this thread?

      Come on, Todd! You're clearly around!

    • Got any other thoughts in your noggin? Or perhaps later at night when you roam the review more?

    • Come on! At least rank all 71 episodes for us, with grades, so that we can start all over with your list incorporated. ;)

    • Stephen77 well Todd has already graded all 71 episodes so we could actually make his general ranking for the episodes.

    •  I'll read this later (too many abs on my screen right now!), but for now I just want to thank Stephen, and you, Captain, for doing this. It's such a fitting end to the Harmon era of the show, and to this board.

      It's good to go out with a bang (even if it's not right there on the floor).

    • Also, I know Capt. Blicero already extended a thank you to you guys, but I would like to extend one acknowledging each one of you 42 crazy fucks (excluding myself here; we got 43 lists) who ranked and graded every single episode of Community.

      So thank you FezDispenser, glazomaniac, nlkim, Jmunney, Evil Jeff, Capt. Blicero, reuelb, Semi-bored torontonian, Moist Towelette, Not the Real Randy Jackson, Unregistered Guy Named Eric, Eolith, SG Standard, Melted Kojak, Dr. Clash, roare, thefunjustneverends, odduck, Optramark, Los Pollos Hermanos, HectortheWellEndowed, Gauephat, snowmania, Stingo the Bandana Origami Pro, LloydBraun, tossin, menocu, Walking NPR, wedestroymyths, The Narrator Returns, thedirte, AffroSponge88, sll03, Janine Restrepo, Dr. Regina Phalange, bongoes, Scrawler, JanetSnakehole, DavetheDoucheBag, Digifreak, logicalnonsense/PolarBears, and ALittleBirdie for your participation.

      You guys rock. Thanks for making this happen!

    • reuelb5427

      So wait, PolarBears was actually logicalnonsense? That's…. something.

    • Most likely. It doesn't matter though.

    • And apologies for browbeating some of you into submitting lists but…totally worth it.

    • never apologize! we shoulda browbeaten more.

    • You're welcome! And thank you to two lunatics for putting in all of this work for our amusement. 

    • Hey, I helped too. Although my contribution didn't help much and even pissed some people off. Classic me.

    • [raises pitchfork and torch]

      rabble rabble rabble

    • You're welcome! And thank you Stephen and Capt. for the compiling! And I'll extend the thank you to everyone else!

    • sll03

      You are most welcome, good sir! Cheers to you for orchestrating this whole thing and being the biggest crazy f**k of all!

      Wait. Phrasing? Oh my!

    • That's crazy. What is WRONG with us?
      http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

      Thanks Cpt and 77! Good times had by all. I'm looking forward to the expanded details.

    • 1. Remedial Chaos Theory
      2. Modern Warfare
      4. Cooperative Calligraphy
      5. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      12. Mixology Certification

      Yeah, this is a solid batch of episodes.

      I probably spent more time trying to figure out where to put Mixology than any other episode. It was really hard to compare that one to any other episode.That and Critical Film Studies. I had them at 12 and 13, and think I underranked them

    • Thank you guys for all the work you've put into this :-)

      1. Modern Warfare
      2. Remedial Chaos Theory
      10. Cooperative Calligraphy
      14. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      22. Mixology Certification

    • 8. Modern Warfare
      4. Remedial Chaos Theory
      3. Advanced D&D
      2. Cooperative Calligraphy
      1. Mixology Certification

      My 1 and 2 often switch depending on the day and my mood. Needless to say, these are generally flawless episodes. All A+'s in my book (other than Modern Warfare, which I gave an A). 

      Thanks for this, Stephen and Blicero. I'm looking forward to seeing the agree- and disagree-a-buddy lists. I need to know who my real friends and enemies are around here *looks suspiciously at all of you*.

    • sll03

      Everybody stay within Kojak's eyelines, please; one of you is a monster.

    • Hey steph, if you're up, there's a gang of communists who love you in the communists TC room! xo

    • Oh, silly me, being the low rank on Modern Warfare. I must say, when I first saw it, I actually thought it was the worst episode yet.  So I've actually really come around on it.

