Glazomania: Redux – Episodes 45-50

The Duncan Principle Episodes (Presented by Let's Potato Chips)

What does the Duncan Principle have to do with these episodes? Are these episodes psychology experiments? Not to my knowledge, but it would explain NBC's erratic schedule. We're still in the "below average" episode range, yet there's still so much to love. Dr. Ian Duncan, the favorite non-Greendale seven character, is featured in a few of these episode. This might be run-of-the-mill Community, but there's a reason we all consider it a favorite.

Community1x08_0032

50. Home Economics (108) (Average Score – 67.65) (Average Grade – 2.98/B) (Average Rank – 45.0) (High Rank – 22) (Low Rank – 68) (Standard Deviation – 0.594)
“Home Economics” is simply a fun episode. Watching it is like opening a time capsule to an older, simpler Community: the plots are unambitious, the colors brighter, and the characters even get to go outside! The show was still very much in its infancy at this point, and while it does retain some of the flaws of early season one, most notably the oft-criticized and ultimately dropped romance between Jeff and Britta and a few overly-broad jokes, the lack of melodrama and the episode's general earnestness mostly redeem the missteps. Also fun to see is a large number of supporting characters, including the first appearances of Patton Oswalt's nurse and Abed's Polish friend Pavel. Along with the numerous exterior shots, they contribute to the sense of Greendale being an actual, vibrant school, that has been somewhat lost in more recent seasons. Despite being far from perfect in any sense, the writing, acting, and direction of “Home Economics” has such a palpable sense of enthusiasm that it's impossible not to like.
–         Gauephat
 
49. Social Psychology (104) (Average Score – 67.70) (Average Grade – 2.98/B) (Average Rank – 46.4) (High Rank – 16) (Low Rank – 65) (Standard Deviation – 0.539)
At this point, Community is in the process of finding its rhythm and fleshing out its characters, so nothing particularly exciting or revealing occurs here.  Still, this episode does a competent job developing its characters further: Shirley isn't just a well mannered mousey (ex-)housewife, she's a pot-stirrer too; Britta is a woman refreshingly unobsessed with serious relationships; and Abed quietly establishes himself as a master manipulator.  Overall, a fun episode filled with a few pretty great moments, mainly revolving around The Duncan Principle, but it offers only a glimpse of the show's potential.
–         tossin
 
48. Pilot (101) (Average Score – 67.94) (Average Grade – 2.99/B) (Average Rank – 44.9) (High Rank – 15) (Low Rank – 70) (Standard Deviation – 0.563)
Four years ago, I watched the pilot's original broadcast on NBC and it hooked me easily. Reasons: Likable dick lead, a blond to rival then-hottest-woman-on-TV-Yvonne Strahovski (who is still pretty damn hot), John Oliver, attractively shot scenes and settings, and a clear and instant chemistry between the cast reflected by the quick and clever dialogue.  It does everything you can ask of a sitcom pilot and does it well.  So why isn't it higher in the rankings?  Well, it only does what's asked.  Community shortly morphs into a greater show and it does that by eschewing expectations.  The pilot sets the foundation for the rest of the series by introducing its ensemble cast as typical sitcom archetypes to be disassembled later and by skimming on the plot.  The result is enjoyable, but orthodox.
–         tossin
 
