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October 16, 2011 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Dan Harmon shares pics of the notes and diagrams from the writers' room for this week's highly praised Community episode, "Remedial Chaos Theory."
posted by Navelgazer (110 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
Evil Troy and evil Aaaaaaaabed.

It is now in your head. You're welcome.
posted by auto-correct at 10:38 AM on October 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


This was a fairly incredible episode, even for Community standards. Awesome post!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:40 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the whiteboards there's a few instances (car alarm, police siren) that are attributed to "Caused by Chang?" I didn't see any of that happen, so I guess it was cut for time (or I just missed it). I think the Chang arc is going to pay off really well at some point, so it's a shame the show isn't longer so they could fit everything in.

Anyway, I really loved this episode because it tied into the idea that each member of the group brings something to it. Having them absent in each timeline means that the group dynamics play out differently, which is a joy with the well written characters that they've developed over the past two seasons.

I was thinking about it last night after watching it, and the writing on the show reminds me of the good half of the Simpsons. Wacky situations, self referential comedy, and huge leaps in suspension of disbelief all pay off because of two things: 1) the characters are all likable (even the villains) and wonderfully developed, and 2) the universe in which the show takes place is absolutely and fully realized. I think The Simpsons went off the rails when it made its characters into bland caricatures of their former selves, and started hopping all over the world to try and find storylines that hadn't been explored yet.
posted by codacorolla at 10:41 AM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


That episode was a form of perfection.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:44 AM on October 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


This episode of Community was the only television episode ever to make me want to immediately watch it again.
posted by dortmunder at 10:47 AM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also I should note it always tickles me that based on how he looks and talks, if I didn't know Dan Harmon was a real guy, I'd swear he was another meta-character on the show.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:47 AM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


which would actually be brilliant in a sort of way; that Dan Harmon himself is as much a part of Greendale as the dean, trapped in purgatory with the rest of them, and finding salvation for his characters is his own path to salvation in real life, which would completely reflect what Abed was trying to do in S2E5 "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples"....

Ok Uther, time to take a walk...

posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:50 AM on October 16, 2011


Well, it was missing Chang. Chang and Tom Haverford are my two favourite characters on TV right now.
posted by Flashman at 10:51 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I really loved this episode because it tied into the idea that each member of the group brings something to it. Having them absent in each timeline means that the group dynamics play out differently, which is a joy with the well written characters that they've developed over the past two seasons.

I noticed this too, and it's really interesting that it takes Jeff leaving for everyone else to get along. My theory is that the group used to need Jeff's cocky, half-baked morality speeches to keep the band of losers together. But now after two years they've started to build up their own confidence with each other, and there's no real fear now that the group is going to break apart. So if they don't need Jeff to keep them together, maybe they don't need Jeff at all? Season 2 was basically about how Pierce is an asshole and the other members figuring out justifications for keeping him around. I wonder if Season 3 will start doing a similar arc with Jeff.

(I don't know who's against signing along to Roxanne, but I sure as hell don't want them in my study group.)
posted by auto-correct at 10:53 AM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, was it just me, or at the end when the evil ones were talking about "going back in time to become them" (or something) thought it meant we are going to be getting an awesome Inspector Spacetime crossover episode? ;)

And while i know it will never happen, how awesome would an actual Doctor Who crossover be, even if it's more subtle like Cougartown?
posted by usagizero at 10:54 AM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a really good write up about Harmon in Wired last month. He discusses his daytime drinking, his similarities to Abed, and those story circles you see in the white board links, and how every story has to fit in one.
posted by Roman Graves at 11:04 AM on October 16, 2011


This is also cool: The text convo that was the genesis of the episode: Run Lola Run episode booyah done.
posted by auto-correct at 11:06 AM on October 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I wonder if Season 3 will start doing a similar arc with Jeff.

I think so. This happened in the first episode this season.
posted by pishposh at 11:08 AM on October 16, 2011 [19 favorites]


Oh that's awesome, auto-correct. While Dan Harmon gets all the credit for Community, he would give at least half of it to Megan Ganz based on the interviews I've read.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:10 AM on October 16, 2011


Wow. That's a phenomenal catch whoever caught the rainbow screengrab.
posted by auto-correct at 11:10 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Other fun things: The opening shot of the episode is of room 303, with Britta asking, "Isn't it 304?" This was production code 303, but was aired in place of 304 for some reason.

