Community Makes Up Some Memories

Season 2, Episode 21: "Paradigms of Human Memory" (original airdate 04/21/2011)

It's not uncommon for a TV show, nearing its end of the season, to give its slaves writers a bit of a mental break in the form of the dreaded clip show. The Simpsons has done it, Seinfeld has done it, and sitcoms from the '90s lived on them. As viewers, we usually let them slide because writing a weekly comedy is hard, they're allowed one lazy week per season, and sometimes it's just good to look back at recycled clips and remember stuff we've already seen (for about five minutes).

When Annie's Boobs lured a greased-up Chang into the bowels (or bovine birth canal, as Troy pointed out) of Greendale Community College and discovered a treasure trove of stolen trinkets, my clip-show radar began beeping like an angry mega microwave-truck backing up. But Community creator Dan Harmon loves to take convention and put it through a meat-grinder, and the result was a clip show that wasn't a clip show, yet still managed to flip through the yearbook of Season 2.

"Paradigms of Human Memory" joins the growing list of stellar Community episodes, those segments that prove this show is leagues streets ahead of other sitcoms in terms of creativity and commitment to distinguishing itself from other shows. And it was funny. Like, smile-on-your-face-for-30-minutes funny.

As the Community twist? Clips—dozens and dozens of them—that weren't from previous episodes, but from fake episodes and adventures that we never got to see. Ahem: We saw the gang at gunpoint courtesy of drug runners who Pierce racially insulted, we saw the gang in one of those frozen-in-time Western-themed towns, and we saw the gang chowing down on Free Caesar Salad day. Nothing was off limits.

There were also clips from real Season 2 episodes—except we hadn't seen the clips before. They played out like a reel of deleted scenes, and we have to assume that "Paradigms of Human Memory" has been in the works for a long time, because the clips that referred to the Halloween and Christmas episodes had to have been shot months ago, when those episodes were filmed, right?

The idea of a clip show that isn't a clip show is great, but it can't carry the show on its own. The clips have to be funny. Very funny. And they have to come at lightning-quick pace. And they have to be outrageous. The stars of this week's episode were the clips themselves, and the production was impressive. Do you know how much it costs to set up a new location on a TV show? A lot. That's why cutaways are rampant on Family Guy, but are limited in live-action comedies—they're just too expensive. Yet Community handed us a run-down Habitat for Humanity site, Shirley's nursery, and other sets as if the show was made out of cash. Kudos to Dan Harmon and his crew for making sure their vision was realized. It was worth it.

But what made "Paradigms of Human Memory" such a winner in my book was the way it used the entire cast (special shout out to Jim Rash as Dean Pelton for donning an entire costume shop). No one was left out, and each character had a moment in the spotlight before deferring to the next. It was Community living up to its name, an all-around team effort from the cast, crew, writers, gaffers, caterers, credit sequencers, and everyone else who works on or is connected to the show. Mark down "Paradigms of Human Memory" as one of Community's best.

What were your favorite moments from the episode?
Mine, in somewhat particular order:
... Troy's quadruple-clip scream!
... Pierce loading up on flu shots!
... Jeff's speech!
... Every reference to NBC's The Cape!

Extra cool note:
The "will-they-or-won't-they" Annie-Jeff montage was inspired by/was a spoof of a fanmade video tribute to Jeff and Annie. Here's the original! (thanks, Eric @ IGN)