47. English as a Second Language (124) (Average Score – 67.99) (Average Grade – 3.00/B) (Average Rank – 43.7) (High Rank – 13) (Low Rank – 67) (Standard Deviation – 0.652)
Like every episode in this range, this one has some great stuff, it’s just that there are 46 episodes we love better.   On one hand, this episode serves as a nice bookend to the Spanish class.  While it’s dwarfed by the relationship upheaval and emotional beats in the surrounding episodes—Modern Warfare and Pascal’s Triangle Revisited–it’s a great slice of the show’s more everyday campus life.  Pierce doing something nice for the group in the way he knows how and the start of Troy’s plumbing arc are little pieces of bigger arcs that will be significant over the next two seasons.  On the flipside, it can feel a bit plot-heavy, moving the pieces around between one gigantic episode and another.  And because of that, it can feel the characters are doing things that come out of nowhere.  No one suffers from this more than Annie.  It’s the start of a run of schizophrenia on her part: she reveals Chang’s secret so that they’ll retake the class and keep the group together but a couple episodes later she’ll run off as a hacky sack groupie….but she’ll come back….but a few episodes later she’ll sabotage the rocket “launch.”    This is an episode which remains rich with hilarious quotables—pronouncing "guitar" like a hilbilly and the Disney Face spring to mind—but in the end, this episode is perhaps pizza where it’s a bit too easy to pick out the anchovies or the sausage or the peppers.  Delicious still, but not as flawlessly blended as the best this show has to offer.
–         Walking NPR
 
46. Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples (205) (Average Score – 68.78) (Average Grade – 3.03/B) (Average Rank – 41.4) (High Rank – 11) (Low Rank – 71) (Standard Deviation – 0.781)
Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples is a mixed bag of an episode. On one hand, you have the ABED plot. It’s a clever plot, and upon examination, it becomes clear how the writers took great care to interconnect the stories of Abed and Shirley and draw parallels to the story of Jesus. Though this part of the episode gets a bit caught up in its own meta-textuality, it has some funny bits (“I heard the deleted scenes are the scenes, and the scenes are the deleted scenes!”) and manages to be an unconventional, but mostly enjoyable A-plot. The comparative weakness of the episode comes from the B-plot, in which Pierce, feeling unappreciated by the group, finds himself hanging out with the older “hipsters” of Greendale. This plot, which is largely cartoonish in both Pierce’s acting out against the group and in the stereotypical senile actions of the hipsters themselves, comes across as light and played-straight sitcom fare, and suffers when placed right alongside the tonally opposite A-plot. Perhaps it would’ve fared better inserted into a lighter episode, but the jarring clash between the two parts brings the episode down as a whole.
–         Dr. Clash
 
45. Basic Rocket Science (204) (Average Score – 68.90) (Average Grade –
3.03/B) (Average Rank – 43.3) (High Rank – 10) (Low Rank – 67) (Standard Deviation – 0.567)
Ah, Basic Rocket Science. It's a great concept, of course, and as I understand was hyped considerably before the premiere of the second season, but man, this was kind of an anti-climax. The thing is, there is some great stuff here. The entire cavalcade of KFC jokes (including the genius S.A.N.D.E.R.S.) hit the right spot and are for all intents and purposes hilarious. Even Chang gets some good lines in (the show used him in short bursts here, demonstrating his comic ability to be there and gone in a flash). But the character stuff with Annie is some of the worst in the show's history, demonstrating for the first time the perhaps inability to write a character such as Annie. Still, this is an extremely fun episode, and gave birth to one of the show's longest standing background gag's, the anus flag. Crude visual gag, or subtle, childish finger to the networks?
–         Evil Jeff
 
71 – 63: The Opposite of Batman Episodes
62 – 57: Broken Toys
56 – 51: Pizza is Pizza

 

18 LIKES

http://www.avclub.com/articles/digital-estate-planning-the-first-chang-dynasty-in,73676/#comment-753777069 (page 703)

 

Discussion:

  • you seem to have gotten tossin's blurbs on the wrong episodes.

     
  • It wasn't me, but I fixed it. STOP BLAMING ME FOR EVERYTHING GOSH.

     
  • Oh shit. It totally wasn't me who made that mistake!

  • also, it's a crime that messianic myths is this low.

     
  • It's also a crime that English as a Second Language and Social Psychology are this low.

  • I'm honestly shocked English as a Second Language is this low. I've always thought it was a perfect way to cap off the first season "arc". (I'm not really a big Pascal's fan, which I know is kind of unpopular around here). I also think it's a subtly important episode in the formation of the group as a "family".