Also, it appears that Troy and Abed have a vending machine where a refrigerator would naturally go.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:13 AM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


This was a great great ep. I'd been worried a bit because this season had felt off somehow. Pierce and Chang and the Dean had all gone off the rails (more than usual), and they were never my favorite characters. Everything clicked this week though, even with Pierce.
posted by kmz at 11:17 AM on October 16, 2011


That show sucks harder than an airplane toilet.

I love it
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:18 AM on October 16, 2011


This episode has provoked a lot of thought including this piece that is about where the show can go from here. Harmon was forced to rebut some parts of it on his blog to set the story straight. For instance, he switched the airing order around because this ep, understandably, needed more time in editing.
posted by crashlanding at 11:20 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


auto-correct: "I noticed this too, and it's really interesting that it takes Jeff leaving for everyone else to get along."

Hang on, wasn't the timeline in which everyone ended up the best the one in which Pierce was gone?
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:24 AM on October 16, 2011




I am reading this thread and associated links while proctoring my students working on some group work, and one group keeps talking about magnitude (the concept, not the character), and every time they say it, I want to shout, "POP POP!"

That is all.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:26 AM on October 16, 2011 [18 favorites]


Hang on, wasn't the timeline in which everyone ended up the best the one in which Pierce was gone?

No, Jeff had rigged it so that he would never have to go get the pizza. When Abed caught the dice and pointed out the fact, they sent him down to get it. He therefore didn't stop Britta from singing "Roxanne," which precipitated the dance party.
posted by synecdoche at 11:29 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hang on, wasn't the timeline in which everyone ended up the best the one in which Pierce was gone?

Rewatching it right now. Pierce leaving is a pretty good one... Troy and Britta share a moment in the bathroom (Troy awesomely eats his cigarette), Jeff and Annie make googly eyes at each other. I guess I just assumed that the last one with everyone dancing was the best, but nothing really goes wrong when Pierce leaves either.
posted by auto-correct at 11:30 AM on October 16, 2011


Troy awesomely eats his cigarette

I think that gag hit way differently on some sort of generational/cultural divide. It seemed obviously a candy cigarette to me, but there are a large number of people that don't remember/never lived in a world with candy cigarettes.
posted by ndfine at 11:36 AM on October 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


Arguably, Jeff-Timeline keeps everything more or less where it is, where Pierce-Timeline is the only one that ends with things better (vis-a-vis Britta and Troy, Jeff and Annie, etc.)
posted by Navelgazer at 11:36 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think The Simpsons went off the rails when it made its characters into bland caricatures of their former selves

That's funny; I like Community a lot less now exactly because they've turned the characters into caricatures, and because there's so much shallow nerd pandering.
posted by martinrebas at 11:36 AM on October 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


My frustratingly geeky comment of the day is to ask, will Community Season 3 be like Buffy Season Six - the dark and divisive season about how growing up isn't always awesome?
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:40 AM on October 16, 2011


And now I realize I was wrong, because in Jeff-Timeline, Annie is invited to move in with Troy and Abed.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:40 AM on October 16, 2011


auto-correct: "I guess I just assumed that the last one with everyone dancing was the best, but nothing really goes wrong when Pierce leaves either."

My impression was that the Pierce leaving timeline was the classic sitcom happy ending, the complete opposite of the Evil Aaaaaabed Timeline, whereas Jeff leaving was the "real" timeline that is the natural continuation of the existing timeline (I don't know if I explained that very well.) In other words, the Pierce timeline is the one where the characters end up happiest, but the Jeff timeline is the most real, the most natural, the one the characters actually need to exist in.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:40 AM on October 16, 2011


I'm glad we now have a proper thread to discuss this show, and not just piggybacking on that TBBT one. So let me be the first to point out:

Metafilter: Community weblog
posted by hincandenza at 11:41 AM on October 16, 2011 [13 favorites]


martinrebas: "
That's funny; I like Community a lot less now exactly because they've turned the characters into caricatures, and because there's so much shallow nerd pandering.
"

I think you want the BBT thread, which is a couple of floors down.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:42 AM on October 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also, I don't know how many times I've watched this episode so far, but I only realized just now that Troy and Abed are watching Inspector Spacetime at the very end.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:43 AM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


This episode definitely would've fit better where it was originally planned - as the third of the season. I even remember commenting to myself on how the two relatively normal episodes back to back felt like too much scene-setting and not enough pay off. If this week's had been between them then it would've flowed much better.
posted by codacorolla at 11:45 AM on October 16, 2011


That's funny; I like Community a lot less now exactly because they've turned the characters into caricatures, and because there's so much shallow nerd pandering.

