Glazomania: Redux – Episodes 6-9

The Classics (Presented by My Dinner with Chicken Fingers)

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9. Contemporary American Poultry (121) (Average Score – 90.00)
(Average Grade – 3.95/A) (Average Rank – 13.8) (High Rank – 3) (Low Rank – 42) (Standard Deviation – 7.32)
Community’s first concept episode still remains one of its very best. Why? If you have to ask you’re already streets behind. Building upon the depths explored in Home Economics, Investigative Journalism, and Communication Studies, this episode serves as the season 1 finale for the Jeff-Abed relationship. The episode uses the instantly recognizable Goodfellas structure (with a little Casino in there) to frame a story about Jeff and Abed’s roles as leaders in the group. Jeff is the prototypical leader that can talk his way out of anything, Abed on the other hand uses his keen observational skills and need to please people in a measured way (chicken fingers!) as a means of earning power. The subsequent role reversal underlines Jeff’s need for validation. By the end of the episode, we reach a lovely Sixteen Candles homage with Jeff and Abed understanding each other a bit better – a dinner that is to be continued in a future episode. This is also the episode that introduced us to Annie’s Boobs (not Debate 109).
– Los Pollos Hermanos

8. Critical Film Studies (219) (Average Score – 91.00)
(Average Grade – 3.99/A) (Average Rank – 12.3) (High Rank – 1) (Low Rank – 47) (Standard Deviation – 7.71)
"I don't need you to grow or change, and take it from someone who just had a meaningless one, sometimes emotional breakthroughs are overrated."

That line might be the single finest moment of friendship in the entire series. Forget the ambition evident in this episode's homage to My Dinner With Andre and Pulp Fiction. They're great, duly impressive, but this episode is one of a dozen homage episodes that are all incredibly well crafted. That's not what makes it one of the best episodes of the entire series.

It's about friendship. It's about two friends coincidentally going out of their way to try to connect with one another, the awkward conflict that creates, and the eventual strengthening of their bond that it brings. It goes to the Jeff/Abed friendship that is unfortunately rarely illuminated, and it explores it through conversation (which happens to be a favorite pass time of mine, conversation–it needs more love as a hobby). Curiously, one of the things that bonds Jeff and Abed is their love of pop culture, and both of them attempt to use it to get closer to the other, though Abed's ironically seems to be seeking depth beyond pop culture to do so.

Meanwhile, in the other half of the plot (it's so intertwined with the main plot that it's unfair to call it a B-plot), Troy panics about the status of /his/ friendship with Abed, Annie comments on how excited Abed will be, and ultimately loses her job for Jeff and Abed. As Jeff says, everyone loves Abed (a fact that will come to a head in the third season).

Another interesting feature of the episode is that all of the humor in it is rather understated. It amplifies the serious tone of the dinner While there are some wonderful jokes in the episode, almost all of them are character-based, and almost none of them are the kind that would evoke roars of laughter from a studio audience. And yet, it's still a particularly hilarious episode.

And no review, no matter how brief, would be complete without effusive praise for the performances of McHale and Pudi. McHale's slowly building emotional release is a wonder to behold, and Pudi's seamless transitions between Andre and Abed are expertly done–witness, especially, his sliding back into Abed while Jeff gets more and more emotional, unable to maintain the character as he enters unfamiliar territory.

As far as Community episodes go, this one has everything we have come to love about the show: sharp writing, ambition, and pure heart.
– glazomaniac