     
  • I think it's certainly a better episode than Pascal's. In retrospect, I think I overrated Pascal's because Janine's review was so good and convincing. Walking NPR criticizes "English as a Second Language" for making Annie's characterization schizophrenic but up to that point everything Annie does in this episode is perfectly in character. It's "Pascal's Triangle Revisited" where Annie's characterization starts to become real fickle. I like "Pascal's" but I blame that episode, not ESL, for this issue.

     
  • Yeah, I think Pascal's is the beginning of iffy characterization for Annie. English as a Second Language is actually one of my favorite Annie episodes. Her fear of the group splitting up is really relatable and kind of sad.

    I actually think Pascal's has very problematic characterization for other characters too – mainly Jeff and especially Britta. I think it's a good, entertaining episode but they definitely bend the characters a bit to make a "BIG SEASON FINALE!!!".

     
  • What about the characterization is problematic? I feel like it's all there.

     
  • I've always kind of felt like Annie's sudden decision to leave Greendale was…jarring? Especially after the previous episode. She was so concerned the group wouldn't be friends after this semester, but she was ready to run off with Vaugn? It's never quite sat right with me. I've also always been a little iffy on Britta saying "I love you" to Jeff. 

    On further thought, I actually think the bigger problem I have with is that the Jeff/Annie kiss doesn't feel like a satisfying end to the season. I think English as a Second Language does that much better, and could've worked really well as the season finale. It makes it even worse that the show didn't do anything overly interesting with it in Season 2, so it just feels like they wanted a "big" moment for the sake of having a "big" moment, rather than to say anything meaningful about either of the characters in that moment. 

     
  • I can't stand Pascal's Triangle, so obviously I like ESL more.

  • reuelb5427

    Yeah, I don't understand why it's that low, either. I had it ranked 14th. For the most part, nothing about that episode bothers me at all.

  • i had it at 18th, though everything from about 11 to 25 coulda been switched around without being too far off.

  • I found all the Abed-Messianic-fake Kaufman jokes to be very dull and unfunny. I like Kaufman, I like Shirley and Abed having an episode together, but I don't care for the episode.

  • But I do love the Ancient Peoples plot. Especially the true geriatrics that make Pierce and Leonard look like spry whippersnappers. That take of the old lady "sprinting" away from the car is hilarious.

  • i think of messianic myths the way i do mixology: the meat of it is in the character interaction. the jokes, which i mostly like, are secondary. that said, i disagree with the write up strongly about the pierce-plot.

  • Yea I don't agree with Clash's take on the hipster plot either. Speaking of images that stick in my head, here's another:http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

  • @glazomaniac (can't tag you) LloydBraun Yeah, that's sort of why I was worried about doing these write-ups from an objective point of view, since I was almost positive that people who had this episode ranked similarly would probably feel differently about different parts of the episode. That's just my personal take, but I get why people feel the other way around about it.

  • Messianic Myths is an episode that I enjoy, but I can see why people wouldn't; it's in the same category for me as The Art of Discourse.

  • oooh I know Stephen77  doesn't like ESL being this low. 

  • I think a lot of these are better than OVM or Foosball, especially the season 1 episodes other than Pilot maybe. 

  • I totally agree. I actually have the Pilot ahead of them as well. OVM and Foosball are my two lowest episodes left after Intro to Finality and First Chang Dynasty.

  • Stephen77 I think both of those episodes (OVM and Foosball) have been a bit overrated because they are in season 3.  They're both season 1 style group hijinx episodes that just aren't done as well in my opinion.   I mean, really, there is no way OVM is better than Home Economics. 

  • LPH, I remember you liking OVM.

  • I liked it too, especially for a Season 3 "normal" episode. It just doesn't stack up to the "normal" episodes of prior seasons.

