Season 2 Episode 21

Paradigms of Human Memory

Aired Tuesday 12:00 AM Apr 21, 2011 on Yahoo

Episode Fan Reviews (7)

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out of 10
381 votes
  • Another perfect episode from the Zen masters of misdirection.

    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.