7. Paradigms of Human Memory (221) (Average Score – 91.05)
(Average Grade – 3.98/A) (Average Rank – 11.1) (High Rank – 1) (Low Rank – 39) (Standard Deviation – 6.99)
Community isn't the first show to make fun of the “clip show”; hell, it wasn't even the first show to craft one out of mostly new material. The sitcom staple has been around so long (although it's becoming increasingly rare) it's had plenty of potshots taken at it over the years. It was probably for the best that, like the show's previous forays into its meta-structural analysis of television, the episode's assumed form is only a vehicle for delivering the jokes. It's hard to imagine the show managing to cobble enough material together otherwise.
And boy, does this episode deliver. It easily stands among Community's finest, bringing huge laughs from a wide range of different settings and tones, made possible by the clip show form. While it is all new content, the episode mimics clip shows thematically by looking inward for its source of material: what story the episode has, and a good deal of the jokes that accompany it, are drawn from the tropes, tics, and affectations of all the episodes before it, culminating in the brilliantly edited mega-Winger speech. Despite the scantness of the plot, he structuring of the clip show allows the episode to get away with unloading so many gags; it never starts to feel like sketch comedy, or a non-stop barrage ofFamily Guy-esque cutaways.
Episodes like “Paradigms of Human Memory” have typically carried the label of a “concept episode,” and I'm not certain that that descriptor is necessarily accurate in this case. The clip show format is not the focus of the jokes, nor was the episode's format even directly alluded to like in “Cooperative Calligraphy” or “Intermediate Documentary Filming.” By keeping the show itself as the center of attention, “Paradigms of Human Memory” manages to be relentlessly funny, and a definitive episode of Community.
– Gauephat

6. Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas (211) (Average Score – 91.44)
(Average Grade – 4.01/A) (Average Rank – 11.9) (High Rank – 1) (Low Rank – 53) (Standard Deviation – 9.02)
There are many moments in Community that I love, but none that move me as much as the shot of the group finally appearing as themselves, reflected in Abed's television screen. Every time I see it, I get a little choked up. And that's because AUC isn't just about Abed being essentially abandoned by his mother at Christmas, having a breakdown and eventually learning to accept the situation with the help of the study group. It's also about our relation with television (perhaps even with stories in general) – the nostalgia we feel when we reconnect with the shows or the stories we loved as kids, the emotional investment we put into those we love today. From that screen the study group is looking back at us: they're our Claymation fantasy – they're an artifice, yes, but sometimes they just feel so real, and so valuable.

So, yeah, the rest of the episode ain't bad either. It's probably the darkest Community has ever gone (it is, for all intents and purposes, about a psychotic break). It also provides a window into Abed's fundamental sadness, and once again, it proves just what a delicately nuanced character he is. Community has always resisted the impulse of turning Abed into some sort of twee caricature of a nerd. Yes, he's a shaman and/or Batman, but there's a real undercurrent of doubt, insecurity and vulnerability underneath all that (just listen to the way Danny Pudi says "She comes every year." when Abed is talking to Annie and Troy on the train; if that second delivery doesn't break your heart, your soul may be dead). Most importantly, it also shows how this insecurity and loneliness can sometimes hurt people. It's a complex character arc that will carry over not just in subsequent S2 episodes like "Critical Film Studies," but also in S3, where the Dreamatorium/ Inspector Spacetime plots are extensions of the Abed we saw in AUC.

I don't want to finish without mentioning Pierce too. The episode gives him a sweet, moving little story, since, of the whole group, he's the only one who understands what Abed is going through (both have lost their mothers, and both hide their loneliness). He's also cute and cuddly in a way that the real Pierce rarely is (AUC and "Digital Estate Planning" pretty much confirm that the cutest Pierce is fantasy Pierce).

Oh, and AUC is also really funny. "Somewhere Tim Burton just got a boner."; "Wash your dupa."; S1 of Lost as a metaphor for the lack of payoff; "Who taught you therapy? Michael Jackson's dad?"

Christmas pterodactyl!
– Semi-bored Torontonian

 

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http://www.avclub.com/articles/digital-estate-planning-the-first-chang-dynasty-in,73676/#comment-778210948 (page 746)

 

Discussion:

    • When reading the review of Paradigms the other day, something hit me: For almost any other show, Paradigms would be considered the best episode of the series. It's so memorable, funny and well-executed.

      For Community, it doesn't even crack the top 5.

    • I actually thought Paradigms would finish higher. I assumed AUC would be too divisive (and it was indeed a bit more divisive) to finish higher and I also thought the greatness of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons would be somewhat forgotten.

      I predicted the top seven would go (before I had seen any of the results): Remedial Chaos Theory, Mixology Certification, Cooperative Calligraphy, Modern Warfare, Paradigms of Human Memory, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas

      Any predictions for the order of the top five?