  • I think I placed Basic Rocket Science fairly high on high list (I think in the top 20). I loved everything about it. The adventure aspect especially. When I watched this, I never thought of anything of the Annie characterization and I'm still not bothered by it. I'm just a girl who likes space ships (to be specific, space simulators)

  • I liked Rocket Science more than most precisely because it was the only one to confront the fact that Greendale is a crappy school and she should be transferring. The onus was on the other episodes to continue that thread (to me). Instead Chang almost got Shirley pregnant, which was great television. 
     
    I think of it like another magical Greendale surprise like the hidden trampoline. There's an RV in the parking lot, and it's a space simulator. Of course it is. It reminds me of a Rugrats episode "Destination Moon" where the babies climb into an RV and think it's a rocket ship. (To be fair, it was one of those slick silver airstream's.)

  • I kinda think the onus was on the prior episodes as well actually. I think there needed to be build up, after what happened in Pascal's, of Annie growing more and more disconcerted with Greendale to lead to the moment here but otherwise I agree. The fact that it's only 54 on my list is merely because I think 53 episodes are even better.

  • By that point in the show, Annie had already accepted that Greendale was where she belonged. There wasn't any reason for her to abruptly go back on that decision except that the plot demanded it.

  • Well, what's worse? Completely ignoring an obvious plot or doing one episode where it doesn't come up again?  
     
    I'm really not trying to defend Annie's traitor move. What I like about the episode is the fact that a crappy RV becomes a rocket ship, it gets towed, and the product placement is unequaled this side of Subway getting fingered. I guess you could say the plot kinda comes out of nowhere, but it makes sense given that Annie is a great student and the school is a toilet. In reality, she should have transferred as soon as her grades were good again. The fact that she's staying in a horrible school happens more on TV than real life. (But they're a family now, blah blah.) 
     
    It's easy to say this in hindsight, but it would have been better to drop the Shirley subplot in favor of Annie making the best of a crappy school situation and becoming a leader, while Chang deals with an adjustment to being a student and trades jokes with Duncan, and Shirley is fleshed out by exploring her background before she was a mother (since the difficulty was that Harmon didn't know what to do with a Christian mother). It's easy to say this in hindsight, however. 
     
    So yeah, they didn't continue Annie's loathing of the school, but I think it's more of a plot hole of not broaching the subject. She's a high-achiever, and a four-year degree from a community college? And it's not even a good community college? She needs to think about her future, not Jeff's abs.

    Edit:
    People usually transfer after two years of community college when they've taken a bunch of general classes, so it would have been good timing.

  • It has always really bothered me that Annie is so content to be at Greendale, even after her decision to stay in Pascal's. I don't buy it. I really do want to see some turmoil there.

  • It's the first episode to be really hyped and I really didn't like the idea of doing a themed just to do it (I still don't), so the contrived Annie characterization was definitely jarring. Over time it has improved by leaps and bounds because I love the adventure aspect, production value (the colors really pop and the KFC placement is ingenious), and the overarching theme of patriotism feels earnest.

  • Agreed. Compared to another episode that felt like it was shoehorning a theme (For a Few Paintballs More) it has held up really well

  • Here's where I had these episodes:
    54. Basic Rocket Science
    50. Pilot
    46. Home Economics
    40. Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples
    31. Social Psychology
    18. English as a Second Language

    I also think Social Psychology may very well be the absolute funniest episode of the series for me.

  • 51. Messianic Myths
    49. English as a Second Language
    39. Pilot
    27. BSR
    24. Home Economics
    16. Social Psychology

  • 56. Basic Rocket Science
    45.Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples
    43. Social Psychology
    40. Home Economics
    36. Pilot
    13. English as a Second Language

    If we're going on a funniest episode tangent, I think The Politics of Human Sexuality takes it for me. That episode is crammed to the gills with jokes.

  • the question is, what is the dean doing in the dark with that model penis that he knows you can't tell the difference?