Please. There is substantial nerd pandering.
posted by auto-correct at 11:49 AM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: "and one group keeps talking about magnitude (the concept, not the character), and every time they say it, I want to shout, "POP POP!""

I dare you to do it and report back on the results.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:55 AM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's funny; I like Community a lot less now exactly because they've turned the characters into caricatures, and because there's so much shallow nerd pandering.

Your opinion is wrong.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:00 PM on October 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


I wonder if Season 3 will start doing a similar arc with Jeff.
I think so. This happened in the first episode this season.


Love that screencap. Also in S3E01 Jeff has that hallucination where he is interchangeable with Pierce, he grasps for a table out of his reach, and when he returns to the study group he has white hair and he 'looks 70'.
posted by marco_nj at 12:09 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I don't know who's against signing along to Roxanne, but I sure as hell don't want them in my study group.)

I gave a little cheer every time he did it because I find the first half of that song (especially the first word) one of the most ear-punishing moments in modern pop history.

And while i know it will never happen, how awesome would an actual Doctor Who crossover be, even if it's more subtle like Cougartown?

EVERYTHING HAPPENS ALWAYS

or did we learn nothing from this episode's spacetimorphosis?
posted by psoas at 12:12 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


This episode made me laugh so hard that I then had a coughing fit for the next twenty minutes. (Granted, I have cough-variant asthma, but it still made me cough way more than any other comedy for the last year or so!) What got me was the troll in Troy's timeline. Well, that's what made the coughing start. It came back in full force when the goatees came on the screen.

When Community first came on air, I gave it a try because I otherwise liked NBC's Thursday line up... And I hated it. From the first episode or so, it seemed like it was going to be the standard sitcom where there are hot girls who matter just because the main guy wants to sleep with them, the main guy is so much cooler than everyone else such that it's appropriate for him to mock them relentlessly, and everyone else is a loser for us to laugh at. And it takes place at a community college, because everyone knows those places are for losers and rejects. I gave up after the second episode.

....Then the Dungeons and Dragons episode got publicized. I decided to check it out (because I'm a nerd), and I was fully expecting it to be one of those lame things where a normal show is transported to a fantasy setting, and then they have to complete a quest in order to return everything to normal (so... pretty much, what the claymation Christmas special was like, only sucky instead of awesome). But I was so wrong about that. Oh man, I was blown away. The fact that they did an entire episode about playing a game where you pretend to be someone else in a different land without ever once 'transporting' the audience to that land is remarkable and a sign of incredible talent and comedic vision. They didn't do a D&D episode for a cheap gimmick to get cheap laughs; no, they did it because it was a challenge, and clever, and hilarious. You can see behind the comedy that airs an incredibly talented cast and crew who are deeply, deeply invested in their work.

I was so wrong, in my initial judgment of Community. And I am so glad to be wrong.

I'm midway through the DVDs for Season 2, now. Only complaint is how hard they make it to access previous seasons.
posted by meese at 12:12 PM on October 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


To me, the nerd culture references in Community often come across like the references in the recent wave of awful movie parodies ("Superhero Movie", etc). That is, just referring to or referencing some other movie is assumed to be entertaining - there's no actual joke.

I think you want the BBT thread, which is a couple of floors down.

I 've tried to watch BBT a couple of times, but it's so thoroughly awful that I can't imagine why it even exists. Community is a lot better, but I miss the relatively normal Britta from the pilot episode, and I wish that the characters would seem more like real people in general.

On a more positive note, I really liked the timeline where Troy gets the pizzas "as fast as he can, so he doesn't miss anything."
posted by martinrebas at 12:14 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


martinrebas: I don't agree with you, but I get where you're coming from, at least. I don't think they're becoming cartoons, so much as the influence of the group (which as this season is showing is a mixed bag at best) amplifies their weird traits. (Except for in Abed's case, where he gets more and more "socialized" as the series goes on. If there's anyone for whom the group is purely positive, I'd say it's him.)

But this season also hasn't had the chance to breathe yet. I'm hoping for great stuff from Britta down the line.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:21 PM on October 16, 2011


Chang and Tom Haverford are my two favourite characters on TV right now.

Donna's Tom face is the best thing I saw on TV last week.
posted by kmz at 12:24 PM on October 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


EVERYTHING HAPPENS ALWAYS

or did we learn nothing from this episode's spacetimorphosis?


But i mean the reality i'm in, damn it. ;) (and if i could hop between them, i doubt i'd be in this incarnation of 'me')

Also, I don't know how many times I've watched this episode so far, but I only realized just now that Troy and Abed are watching Inspector Spacetime at the very end.


