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)