Community Watch: Paradigms of Human Memory

I always look forward to Friday mornings after an episode of Community. With the previous night’s comedic splendor still fresh in my head, I seek out fellow TV-watching coworkers by the watercooler and recount my favorite parts of the previous episode.

Most of the time, I’m met with polite smiles or blank stares.

Granted, this could (very likely) be an indictment of my oratory skills, but Community seems to elicit this type of reaction. Amongst TV patrons, there is the group people who are vaguely aware of Community’s existence, and there are people who sound like freaks as they enthusiastically sing the show’s praises to the first group.

Come Friday morning, I’m expecting a lot more blank stares. This week’s episode, “Paradigms of Human Memory”, seems to target such a small audience – people who have watched enough TV to become jaded, know enough about it to grow spiteful, but still continue to watch out of adoration of the medium.

All of this could probably be guessed from the episode’s premise: a late-season clip show that features zero reused clips from previous episodes. Ironically, this could make it one of the more expensive episodes of the season, as it featured many more locations (and definitely costumes) than your average Community episode.

Granted, this idea isn’t completely novel – for example, Clerks: The Animated Series had a clip show in just their second episode – but it was executed in such a meta and (at times self-deprecating) way that few shows would be able to pull it off.

No one came out unscathed on the episode’s mockery. Clip shows were naturally mocked, along with the horrible transitions that come from them. Other TV sitcoms where made fun of -- particularly the whacky locations these shows end up in after they’ve jumped the shark. And the episode seemed to poke a lot of fun at itself and the series as a whole.

The “plot” of the episode is essentially the boilerplate storyline for most episodes of Community -- someone in the group (usually Jeff) is being self-absorbed to the detriment to the rest of the group. The group confronts that person, hostilities rise, and everyone leaves in a huff. Jeff makes it all better with a speech. Add dashes of Troy for comic relief.

Not only is all of this present in the episode, but different variations of each are added amongst all the new clips added for this episode. Near the close of the episode, Jeff’s feel-good speech is spliced with the same speeches of several fake episodes, both hammering home the point and adding an uproarious string of non sequiturs. This scene (or scenes?), along with the segment on Dean Pelton’s costumes and the following cartoon, were definitely my favorite moments from the episode.

Not every flashback in this episode was from a new episode, or at least not in a sense. There were flashbacks added to the Halloween episode and the Christmas episode that shed more light on a development occurring all throughout the season: namely, that Jeff and Britta were having secret sex. Scandal! However, by the time the group had found out about it, and gave the two their blessing, the spark between Jeff and Britta predictably cooled off.

All-in-all, this was definitely the type of creative, self-referential episode fans have come to expect from Community (and from no where else). That’s why we’re still enthusiastic about it, and also why we’ll still be getting blank stares on Friday mornings.

By the way – it’s pronounced “Smores”, and anyone who disagrees will taste the back of my Chang.

Extra Credit

* Quote of the Week: Since this isn’t called segment of the week, and I can’t choose any scene Dean Pelton was in, I’ll have to go with my favorite line and costume of his: “What’s Dean got to do with it? Why, it’s time to Tina Turner the clocks ahead! Happy Daylight Savings!”

* Other favorites:

Jeff and Britta, you are free to go, because you didn’t step forward and are therefore innocent.

- Didn’t we decide at the beginning of the year that for the good of the group, we wouldn’t allow any intimacy between each other or ourselves?

- Troy, we never said ourselves.

- …OK, now I’m really mad.

I’ll be a living God!

* Some unanswered questions from tonight’s episode:

- How did Chang get undressed and oiled up so fast?

- On that note, is that a new stereotype?

- What did Pierce say to piss off those drug runners?

- Is there such a thing as a free Caesar salad?

- Is Harrison Ford irradiating our testicles with microwave satellite transmissions? Stupid question. Of course he is.

- Does Jeff have a crush on Dean Pelton? ‘Cause he’ll never tell.

* The writers on Community have to be some of the hardest-working in the business, considering they just came up with a season’s worth of new material that they never plan to film. C’mon guys – you got renewed for Season 3. Make sure you still have some gas in the tank.