How did i miss this?? I now wonder even more, they do then to have over the top episodes every so often. I think it would be a pretty awesome way to end the series too, not mention this again, then when the show is looking to be ended, bring in the evil characters, and no one notices. ;)
posted by usagizero at 12:24 PM on October 16, 2011


I'm hoping for great stuff from Britta down the line.

"Britta's sort of the wild card from my perspective"
posted by auto-correct at 12:36 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite thing about Community is the writers' dedication to making episodes canon. They pull some crazy stunts and it would be so easy to hit the big reset button at the end of the episode and not have to worry about it any more.

Instead, they create these episodes where they play with the traditional fictional narrative, AND allow these things to impact the characters. Yes, they were zombie-fied last Halloween and yes, Abed had a mental breakdown and everyone had to pretend to visit the North Pole to try and snap him out of it, and these things have caused the characters to grow and change.

Also Dan Harmon wrote Heat Vision and Jack so I already knew he was awesome. :)
posted by jess at 12:36 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I dare you to do it and report back on the results."

".. and the magnitude --"

"Pop - POP!" (with hand motion)

Silence. Class looks at me as if I'm high.

"I guess none of you watch Community."

Hard-working female student, in very comforting voice: "It's okay, we all already think you're crazy."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:41 PM on October 16, 2011 [53 favorites]


Respect.
posted by auto-correct at 12:42 PM on October 16, 2011


They pull some crazy stunts and it would be so easy to hit the big reset button at the end of the episode and not have to worry about it any more.

Like the zombie episode. It has written into it a total "reset button" ending... But they still respect the ramifications of what happened that evening.
posted by meese at 12:45 PM on October 16, 2011


martinrebas: "Community is a lot better, but I miss the relatively normal Britta from the pilot episode, and I wish that the characters would seem more like real people in general."

Normal Britta was one of the worst things of the first few episodes of Community. In fact, I would say that it's one of the reasons why the first season is so... hard to get into.

If you're showing the series to someone else, starting from the beginning is somewhat of a mistake.
posted by Memo at 1:07 PM on October 16, 2011


So if they don't need Jeff to keep them together, maybe they don't need Jeff at all?

(SPOILERS)

This is sorta what I initially took away from this episode ("Wow, everything is better for everyone when Jeff isn't there to fuck with their lives! That's upsetting") but the other possibility I saw was: The six distinct timelines were created by Jeff's diceroll, which, in and of itself was based in deception. The events that happen in the timelines unfold based on Jeff's building off said deception (silencing Britta's singing, kissing Annie, enforcing the baking embargo against Shirley, etc).

When Abed a. catches the die, thus circumventing this entire cabal and b. calls Jeff out on his ploy, pointing out exactly what he's doing. Something that's touched on in several episodes is the fact that Jeff comes from a professional background of amorality and deception, and the love and support of the study group is what keeps him on the straight and narrow. This is something that makes Jeff uncomfortable at first: he compares compassion to a disease in Season 2 ("I think I.. caught something at Greendale.") , and by the end of the episode, accepts who he is becoming ("That's where I want to work, but I'd rather hang out with cool people; people so cool they care.") The first episode of the season shows Jeff have a fever dream where he ends up ostracized and alone, literally becoming Pierce, leading to finally understanding and empathizing with Pierce as to why he was such a dick last year. Pierce himself has pointed this out as early as the first season ("Chip off the old block!"), and Jeff has faced this before, when he found himself (mostly) alone on Valentine's Day, and even gave Pierce the advice he isn't always great at taking.

I guess the point I've been so laboriously avoiding is that I feel the outcome of the dice-roll (or more specifically, the outcome of the diceroll that never happened) is less that the group no longer needs Jeff, and therefore he's a detriment to said group, moreso that it highlights how much Jeff now needs the group.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 1:07 PM on October 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


I've tried. I've seen all the "Classic" episodes. I just watched this one too. I must have seen at least 10 episodes, likely many more. But I just don't like Community. All the actors overact. The pop-culture jokes feel forced. The characters are all unlikable. Everything about it feels wrong compared to a 30 Rock or Parks and Recreation. It feels like a bunch of nerds trying to hard.

I've asked before, but I'll ask again--what am I missing?!
posted by to sir with millipedes at 1:13 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I knew immediately that this episode would get its own metafilter thread
posted by moorooka at 1:13 PM on October 16, 2011


to sir with millipedes: "I've asked before, but I'll ask again--what am I missing?"

