Disclaimer: I'm a huge "Community" fan. Along with "Modern Family," I believe it's one of the two best-written comedies on TV, and it's certainly the deepest. AjMc91's review dismisses "Paradigms of Human Memory" as a "filler episode" only worthy of a 6.5. But Aj is missing the point: none of the flashback clips really happened ... at least, none that I remember, and I've saved every episode.
Some clips are based on actual shows - Britta's lizard costume - but recall scenes that never occurred, e.g. Britta and Jeff entering the bathroom together for clandestine sex. Others - in fact most - were from episodes that never happened at all. They were never in a haunted house or a ghost town. They never started a glee club after a tragic bus accident. Pierce was never jumping rope. The dean never entered the study room in any of these garish costumes. The monkey never beat up on Chang. There were never stolen glances between Abed and Pierce.
Every flashback scene in this "clips" show is original, and much more reflective in ambience of the "zany" predicaments of the traditional sitcom (e.g. an old-timey prospector in red longjohns chasing our gang away with his rifle) than its usual milieu. Only "Community" could take the "paradigm" of the retrospective flashback sitcom, deconstruct it, and redefine it as its exact opposite. It's the ultimate practical joke on the viewer, and another in an unending string of this show's Zen-like puzzles. Is the viewer being played? Even now I'm not sure what I remember and what never happened, in effect making me a part of the cast (now THAT is trippy). Or is the cast, who seemingly believe all this really occurred? Is it a commentary on memory vs. reality, because ultimately then what is reality? And is the very concept of the television sitcom being challenged?
The icing on this episode's cake is the cartoon coda, "Produced by Dean Pelton," which offers one last alternative perspective on reality. It's not about what's happening around us ... it's how we perceive it, what we remember about those experiences and how it informs our personality.
Every episode of "Community" is a multi-layered onion, and things are rarely as they appear. It's the only show on TV that needs diacritical parsing to appreciate its labyrinthine complexity.
I'm a fan, and nearly every episode is better than the last. Sometime next season I figure my head will explode.
Although the concept of bottle episodes was something that I was aware of, I'd never really come across one that wasn't directly referencing that it was one until this week's Community. "Paradigms of Human Memory" sees just about nothing happen whilst the study group reflects on previously unseen events from the year past.
Whilst the group is making a diorama about making a diorama, Troy's monkey from season 1 episode "Contemporary American Poultry" appears and runs away into the ventilation shaft of the study room with a paint brush. This sparks the most unnecessary and random scene that Community has ever aired when Chang enters, dressed only in speedos, and chases the monkey into the vent. Searching the vent, Chang then discovers the horde of items that "Annie's Boobs" has been collecting over the year and brings them out for the rest of the group to see, leading to a series of "remember when?" moments that constitute most of the episode.
In amongst the various memories we see the group visit a ghost town before being chased out by a prospector in long red underwear; fill in for the glee club after their untimely demise by singing only the word sing and we get to see a human perspective of "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" in which the entire cast was clay-mated. The only real plot development point of the episode was the revelation that Jeff and Britta had been hooking up in secret, however, even that potential paradigm shifting discovery was short lived when, upon the group deciding that it would be fine if they continued their relationship, they decided to stop.
When it comes down to it, "Paradigms of Human Memory" was just about as bad as Community has ever been. Whether the writers simply ran out of steam towards the end of the season, or were truly saving their budget to make the upcoming paintball episode as big as possible remains to be seen, but I really do hope that this filler episode isn't a reflection of the rest of the end of the season, or the new season to come. Every show is entitled to bad episodes and we can only hope that Community has just gotten its quota over and done with. That being said, a bad episode of Community still blows mostly everything else on TV out of the water.
The study group has just finished making their twentieth and final anthropology diorama; a diorama of them making their nineteenth diorama. Troy's monkey, Annie's Boobs, steals a paintbrush inciting a slicked up Chang to troll the vents after it. He uncovers the monkey's nest of Greendale memories which then inspires the group to take their own stroll down memory lane. Yes I remember the (bottle) episode where Annie freaked about her purple pens. It was hilarious, showed the group's great dynamic, and Troy was in his underwear...
Sorry, had to clean the drool off my keyboard. And my monitor. And the remote and television. Anyways!
So Britta holds up a star badge that reads 'Sheriff'. Which I'm thinking I remember from season one and Jeff's costume in the Halloween episode. But I am wrong and just like that, we are launched into a series of "Hey remember when we...?" setups that- wait. When did those happen? If you love Community and have Season One on DVD and listened to the commentaries (hands up), you'll have learned already from cast and crew that Community and Fox's Glee share the same lot (or something) and are neighbors and everyone at Glee is so nice. But they can suck it ha ha but we love them.
...But they can suck it. Sing-a-ling-a-ling-ding-dong. Oh by the way, Jeff and Britta are/were having secret sex. Which kind of bums me out after the adorable Britta/Troy storyline featured in the previous episode, 'Competitive Wine Tasting'. I kind of wished they had switched that one with this one on the Community timeline.