      45. Modern Warfare
      11. Mixology Certification
      10. Cooperative Calligraphy
      9. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
      1. Remedial Chaos Theory

      Ye-ahhhhh, look at that teeny-tiny SD on RCT.

      I really underestimated how non-divisive AD&D was.

    • 1. Mixology Certification
      2. Remedial Chaos Theory
      3. Cooperative Calligraphy
      8. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      12. Modern Warfare

    • DavetheDouchebag

      1. Mixology Certification
      2. Cooperative Calligraphy 
      3. Remedial Chaos Theory
      5. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      33. Modern Warfare

    • 5. Mixology Certification
      1. Remedial Chaos Theory
      7. Cooperative Calligraphy
      2. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      8. Modern Warfare

      What I find most interesting here is the relative fall of Modern Warfare. It's still a great episode of television, but its novelty seemed to wear off a little as S2 unfolded (it really says something about Community's quality that an episode that would have been the high point on any other show, now looks like it was just a dress rehearsal for the heights of S2).

      And after reading the Capt.'s write up for RCT (and a good one…) I have two things to add:

      1. Modern Warfare should also be commended for an incredibly tight script, which manages to pack virtually every action movie beat in 22 minutes, do it with such great gusto, and somehow find the time to sneak in a well-earned, perfectly organic(wink, wink, nudge, nudge see what I did here?) resolution to the Jeff/Britta tension building throughout the season. Throw in Justin Lin directing the episode as a straight up action film (there's virtually no attempt to funny up a shot, which actually gives the story real tension), and I almost think we can call this one an underrated classic (I am aware of the microscopic difference between it and RCT, and yes, I am using too many parantheses).
      2. The fact that RCT has such a beautifully plotted script, has only TWO paltry nominations and no wins, is a fucking shame and pretty much invalidates any pretense to legitimacy of any award shows.

    • I am aware of the microscopic difference between it and RCT

      Actually, I think the difference between RCT and that episode is pretty significant. Ditto RCT and just about any episode, except maybe Calligraphy. It was quite easily #1.

    • RCT lost the Hugo to a Neil Gaiman scripted episode of Doctor Who. While it may have deserved to win, losing to that is at the very least acceptable, just on general principles. That said, the Emmys can fuck off. 

      I had Modern Warfare at #2. I kept looking for reasons to knock it down, or episodes to come along and beat it, but it just didn't happen. There were so many spectacular aspects to that episode that it was nearly impossible to beat. The direction, the script, the acting, the earth shaking plot advancements…it just goes on and on. At the time, it may have captured the zeitgeist due to novelty, but it is a stellar episode of television on its own.

    • The problem is, Community will end its run (has ended it, even, if you are a purist, like I am) with only a handful of nominations and no wins other than a bunch of internet contests.

      Yeah, I just Britta'd the cheer, but this needed to be said. It really is theWire of sitcoms.

    • "(wink, wink, nudge, nudge see what I did here?)"

      Repeated my write-up for the episode?

      [ducks]

    • I only gave out two A+ grades. They were to RCT and Modern Warfare. I think Modern Warfare got a little too popular too early, especially with the non-Communist crowd. Those scuzeballs.
       
      Actually, good time to ask everyone about their A+ grades, the holy grail of the AVClub.

    • Modern Warfare has ALWAYS been my favorite episode but that maybe is because I'm secretly a 14-year-old boy.

      PAINTBALL GUNS! (fyi: I've seen every episode except one live so I got the full experience of watching it normally as the season finale and everything)

    • I only gave A+ grades to my top five: RCT, Mixology, CC, AUC, and MW.

    • I gave out six A+: 

      – RCT
      – Calligraphy
      – D&D
      – AUC
      – Mixology
      – Comparitive Religion (DOES THIS HAVE A STANDARDIZED ABBREVIATION? I CAN'T JUST SAY CR, CAN I?)
      – CAP

    • I had to shorten the title, so I used Comp. Religion. Not a big help.