Nothing, you just have to have a certain sense of humor to enjoy the meta-humor, pop references and the poor human being that is Dan Harmon. There's a reason why Community is always on the verge of being cancelled, don't feel guilty for not liking it.
posted by Memo at 1:19 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


That show sucks harder than an airplane toilet.

Speaking of airplane toilets...
posted by _superconductor at 1:56 PM on October 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


to sir with millipedes: "I've asked before, but I'll ask again--what am I missing?"

Yeah, I agree with Memo above. I love Community a lot, but I recognize that it's an acquired taste. Community basically feels like it was made for me it's so in tune with my sense of humor and the tropes I love. But if you're not laughing and you don't like the characters, it's just not for you, and there's no shame in that. It does make me a little sad though, because god knows the show could use the higher ratings.

I would have loved this episode if only for the glimpse of Troy and Abed's apartment. All the pictures of them up on the walls! The multiple Kickpuncher posters! The Indiana Jones model! I would watch a whole episode devoted to those two decorating their apartment together. Also, I want Abed's pajamas, they're adorable.
posted by yasaman at 1:58 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


What I'm trying to figure out is how Community rates to the rest of Chevy Chase's work. What say you guys?
posted by wobh at 2:02 PM on October 16, 2011


I've been reading every comment in this thread in Abed's voice. It works.
posted by meese at 2:07 PM on October 16, 2011 [17 favorites]


wobh: "What I'm trying to figure out is how Community rates to the rest of Chevy Chase's work. What say you guys?"

Are you asking how Chevy Chase's performance in Community rates against all other Chevy Chase performances or how Community itself rates against all other works starring Chevy Chase?
posted by Dr. Zira at 2:07 PM on October 16, 2011


I've been a fan since the first episode, but something about this third season seems amiss. The characters don't feel like people anymore, they feel like chess pieces that Harmon plays against each other. The whole thing is starting to feel forced. Funny stuff happens, but I'm not feeling that emotional bond with the characters so much anymore.

I don't like seeing these circle graphs being used as an essential tool in writing the show. Community is good when it breaks the formula, not when it follows one. And it's upsetting to hear Harmon has such trouble communicating with other people since the core of the show should be about the way these people emotionally react to one another.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 2:14 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes. And more besides.
posted by wobh at 2:14 PM on October 16, 2011


I found those script diagrams (and the text conversation between Harmon and Ganz) to be soooo nerdgasmically awesome. I love that Dan Harmon is so open about the creative and working process of this show, and shares so much of it with fans. It's fascinating to see in that text conversation how a great idea starts as one thing and, in collaboration, gets focused and refined very quickly into something else awesome.

This episode has immediately earned a place on my all-time favorites list (of this or any other show), and was so well executed technically, just a delight to watch.

>is less that the group no longer needs Jeff, and therefore he's a detriment to said group, moreso that it highlights how much Jeff now needs the group.

Thanks for this reading of the ending--I was worrying along the same lines, that Jeff was going to be further Pierce-ified, which would have been a let down. It makes sense considering that Jeff is the main character of the show, that long-term his character arc will be fundamental to the narrative (and will likely unfold most slowly because of that).

Anyway. I fucking love this show.
posted by LooseFilter at 2:22 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


something about this third season seems amiss.

I've felt this too (though ep. 4 has kind of demolished that for now), but can tell that they're really trying to experiment with the form--and medium, even--quite substantially, and am willing to give pretty fair leeway before it'll turn me off. Kind of how I felt about Lost through Season 3-ish--even when it was bad I had so much respect for what they were trying to do creatively that I was very forgiving of misses.
posted by LooseFilter at 2:25 PM on October 16, 2011


I read the ending as a lesson that Jeff is a fundamental equal part of the group now. He can't be aloof from it ("of but not part" as one of my old profs used to say), either by playing 'Leader' or removing himself from group dynamics (being the 7th man on a d6).

I think that's why some people are twigging on this season being a bit different from those that came before. Jeff isn't taking as much of a leadership role any more, so the Jeff Takes The Reins storybeats are not coming like they used to.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:41 PM on October 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am still waiting for the Community and Parks and Rec crossover so Tom and Magnitude can hang out together.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:48 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that's why some people are twigging on this season being a bit different from those that came before. Jeff isn't taking as much of a leadership role any more, so the Jeff Takes The Reins storybeats are not coming like they used to.

Nah, I think it's more likely people are frustrated with this because because the first three episodes were terrible.