We get a few memories from episodes we did see like Christmas and Halloween, but the moments are new (I still want to see the full non-claymation side of the Christmas episode. It was adorable and magical). I don't know about everyone else, but I wish we would have seen the St. Patrick's Day episode instead of Valentine's Day. We also get a reminder of the fact that anyone in the group can be paired with any other member with the right montage of significant glances. It's called chemistry shippers, and Jeff has it with everybody.
The memories conclude with a mash-up of Winger speeches which he apparently offered at the end of each escapade. Smushed all together, the result manages to show us that this group can survive anything. Even the multitude of Dean costume changes/irrelevant news interruptions. As long as they air out their dirty laundry, they'll stop fighting about fighting about fighting. Wait. I think I feel a scream and a nosebleed coming on.
With most shows flashback episodes, you get one character stating something like, 'I can't believe how many times we've pretended to be someone else,' and that will trigger a montage of scenes from previous episodes of when the characters have used false identities.
Now while this is a good reminder of past laughs, Community takes the flashback concept to a whole new level; not just by having hilariously random flashback scenes; but entirely original scenes too! That' right folks, all the flashback scenes in this episode are COMPLETELYoriginal and never-before-seen. Some scenes, like the ghost town or Pierce stealing Abed's food, are'flahsbacks' from'unseen' adventures the study group had, whil others, such as when Abed is talking abouthow Britta and Jeff hook up all the time, are 'unseen' scenes from episodes such as Epidemic and Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas.
Chang wasjust awesome in this episode as well, searching through the vent system after greasing himself up with butter and assuring the group he know's 'these vents like the back of my Chang.'
All in all, this episode proves just how original Community can be, and it never ceases to make me laugh.
This whole episode was a clip show, of clips that we have never seen, which is pure genius since probably no other show has done something like this. It was funny all the way through and it didn't get boring at all. There were lots of funny parts like when they were being chased in a ghost town, got committed to a mental hospital, and when they almost got killed by a drug cartel. This is probably the best clip show I've ever seen, definitely one of the best episodes this season. 10/10
Community has grown from an entertaining television show trying to find its footing in Season 1 to one of the best (and smartest) shows on TV, with a writing cast seems to recognize the fact that its core group of viewers will remember certain things from the past and will be able to recognize when they're being serious and when they're trying to make fun of something.
There's two groups of episodes in this show: the straight-forward, character-driven ones where the plot and style of the show is lessened in favor of focusing on actual plots that revolve around the characters. Last week's episode and most of Season 1 represents that first group. It's not that these episodes are bad, but the show can feel subpar in these moments as opposed to the episodes in the second group, the ones that go for broke and do absolutely insane things that other shows wouldn't dare do (the closest I can think is Scrubs, who would take chances with episodes that no other show until Community would do).
This episode falls into that second group. Doing an episode that makes fun of clip shows seems like a ridiculous venture, but the writers figure it out. The whole point of the episode is to have the characters reminisce on fun things they've done over the years, their good and bad memories, and much to our surprise, these things are things that we haven't even seen yet. They're moments that existed outside of the episodes that aired, which a.) lets us know that these characters do things besides what we see, which makes it a little more realistic and b.) shows how utterly ridiculous some of their ventures may seem from the outside looking in. I mean, the fact that their favorite moments of the year were getting chased by a racist prospector in a ghost town, getting committed to a mental asylum and nearly being killed by a drug cartel shows us that there's a lot more to this group than what we see on TV.
Overall, there were tons of funny moments.. I'm hardpressed to say that this episode made me laugh the most out of anything else this season.. the characters kept their annoying traits to a minimum and even the worst of them, like Pierce, had a chance to be just as likable as any other character on the show. It also gave the show to experiment with some new stuff.. the slow-mo melodramatic glances between Annie and Jeff, as well as (more funnily) Abed and Pierce. The great montage of scenes that show us Dean Pelton's amazing and horrifying costumes. The animated cartoon that acts as the tag to the episode. The return of Annie's Boobs. There was just so much going on here that it seems like only fans of the show could appreciate the episode for exactly what it was worth, but the truth is, anybody could jump into this episode and get an idea of what the show is like and who these characters are. Like a clip show, it was a lot of summary, but since when are the summary episodes just as revealing as the regular ones? With Community, it is.
But with very few exceptions, the bits weren't that funny. It wasn't real clear why the group felt they had to go down memory lane - the fact that the school year was ending and they were working on a final Anthropology project doesn't seem like enough. But down that lane they went, and we learned a few things about members of the group. For example, Jeff and Britta have been sneaking off to have sex. These encounters have been witnessed by Abed, but he opted initially not to tell anyone.
There was a humorous bit where it was implied that with the right music and interpretations of certain glances, any two people could be thought of as a couple. All told, not the best episode.
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