    • HectorTheWellEndowed

      Straight fight between Mixology and Caligraphy for number 1, me thinks.

    • I would be surprised if it wasn't like last time with Modern Warfare and RCT at number 1 and 2 in some order far above everything else, but I'm really hoping number 1 is Mixology.

    • I'm not as high on the quality of Paradigms' jokes. I actually think much of it is a precursor to the style of comedy that bothered me in season 3. I like the episode for what it does with the format, the Winger Speech, and its production value.

    • I'm not as high on the quality of Paradigms' jokes

      according to my review, this is completely false.

    • I sort of feel the same way. Although when I re-watched it, I laughed a little more than I expected to. But, as far as I'm concerned, there are many episodes that are funnier.

    • HectorTheWellEndowed

      10. Contemporary American Poultry
      8. Critical Film Studies
      13. Paradigms of Human Memory
      9. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas

    •  Why do the previous rankings only go up to 31?

    • It's suppose to link the entire thread but it links to the second post instead. My mistake. It is now fixed.

    • 2. Critical Film Studies
      4. Paradigms of Human Memory
      9. Contemporary American Poultry
      33. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas

    • 3. Critical Film Studies
      9. Paradigms of Human Memory
      16. Contemporary American Poultry
      6. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas

    • Hey agree-a-buddy, but also the exact opposite of agree-a-buddy!

    • I did not like these episodes very much.

      50. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
      47. Critical Film Studies (low rank)
      39. Paradigms of Human Memory (low rank)
      7. Contemporary American Poultry

    • Predictable, but appetizing!

    • You didn't like them or you didn't like them as much as everyone else?  Because straight-up disliking these episodes deserves disappointed head-shaking of earthquake proportions.

    • I wouldn't say any of them except for Poultry are particularly good by Community's standards.

    • There's a bigger implication here: There are only 71 episodes, but you've got a show you don't like that much at 39.  That you means you don't like about half the episodes of a show you claim to love!

    • Is Janine saying he dislikes or just that he isn't overly fond of it by Community standards?

    • They're below-average by Community standards (hence the ranking).

    • 22. Contemporary American Poultry
      26. Critical Film Studies
      10. Paradigms of Human Memory
      49. Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas

      Only 1 of these was in my top 10, but looking at what's left, 4 of my top ten, and 3 of my top 5, will be in the top 5.

    • I haven't been doing this for previous editions, as I was going to wait until the final list to just do it all, but now I see the value in doing it for each set:

      16. Contemporary American Poultry
      4. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
      3. Critical Film Studies
      2. Paradigms of Human Memory

      I could see myself moving my #3 up to #2, or my #5 (VSA) up to #2.

      Why would people have thought Annie's Boobs was introduced in Debate 109?  (Oh, right.)

    • I finally got the low rank on something! I'm so proud of myself.

      3. Critical Film Studies
      5. Paradigms of Human Memory
      10. Contemporary American Poultry
      53. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas

    • I don't think I've had the low rank for anything other than the episode I put last, Geography of Global Conflict.

    • I'm fairly certain this is the only episode I have the highest or lowest rank on of any of them. And I was sure I would've at least tied for the highest Conspiracy Theories rank (2). 

    • Well you had at least one high rank (your #1 episode). ;)

      And I think my only high rank was my #1, Mixology Certification.

      (I came close for Debate 109, which I had 7th but a few others had 6th)

    • Oh right, duh, the number one. Though I'm sure I wasn't the only one to put Remedial Chaos Theory at number 1.

    • But you still did!

    •  Why hello there, CFS agreeabuddy.

    • Why hello there, AUC disagreeabuddy.  (I was the high rank)

    • reuelb5427

      28. Contemporary American Poultry
      23. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas 
      12. Paradigms of Human Memory
      9. Critical Film Studies

    • Anyone else a tiny bit surprised by how high Critical Film Studies' placement is? I am in no way saying it doesn't deserve it; it's a great episode. But I figured it'd be too divisive to finish ahead of Contemporary American Poultry or Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design. And hell, it wasn't even a whole lot more divisive than those episodes based on the standard deviation (in fact, there are two episodes in the top ten – AUC and one other yet to be revealed – that have an even higher SD).