  • 70. Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples
    56. English as a Second Language
    37. Pilot
    35. Home Economics
    27. Social Psychology

    I'd love to write a scathing takedown of MMaAP (only one of two episodes I downright loathe) right now, but I'm way too tired. I'll just say that the Ancient Peoples part of the episode is funny enough, but I think the Messianic Myths portion is very ungenerous towards both Abed and Shirley.

  • There was a great little discussion in our Home Economics review about the "you're a huge nerd" line. There's depth to these episodes that can get overlooked.
    http://aclockworkoffense.com/g…

  • I didn't have the pilot last! For some reason I really thought I would – I had it at 68 – and it was in my bottom clump of episodes that I really hated. I just really dislike comedy pilots in general. I tend to find them tedious and unfunny. I think the only pilot I actually liked was Sports Night. 

    Anyway – my rankings for these episodes:
    68. Pilot
    52. Basic Rocket Science
    42. Home Economics
    41. English as a Second Lanuguage
    39. Social Psychology
    24. Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples

  • Read my review of the pilot and then feel compelled to change your mind!
    http://aclockworkoffense.com/g…

  • I really love your review, and while I can appriciate some aspects of the pilot – the dean's great, Abed is awesome and the directing of the show was fantastic – I just didn't like it. I don't know whether that makes me a bad person, but I really didn't like it.

    However: The stuff that I liked – I really liked it. There was enough potential in it to keep me watching the show. Did I like the characters at that point? I liked Abed. I really didn't feel anythign for anyone else. But I saw that Troy might find someone to be a duo with. I hoped that Britta would get a definition out side of "pulls Jeff up on his jaded personality". I recognised that the uptight part of me was similar to Annie and was interested to see how that would be explored.
    My point is: I may not like this episode, but there was enough for me to like to continue watching it.

    I was also pretty sick at this time – had goodness knows how many viruses and if it was getting any worse, I may have had to go back to hospital – and I really needed something to watch. And while I may not have liked it, it was different. I still laughed at it, them proceeded to watch the rest of the disc in one sitting, then the next while I was trying to get to sleep that night and then finish the season the next day and talked about to the degree that my dad got me what had aired of the second season and then gave me episodes every week.

    So yeah – I've probably written to much, and I apologise for it – and when I first read your review a few months ago, I did go back and re-watch the pilot because I did want to like it more than I remebered. But I didn't and I don't really think that matters.

  • Okay, whoever put English as a Second Language at 67 needs to rewatch it.

  • I'm the one who had it at … 68.  And that was because there were 67 episodes I liked more than it.  I don't know about everyone else, but the number ofCommunity episodes I would consider great episodes of television goes to 69.  Really, there are only two episodes I don't like.  And I don't dislike those two completely.  So, that is to say, I do like "English as a Second Language."

  • I'm pretty sure I had it fairly low, not because I didn't like it, but because it fell into that range between favorites and least-favorites where everything got a bit mushy in my rankings.

  • Is that low rank for EaaSL right? I think I had it 68th.

  • Admission: somehow, your grades/ranks for ESL and Pascal were switched in the spreadsheet. I checked all your other ranks, and they're fine. The effect is now ESL is ranked under the Pilot (drops only one spot). Pascals didn't even drop a place. Sorry about that, but I was always worried about some big error messing things up. Luckily this one is nearly trivial. 

  • How can Social Psych be so low?!?  (or the pilot, for that matter).  There's not a bad plot in it: the Duncan Principle has got to be one of the flat-out funniest plots Community has done, but concludes by making a nice, heartfelt statement about Abed without beating us over the head with it.  Shirley the shit-stirrer is really the best Shirley–it's true to her 100% while still being the most fun way to play with "Christian Housewife."  And JERLEY!  Love this one (had it 22nd).

    [The lateness of this commentary brought to you by DISSUQS, who put me in time-out for the past three hours by telling me I had to sign in to comment even though it already showed me as signed in…then when I re-signed in, still telling me I needed to sign in…then not even taking me to the login page anymore…BOOOOOOOOO DISQUS!]