    •  8 A+

      Remedial Chaos Theory
      Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
      Critical Film Studies
      Documentary Filmmaking: Redux
      Mixology Certification
      Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
      Cooperative Calligraphy
      Modern Warfare

    • 8 A+ Episodes:
      Mixology Certification
      Cooperative Calligraphy
      Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
      Remedial Chaos Theory
      Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
      Modern Warfare
      Debate 109
      Romantic Expressionism

    • 6 A+ episodes

      Paradigms of Human Memory
      Remedial Chaos Theory
      Mixology Certification
      Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
      Critical Film Studies
      Cooperative Calligraphy

    • 7 A+

      RCT, AD&D, AUC, Mixology, Calligraphy, Intro to Stats, Chicken (yea!)

    • My only A+ was RCT. I originally had seven before I toughened up my grading so my lowest episode wasn't a C+ or something like that. Originally, my A+'s were RCT, Modern Warfare, P&B, Calligraphy, D&D, AUC, and DEP. 

    • Only one:
      RCT

      I think on average, I'm a more lenient grader, but when it comes to the very top, I'm actually quite stingy.

    • A+ went to my top 5

      1. RCT
      2. IDF
      3. Mixology
      4. AD&D
      5. CU

      I get the feeling that I might be the only person to have given a non-RCT season 3 episode an A+. Correct me if I'm wrong.

      EDIT: Actually, If I recall correctly, Evil Jeff gave Redux an A+. but I imagine there can't be many more, if any.

    •  I gave an A+ to Redux.

    • Latter-half season 3 episode, then. I JUST WANNA BE SPECIAL.

    • Bongoes, sll03, tossin, Eolith, and glazomaniac all gave an A+ to Digital Estate Planning; Dr. Regina Phalange, tossin, wedestroymyths and glazomaniac gave an A+ to Virtual Systems Analysis; Eolith, AffroSponge88 and ALittleBirdie gave an A+ to Pillows & Blankets; wedestroymyths gave an A+ to Curriculum Unavailable and Dr. Regina Phalange gave an A+ to Intro to Finality.

      So, yeah…….

    • Very well then. I shall retreat to my corner.

    • snowmania :

      – Comparitive Religion (DOES THIS HAVE A STANDARDIZED ABBREVIATION? I CAN'T JUST SAY CR, CAN I?)

      "Say the whole words!"   – Annie

    • RCT
      Conspiracy Theories
      CFS
      DEP
      Paradigms
      AD&D
      OVM

    • 8 A+ grades: Mixology, Remedial Chaos Theory, Calligraphy, Paradigms, RHM, Documentary Filmmaking: Redux, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Debate 109.

      I think I overrated both Regional Holiday Music and Documentary Filmmaking: Redux, though. I'd probably switch out Regional Holiday Music for Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas.

    • 1. paradigms of human memory – a+
      2. remedial chaos theory – a+
      3. virtual systems – analysis – a+
      4. physical education – a+
      5. the psychology of letting go – a+
      6. modern warfare – a+
      7. mixology certificate – a+
      8. critical film studies – a+
      9. digital estate planning – a+
      10. contemporary american poultry – a+
      11. pascal's triangle revisited – a+

      however, the grades were mostly just based on rank. i woulda given a+s to the top 30 otherwise.

      (re: comparative religion: i abbreviate it "comp relg")

    • I only gave out three A+ grades: Modern Warfare, Remedial Chaos Theory, and Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas. 

    • sll03

      I gave 11 episodes an A+. I guess I just like liking things.

      Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
      Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design
      Cooperative Calligraphy
      Debate 109
      Digital Estate Planning
      Fistful of Paintballs
      Mixology Certification
      Modern Warfare
      Remedial Chaos Theory
      Romantic Expressionism

      Special shout-out to glazomaniac for being my "number of A+ grades" agreeabuddy! (That's a thing, right?)

