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Crisis alert! There is a limited episode count on the Community season 3 DVD set! This may be the very antithesis of a crisis for some, as Community naysayers are as fervent as the quote-spewing fanatics (“No offense, Todd.”). While I mentally grasp such negative views (I avoided the show after the first few episodes, only to rabidly return during the second season), I can also understand Yankee fans and flat-earthers while holding strong to the conviction that they’re all full of shit. Community may see six showrunners and a channel change before six seasons and a movie, but the fans are keeping it alive. Now if only we could somehow work Arrested Development into it.
This may be Community’s most ambitious season yet, if that’s possible. Obviously, dramatic elements like narrative and character arcs take a backseat to themed episodes and high-concept gimmickry, but there are exceptions. This is the season with Troy and Abed’s new apartment, Chang’s campus security job, Troy’s involvement with the dark side of air conditioning, Shirley’s marriage and sandwich shop, the Dean’s kidnapping and eventual group expulsion, and the other things that happen to other characters. Beyond those events though, it is mostly gimmicks, which this review will list as it devolves into a puddle of infatuated fanboy zealousness.
Arguably the most-discussed and loved episode of the season, if not the entire series thus far, is “Remedial Chaos Theory,” which divides a group housewarming pizza party into six separate timelines, each determined by the roll of a Yahtzee die. While the alternative outcomes share specific details, the seemingly simple changes are reflective of the characters’ personalities, highlighting the group’s strength as a unit, while also proving Jeff will ultimately lead to everyone’s demise. It all culminates in The Darkest Timeline, the most engaging credits-capper in television history. Only Chang’s affection for a mannequin leg and the “Carol of the Bells” capper are more disturbing.
Another episodic tour de force is the Ken Burns-inspired “Pillows and Blankets,” which continues the previous episode’s growing rift between Abed’s unwavering intentions on building Pillowtown, a pillow fort, and Troy’s guided determination to construct a world record blanket fort called Blanketsburg. It’s an extended riff on the elaborate blanket fort constructed in the second season’s “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design.” Despite the docu-theme and school-wide battles (paintball wars) having already been covered, “Pillows and Blankets” comes into its own due to its escalating absurdity (all narrated by the amazing Keith David), and of course, for having the most epic moments in pillow fighting history. Pierce’s adorably monstrous Pillow Man costume deserves its own paragraph.
Those obviously aren’t enough highlights. “Regional Holiday Music” is the inspiration-unknown musical episode which features the study group being assimilated into a glee club gleefully singing hilarious songs. Allison Brie’s Betty Boop impersonation is, well, the stuff weird wet dreams are made of. I absolutely loved the maniacal oddities of the sorta-clip show “Curriculum Unavailable,” where a therapist tries convincing the group that Greendale is a figment of their collective neuroses. “Contemporary Impressionists” includes Troy and Britta both dressed as Michael Jackson, and Jeff’s ego apple exploding. My favorite episode, though, is “Digital Estate Planning,” where the group traverses an old school role-playing video game in order for Pierce to inherit his father’s company. The lovingly made homage to 8-bit gaming is gill-packed with small jokes that beg for repeat viewing.
“Comedy isn’t comedy without guest stars, you say? John Goodman. John Hodgman. Michael K. “Omar Little” Williams. Jeff Garlin. Luis Guzmán. Martin Starr. Malcolm-Jamal Warner. Giancarlo “Gus Fring” Esposito. And then some. What about the best of the rest? "Troy and Abed in the morning..nights." Dreamatorium. Anime foosball. Deangasm. Jeff< I>as the Dean. Chang's faux-noir narration. “Arizona backwards is still Arizona. It’s a palomino.”
Sure my love is strong, but I can admit some of the themes don’t work. Abed as Batman investigating a broken Dark Knight DVD wears thin very quickly. “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps” is an extremely enjoyable take on campfire/slasher tales, but the conclusion is a far reach and wasn’t very satisfying. Hmm. There are probably other faults, but I ignored them on purpose.
Is the DVD worth buying? Duh-munity. Carrying over about 70% of the show’s comedy quotient are commentaries on every single episode. The main cast, except for Chase and Glover but including Dan Rash and Dino Stamatopoulos, appear multiple times. Almost every episode has a writer and/or director included. Dan Harmon is there. Martin Starr and Malcolm-Jamal Warner show up, as well. Almost every aspect, from jokes to production, is discussed with few moments spent off-topic. For instance, I hadn’t realized the multi-timeline show was actually shown out of order when televised, due to the episode’s complicated shoot not being finished yet.
Community quite possibly has the most enjoyable deleted scenes and outtakes for any TV show, and each of the three discs contain them. The extension of Britta and Troy’s “To meet different people” scene from “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux,” could have lasted the contextual 12 hours it took to film it, and I would have been pleased. Also, Britta and Subway’s wistful back-and-forth bits are hilarious. Garrett shines for a few more moments here as well. “Powder keg. Party of one!”
“A Glee-ful Community Christmas” is a six-minute dissection which spends some much-warranted extra time on Troy and Abed’s musical performances, which cover genres by decade, as well as a rap song. “This is War: Pillows Vs. Blankets” is a thirteen-minute documentary-about-a-documentary episode. The actors discuss the differences from normal episodes, such as the frequent use of still shots, and mostly dialogue-free scenes that focus more on attitude than jokes. Surprise! Chevy Chase doesn’t like taking still photographs.
As a biased fan, I see no reason to avoid this purchase. Twenty bucks never felt so easy to spend. Unless you decided to adopt the Luis Guzmán commemorative tree.
Length: 468 min.
Release Date: 8/14/12
Starring: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Chevy Chase
Directed by:Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Tristram Shapeero
Written by: Dan Harmon, Megan Ganz, Chris McKenna