  • I find it odd that people are saying the Duncan Principle is one of the funniest things the show ever did. I thought it was slightly lame. Abed sits in place for hours at a time and is fine with it. That means he's not even a real person. It's a silly experiment, and a bunch of people yell. I find that funny. I don't hate the episode though, because of Jeff and Shirley's mutual hatred of small-nippled Vaughn.

  • he wasn't fine with it. he was furious. he just held back out of friendship.

  • The Duncan principle storyline always leaves me pretty cold. I know a lot of people think Duncan's meltdown is great, but honestly it's about the only John Oliver performance on the show that I don't find  funny. Troy's reaction to missing the Soul Train Awards, on the other hand…

    I get that it's an important storyline as far as Annie (and us) understanding a little more about Abed, but that doesn't retroactively make the steps it took to get there great. 

  • So I'm not the only one who doesn't find it funny that Abed sitting lifeless for a few hours? It's typical sitcom character exaggeration, and while there are lots of examples I find interesting this was not one. And again, I don't hate the episode or even that subplot; I have to create all these shades of grades to find any separation for grades/ranks. 
     
    By the way, this is precisely why I wanted grades or scores instead of pure ranks. For the middle portion of this list, these episodes are basically tied. The quality difference between the 71st and 61st worst episodes is much bigger than, say, 51 and 41. If you just use pure ranks, you can't see that difference.

  • Agreed on the Duncan Principle. It is rather undisputedly the single funniest plot the show has ever provided for me. The banter between Duncan and Annie is fucking fantastic. No one else in the cast could pull off that material as hilariously as John Oliver and Alison Brie. And then there's Troy's freakout ("THE SOUL TRAIN AWARDS WERE TONIGHT! YOU PROMISED BUTT STUFF!") which is literally probably my single hardest laugh ever atCommunity. I had this episode 31st but I kinda regret not having it even higher.

    I also don't mind Abed sitting there for an extended period. It's sitcommy and not the greatest thing ever but they've made far far more egregious errors with that character, plus it fits well with what we know about him up to that point and it provides the foundation for some of the funniest material the show has ever provided (the aforementioned Duncan/Annie/Troy material). For those reasons, it is easily forgiveable.

    Also: "Go kill John Lennon again, you loser!"

  • Wow, I was the high rank for Messianic Myths. I will wear this scarlet M to my tomb…PROUDLY.

  • Also: 

    and the characters even get to go outside!

    Free-range Community. I'm dubbing it. Has it already been dubbed? If not, I'm dubbing it.

  • I got three replies out of nowhere late at night, and I knew it was you. Back from a late-night gym adventure or too busy digging graves for all the corpses your cats drag home?

  • Free-range certified and 100% organic!

  • 51. Pilot
    49. Social Psychology
    45. Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples
    42. English as a Second Language
    25. Basic Rocket Science
    22. Home Economics (High Rank)

    With Home Economics finishing fairly low, all 3 episodes I wrote S1 recaps for have been underrated. IMO, Home Economics is one of the essential episodes of S1. Others value Intro to Stats or Debate as breakthrough eps, but for me it's Home Eco and the way it brings back Vaughn and centers the ep around a few very funny songs that are also catchy, not just to us but to the entire Greendale campus (which has never felt more involved in the story than it did this episode).

    Also, it's a key early ep for seeing Jeff vulnerable, and laid low by having to go back to school (and for his bonding with Abed).

    I'm not too upset with any of these rankings, though. They're all episodes which just don't stand out compared to the eps around them (except for the Pilot, but I've always thought that while it's a decent set-up for the show it's not very indicative of what kind of show Community would be). All of these eps develop better qualities upon rewatch, in my experience.

  • Agree on Home Eco. I had it at #29. It's an essential S1 episode and one of the episodes I would recommend to someone new to the series.

  • Yeah I think Home Economics is pretty classic as well.