       
    • reuelb5427

      1 – Remedial Chaos Theory – 304 – A+
      2 – Documentary Filmmaking: Redux – 308 – A+
      3 – A Fistful of Paintballs – 223 – A+
      4 – Advanced Dungeons & Dragons – 214 – A+ 
      5 – Mixology Certification – 210 – A+
      6 – Cooperative Calligraphy – 208 – A+

    • 11 A+'s, 12 A's

      I haven't actually graded any show per episode like I've done Community, so I have no idea how this compares to how much I like other shows.  But I think it might be a clear winner, at least among sitcoms.

    • I wonder if the people who saw MW when it aired tended to place it higher in their rankings? I've always liked this episode, but I came to Community late and naturally it didn't have the same impact on me as I imagine it did on someone who'd been following the show since the beginning. There was a less-easily-qualifiable (is that a word?) emotional or nostalgic factor that I used to help me rank episodes that I otherwise saw as roughly equal, and I think MW might have suffered slightly in my ratings because I didn't have that experience of, "wow, this was that episode that changed everything!"

      Edit: I should clarify that in the beginning I watched the show out of order because my stealth illegal internet TV-watching was not as honed as it is today, and I mixed the episodes I could easily stream with what was being broadcast then, and the result was a jumble. I don't know how many yahoos had my non-chronological experience. But even if you went back and watched it in order there's a good chance you have some weight of expectation on you, knowing what the show is capable of, and so it was still a different experience than watching in real time.

    •  I saw it when it aired, and I only have it at #8.

    • One of the things I really wanted to do was include when people started watching the series (during season 2, in between season 1 and 2, etc.) to see if there are any differences anywhere, but I thought of that a little after people started sending in lists.

      EDIT: Only saw season 3 live, and I had Modern Warfare number 2.

    • I saw it when it first aired and it was in the lower half of my top 10. 

    • #5 for me, saw it when it aired. I'll admit that the impact it had on me at the time was a factor in its ranking now.

      That and I didn't want four of my top five to be the CC through AUC stretch.

    • Modern Warfare: #1

      Saw it live.

    • I saw it live, but I definitely see how somebody who saw it then, when it was the first truly genre bending, mind blowing episode of Community, could easily hold it in higher esteem than someone who took the "Craig J Clark Becomes One of You" approach.  

    • I watched it when it aired and was blown away and I had it 6th in Glazomania: Primo but it somehow fell to 14 this time. I don't really have an explanation other than I must have gotten carried away with other episodes.

    • Well, I watched it from the beginning, and I was the low rank for MW.  Take from that what you will.

    • i put it at 6th. i watched the show late, but i watched it in a vacuum, in order, so i still got hit with the "holy fuck" factor.

    • Same here, to literally everything glaz just said.

    • I'd only seen S1 episodes sporadically as they aired, but caught MW live and fell head over heels, butt-crazy in love with Community. So for partly sentimental reasons, it will always be my #1.

    • I feel similarly about Modern Warfare (I jumped in during Season 2). I think it's a fantastic episode that really set the bar for the show in a lot of ways – but I think it's been topped. I also think Contemporary American Poultry is a slightly better episode…

    • Saw it live and put it at #1.  I wouldn't actually say it's my favorite, but everything about is so tight and perfect, from character development to seamless action movie references.

    • sll03

      I watched MW live with the extra advantage of being completely unexposed to any promotional images or footage; the episode threw me for, quite possibly, the best metaphorical loop ever. It may not be my favourite (I ranked it at #5) but I would be lying if I said the memory of that first viewing doesn't afford it a special place in my Community heart.

    • sll03

      7. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
      6. Remedial Chaos Theory
      5. Modern Warfare
      3. Mixology Certification
      1. Cooperative Calligraphy

      Confession: I love optimistic episodes. I unabashedly, unreservedly, unreasonably love them. With this in mind, one might wonder why I have ranked Mixology so high – it is the "sad" episode, after all. Well, bollocks to that, says I. It isn't sad; it's honest.