Comments (37)
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It was fantastic! One of my favourites, I mean, a clip show of all new clips.....it was so funny! Awesome, I hope they do it again.
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Yeah, what a great episode. Also the most meta episode of any TV show ever.
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@TyroneHines yes! i caught that on an encore viewing, and don't know if i would have noticed if not for chang and his clay counterpart's matching bright-orange shirts. that was was definitely a nice touch!
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Best "Clip Show" ever! Did anyone else notice, on the diarama, there was an figure of Sr. Chang standing outside the room staring longingly?
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'best comedy on TV by miles'. I couldn't agree more!
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I have watched this episode twice so far and it justs keep getting better. I really thought Britta using the chapstick and tossing it back was pretty funny. Did anybody catch the background lyrics that the Dean was singing as his he went on his killing rampage in the cartoon?
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this episode was awesome, i knew those scenes were not in the original halloween & christmas episodes. the cape stuff was hysterical! & the jeff & annie slow-mos were great.
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I wish that the haunted house memory was a real episode, that would be so hilarious! I loved this episode, and the Jeff Winger inspirational speech montage was absolutely fabulous.
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This was definitely one of my favourite episodes, it was absolutely hilarious and brilliant.
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excellent, brilliant episode, loved every minute :-)
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This episode and "Modern Warfare" are my favorite Community episodes so far.
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"there is a grown man is still seriously believes leprechauns exist" haha i love community and the dean oh my gosh haha all of his costumes are hilarious especially one right after another
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Great episode. Who knew Abed catching Jeff and Britta hooking up would lead to such hilarity? I thought the short cartoon made by the Dean, at the end, was absolutely hysterical...
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Told you so,best comedy on TV by miles
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For some reason the part when Pierce kept pretending to be a bird and stealing Abeds food almost killed me. Great episode.
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I LOVE this show!! It's soo unique and awesome. Only Community could take a clip show and turn it into one the season's best. The cape references were comic gold, and how freakin' funny was the Pierce/Abed flashback? or Shirley's comment to Jeff about why they don't have as much chemistry (as others in the group)? I was laughing my ass off for the entire episode.
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oh ya i LOVED the references to the cape they were hilarious!!!
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More creativity, more genuinely funny and incredibly clever comedy in 21 minutes than pretty much any show has had ALL season. Two standout moments for me in all the other standout moments - hell it was all standout: cant believe nobody has mentioned the monkey - funny and so cleverly done as it was - but beating up Chang - oh my god the tears of laughter. And when you think oh damn it's over - you're slaughtered at the end by one of the funniest close-out segments ever done. D. Pelton Cartoon Productions! Mega-Dean slaughters almost everyone and Jeff "maybe" has a crush on him... seriously how the hell do you top this one! My favorite episode yet, but I wont bet the best is still yet to come. Paintball 2 as the season finale - OMG I just can't wait :-)
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Really funny episode; one of my favorites of this season. Although I had no idea what this episode was going to be about, I somehow knew they'd do "fake" flashbacks when I realized they were doing a clip-show. I don't think there was anything in this episode I'd nitpick about; everything made me laugh at least a bit.
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Troy's scream, Jeff's speech and The Cape references were my favorites too!
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I agree one of the best COmmunity episodes yet, this show always manages to throw you a curve-ball.
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Another terrific episode. I liked Abed as The Cape, the Glee parody, Chang getting beat up by Annie\'s Boobs, and the Gravity clips. The St. Patrick\'s Day adventure must have been really something.
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Epic and Amazing, make you pee your pants funny! Community is the best most creative show and totally loved the montages of Jeff/Annie, Abed/Peirce and Chang/Annie's Boobs! and The Cape refrences!
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If I'm not mistaken, wasn't the killer robot Troy and Abed's "Boob-o-tron" from the first season?
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this was one of the best Community episodes ever. thoroughly enjoyed it
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Excellent! I loved Troy poking a hole in the back of the raft to make it go faster.
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This episode was AWESOME! That brought "meta" to a whole new level!
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The name of the monkey is "Annie's Boobs" or something like that, I believe it was named by Troy in a episode some time ago. Also, am I the only one trying to piece together which of the clips belong together? For example in the clip where Pierce is about to be killed, Abed is wearing a "Save The Cape" shirt, sort of linking them together in some way.
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Don't know if anyone called the monkey by name, but it did have a clearly readable name tag on.
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I liked the killer robot and the drug runners part. While The Cape references were funny, I found it a little odd that a TV enthusiast like Abed expected it to get six season and movie (and more is what Community should get). Btw, did anyone refer to Annie's Boobs by name the whole episode? I just remember Troy saying 'my monkey'.
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There were so many great moments, especially references to previous events and pop culture. Some of the memories were the kind which I would have definitely wanted to see on the show. Like the Glee club episode. It's hard to pick a favourite, but I liked for example the references to the Cape, like:

Jeff: The show is gonna last three weeks!

Abed: Six seasons and a movie!

Also, I will never get the image of Chang in a Speedo lubing himself up out of my head.
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oh man, i really actually lol'd during this episode, it was awesome
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Quincy, ME, The Golden Girls, and Frasier (among others) all did fake flashback shows. That doesn't make Community's any less entertaining, but the ground has been broken before.
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A really amazing episode. I really don't think I should talk too much about the clips because I loved every one of them to the point where I really wish they would actually make each of the episodes the clips where taken from.
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At first I was wondering if I had some how missed an episode this year and then I realized they were fake flashbacks, brilliant.
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AWESOME EPISODE! Loved every minute.
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likeeeeeee............ok
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