      I remember the fan reaction to the episode when it came out was a little polarizing but I'm glad to see that most people here think very highly of it.

    •  I'm disappointed it didn't place higher. It's one of the show's finest moments in every respect – from writing, to directing, to acting, to character development.

    • I would like to see it above Paradigms but I would never expect to see it higher than that episode. I certainly don't like it more than the top six though. I had the episode 14th but I have no issue with its rank.

    •  I find it pretty great that two of four episodes focus on the Jeff/Abed relationship, and three out of four center on Abed.

    • Indeed! I didn't realize this. We should have maybe went with an Abed theme instead of calling this "The Classics I". Oh well.

    • I think this is the issue Capt. Bicero was driving at with the "lack of resolution" a while ago.  All of these average rankings are so close to each other, it actually doesn't mean much to be ranked 1st vs. 10th.  They are practically equivalent grade-wise.

    • Aw tossin listened to me! No, it doesn't matter much. You can't statistically prove these episodes are better than each other. It's quite close with a relatively high standard deviation.

      EDIT:
      I wouldn't say that about the number one episode though. I'm too lazy to check right now, but I'm pretty sure it's significantly better than all episodes except maybe 2 or 3.

    • Just another reminder that I'm awaiting write-ups from Eric and snowmania. I trust blicero will have his ready soon.

    • Why do we all have to put our ranks on the episodes? Why does no one include grades? Or the food they associate with the eipsode? 
       
      Paradigms: strawberry ice cream.
      CAP: chicken fingers.
      CFS: fancy feast.
      AUC: sno-cone. 
       
      Paradigms would probably win a funniest episode contest (except for season 1 people), and the rest are really interesting stories executed well. If CAP had been aired later on in the show's run, we'd probably complain about how it tracks so closely to Scorsese, but this is the episode that came out of nowhere at the back end of season 1 and blew everyone away. They also pulled off a claymation episode and whatever the hell CFS is. Hooray Community! Everyone have positive thoughts! These are great!

    • I only ever initially intended the grades to be a side thing to represent perceived margins of quality. The importance of the grades was increased later, which I'm okay with, but what most people was interested in seeing/doing was the ranking.

      Edit: If we ever do this again, I swear we'll use a point system. Probably grade each episode out of 100 or something.

    • I don't have strong enough opinions about any of these episodes for a 100-point scale. What's the difference between a 70 and a 72? Do we use all of the scale? How many episodes should we have below 20? It's needlessly confusing.

    • I for one only used the grades to put episodes into categories so that I could rank them.

    • paradigms: smorgasbord
      cap: lasagna
      cfs: salad (yeah, i nailed it)
      auc: cookies

    • 23. Contemporary American Poultry
      9. Paradigms of Human Memory
      6. Critical Film Studies
      2. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas

      Any of my top 3 could have been my number one though …
      And as someone of Polish decent, loved the "dupa" mention. (It means bottom.) I have really enjoyed the running gag of Abed saying stuff in Polish. Him saying na zdrowie (good health – something said before drinking) in Communication Studies was perfect, so I really loved seeing him speak Polish again.

    •  Is "wash your dupa" like a Polish term of endearment, or something? It seems like such an odd thing to say to a son you're abandoning to take care of your new family…

      Of course, since all we see is filtered through Abed's perspective, it's quite possible this is something he came up with.

    • No idea.
      My dad's polish and I've never heard him say it before. If it was a polish phrase, the "wash your" part would probably have been in Polish.
      I've always thought it was an in joke or a reference between Abed and his mom.

    •  You're probably right. Still, it's such a weird thing to say…

    • So, who wants to predict how the top five is going to play out? I'll start:

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

    • That's Not The Real Ranky, Jackson

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

    • i'd buy that for a dollar.

    • 05 Poultry
      18 Film Studies
      02 Paradigms
      06 Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas

      The buzz saw attacked my top five. All I have left is #3, and I still have an outlier at #25 left.