      Though it may sound excessively preachy and patronizing, we all know it to be true: life isn't perfect. There are highs and lows, fortunes and misfortunes, and – perhaps most frustratingly of all – certainties and uncertainties. As Eric has already beautifully explained (the dude has a serious case of eloquence, amirite?) Mixology is about reconciling this rather daunting realization. How do the writers go about doing so? By exposing the very serious cracks in each character's life, of course: Shirley is a recovering alcoholic; Pierce is a lonely, proud old man who refuses help when he needs it; Abed is, and probably always will be, desperate to make human connections; Annie doesn't know who she is or what she wants; Troy yearns to grow up, but hasn't any idea how; and Jeff and Britta are just as clueless as everybody else. Basically, it's a regular sunshine, lollipops and rainbow fest! That sounds facetious, but if you think about, it really is. Call me naive or crazy (full disclosure: it's probably both) but I think true optimism (not the cookie cutter variety that lesser shows try to sell you at bulk value in place of actual character investment) can only come from rising above and seeing past the unknown. Why do we love the Troy/Annie hallway conversation? It isn't because we're happy to see Annie so utterly confused and lost in that moment; it's because we're happy to imagine what wonderful things may come after that moment. We find the good in the possibilities – in the knowledge that in spite of whatever happens, everything might still be okay. If that isn't optimistic, I don't know what is.

      And this isn't even my favourite episode.

      Side Note: An infinite amount of thanks to Captain and Stephen for putting this list together! Everything was just so incredibly well done – I cannot imagine how much time and effort it required. You guys are aces!

    • The whole thing about how you can only find the highs and true happiness after experiencing the lows, the yin-yang balance of life, submerging into the horrors of life only to arise stronger than ever, how death only breeds life, and only in defeat do we truly win, is a very Jung-ian viewpoint on storytelling, which is Harmon's approach.
       
      The lists are easy to input when they're formatted correctly by the grader. The time sink was me playing around with the grades for fun.

    • sll03

      That Dan Harmon is a smart fella.

      Oh Captain. You and your tendency to play around with things for fun.

    • And it really required next to no effort on my part. Most of it was just getting the write-ups in order and organizing the posts, for me. There was those couple days, however, where I didn't think you had calculated the agreeabuddies scores based on rank and I didn't know how to do them in an efficient manner, so I stayed up until 4 AM doing them. Of course, it turned out there was a more efficient way and that you had it already done afterall. So that time = wasted.

      And that wasted time is the most work I put into this.

    • Great post, Steph. I couldn't agree more. I've never found Mixology to be necessarily a "sad" episode of Community, like so many other people, because of that optimism you discuss. In fact, I find the Troy/Annie hallway scene more uplifting and heartwarming than anything the show has ever done for those reasons you describe.

      The greatest optimism of all finds light at the end of the tunnel. But first you have to go through the tunnel. Hell, you may not even leave it; but the great optimism then is the hope you cling onto that one day you will.

      When it comes to storytelling, I've said this before and I'll say it again: you have to put your characters through a genuine struggle for that moment when the lights breaks through to be truly a cathartic and rewarding experience. It's nice when there's sunshine all the time (and that's why I can still love stuff like Ben & Kate still) but storytelling, like in "Mixology Certification" or "And Maggie Makes Three", reaches a whole other level when it wades you through the darkness to get to that moment of sunshine and optimism. As you said: facing the darkness and finding that light, like shows like Community and The Simpsons were willing to do, is a much greater optimism than just ignoring the darkness.

    • Thanks for the mighty effort, Capt and 7's! Sorry I didn't participate in the discussions more. In my defence, most were posted after I had gone to sleep!

      Looking over the whole list, these are my claim-to-fames:

      Highest, or co-highest for –

      1. Cooperative Calligraphy
      3. Contemporary American Poultry
      14. Studies in Modern Movement

      Lowest, or co-lowest for – 

      32. Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design
      69. Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism 
      71. Biology 101

    • My top five:
      1. "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design"A+ (10)
      2. "Paradigms of Human Memory" A+ (7)
      3. "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" A+ (3)
      4. "Epidemiology" A+ (16)
      5. "Contemporary American Poultry" A+ (9)

      Where I had the top five:
      8. "Remedial Chaos Theory" A+ (1)
      14. "Cooperative Calligraphy" A (2)
      3. "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" A+ (3)
      25. "Mixology Certification" A- (4)
      7. "Modern Warfare" A+ (5)

      Biggest Under-rank:
      67. Curriculum Unavailable C- (25)

      Biggest over-rank:
      20. Studies in Modern Movement A (51)

      8 A+s and 8 As

    • My top five:
      1. Mixology Certification A+
      2. Critical Film Studies A+
      3. Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design A+
      4. Paradigms of Human Memory A+
      5. Remedial Chaos Theory A+

      Biggest Under-ranks:

      55. Pillows and Blankets (23)
      33. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas (6)
      57. Origins of Vampire Mythology (35)
      40. Curriculum Unavailable (25)

      Biggest Over-ranks:

      32. Asian Population Studies (63)
      11. Communication Studies (34)  

      I gave out 10 A+'s and 11 A's

    • My top five:
      1. Mixology Certification A+
      2. Cooperative Calligraphy A+
      3. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas A+
      4. Remedial Chaos Theory A+
      5. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons A+

      Bigger under-rank:
      68. Introduction to Finality (32) (Difference – 36)

      Biggest over-rank:
      18. English as a Second Language (48) (Difference – 30)
      22. Football, Feminism and You (52) (Difference – 30)

    • FF&Y was my #2 over-rank
      #24 "Football, Feminism and You" B+ (52)

    • Ooh! This is information in which I find myself interested.

      My top five:

      1. Cooperative Calligraphy
      2. Mixology Certification
      3. Remedial Chaos Theory
      4. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
      5. Modern Warfare

      Biggest under-rank:

      Virtual Systems Analysis (60) (difference of 36)

      Biggest over-rank:

      Investigative Journalism (10) (difference of 44)

      And, as per Fez's post above/below:

      Highest/co-highest for:

      Applied Anthro. & Culinary Arts (32)
      Cooperative Calligraphy (1)

      Lowest/co-lowest for:

      Competitive Wine Tasting (71)
      Interpretive Dance (69)
      Advanced Gay (66)

    • My top five:

      1. Remedial Chaos Theory (1)
      2. Paradigms of Human Memory (7)
      3. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas (6)
      4. Epidemiology (16)
      5. Pillows and Blankets (23)

      Biggest under-rank:

      71. Accounting for Lawyers (26) (difference of 45)

      Biggest over-rank:

      20. Course Listing Unavailable (68) (difference of 48)

      Board highs on:

      20. CLU (68) (+48)

      35. Custody Law and Eastern European Democracy (67) (+32)

      Board lows on:

      26. Cooperative Calligraphy (2) (-24)
      42. Contemporary American Poultry (9) (-33)
      61. Romantic Expressionism (22) (-39)
      65. Social Psychology (49) (-16)
      66. The Science of Illusion (36) (-30)
      67. Introduction to Film (40) (-27)
      70. Beginner Pottery (39) (-31)
      71. AfL (26) (-45)

    • Oh no! Accounting for Lawyers hate?
      http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

      LOVE that episode. I may have been its high mark at #11.

    • I think there was a lot of hubbub at the time–I stand by that one, and I'm planning on posting a Why I Voted (or something) post explaining why after the last batch of voting pattern analyses.
       
      (Also, "hate" is a strong word…as has been mentioned over and over in the listing process, a low-ranked Community episode stll beats just about everything else on TV.  I think my biggest problem with the episode, and I'll elaborate on this when I give my defense of my placement, was the guest star, and the fact that I was just bored with the episode.  Two!  My two biggest problems were Drew Carey, and boredom.  And Chang.  Among my many issues with the episode were Drew Carey, general boredom, and Chang.)

    • Biggest overrank: 
      Interpretive Dance (B+): 32 vs. 57 (+25)

      Biggest underrank:
      Physical Education (B): 58 vs. 18 (-40)

      Average off-ranking: 8.2 ranks

    • shout out to LloydBraun Janine Restrepo Stephen77 davethedouchebag melted kojak and roare – the Mixology at number 1 club.  even at number 4 I wish it was higher.

    • DavetheDoucheBag had it #1 too. There were others as well.