The most recent episode really is remarkable, though. I hope they can keep it up.
posted by bittermensch at 2:49 PM on October 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nah, I think it's more likely people are frustrated with this because because the first three episodes were terrible.

Nah. The first episode was good, the second sub-par and a little off-feeling, and the third highly divisive. Nobody started with the "these all suck" thing until they hated last week's.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:54 PM on October 16, 2011


Nah, I think it's more likely people are frustrated with this because because the first three episodes were terrible.

I thought they were all excellent actually.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:01 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


The thing that has felt most off to me about this season is Pierce. They gave him a big "emotional growth" moment at the end of last season, with him deciding to leave the group even after they invited him back in. The first ep of the new season pushed the reset button on that immediately, with Pierce reverting to wanting to be accepted, and Jeff reverting to wanting to keep him out. It didn't feel true to what we'd learned about either character.

Maybe Harmon was trying to make some kind of "yeah but how much do people REALLY change?" kind of point, but it definitely wasn't handled that way. It seemed more like standard amnesiac sitcom behavior, which was weird for a show that places so much emphasis on continuity.

But yeah, the last ep was seriously impressive, and has washed away most of the initial bad taste of the season. I'm amazed at how they managed to cram in a little arc for every single character in 25 minutes.
posted by speicus at 3:33 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel like people have been talking about Community losing it's edge since halfway through season 1. I think this is the downside of being an innovative show; people want something groundbreaking *every time* and if you go on a run of good-not-great episodes people will start wondering if you've lost your edge.

I've been watching Cheers a lot recently and it's an absolutely wonderful show, but you basically know what you're paying for. Norm is loveable, Cliff is pathetic, Carla is caustic and Sam is charming. Shake, serve and enjoy. Community doesn't really have that luxury, which I think means that even hardcore fans are going to be disappointed more often than in a typical sitcom.
posted by auto-correct at 3:37 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Deleted this ep. from the DVR after only watching it 3 times. Too soon. Too soon.

.
posted by FeralHat at 3:37 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel like people have been talking about Community losing it's edge since halfway through season 1. I think this is the downside of being an innovative show; people want something groundbreaking *every time* and if you go on a run of good-not-great episodes people will start wondering if you've lost your edge.

I've been watching Cheers a lot recently and it's an absolutely wonderful show, but you basically know what you're paying for. Norm is loveable, Cliff is pathetic, Carla is caustic and Sam is charming. Shake, serve and enjoy. Community doesn't really have that luxury, which I think means that even hardcore fans are going to be disappointed more often than in a typical sitcom.


I like Community quite a bit (when it isn't smug) but it's never been a ground breaking show that's shaking up the very foundations of the sitcom. I turn on a Community episode and, just like Cheers, I know exactly what I'm going to get: Jeff will be charming yet pompous, Abed will make pop culture references, Troy will say dumb yet amusing things, Pierce will be mean, Britta will be a delusional yet lovable liberal, Annie will be an over-achiever, Shirley will be nice and ignored. The episode will end with either Jeff realizing he can't act like a father to his friends or Pierce realizing he can't be selfish. Cue Jeff or Abed monologue.

I see a lot of Community fans pride themselves on watching such an "innovative" show (and it is innovative every now and then with episodes like this). But the basic structure of a Community episode is as formulaic as Cheers or The Simpsons or Seinfeld or (god forbid) The Big Bang Theory. And guess what? That's okay. Sometimes it's fine just to have an amusing story with this set of comedy archetypes. The show is very funny when it isn't winking at the camera. But don't kid yourself that these characters are changing drastically - Jeff has been recommitting to the group since episode one.
posted by bittermensch at 4:04 PM on October 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Say what you will about him, but Chevy Chase has always been one of my favourite "funny movie guys", and I feel that he is really being wasted on this show. I dig Community and along with Parks and Recreation it's pretty much the only TV sitcom I can stand, but this third season is leaving me feeling a little blah. It has every right to be, but this show is way too pleased with itself. People saw a lot of innovation in the most recent episode and, yeah, it was probably the best of the season so far, but alongside the innovation I saw a whole lot of filler I could have done without.

The disastrous "evil" timeline was hilarious though and the payoff at the end was very cool. I dunno, it's a clever and witty show and apart from Abed all the characters are fun and charismatic, but I just can't get thrilled by it the way some people apparently can.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:21 PM on October 16, 2011


They're all dead and in Purgatory. Chang and the Dean are brothers wrestling for control of the campus according to rules they themselves cannot break. Fat Neil is actually thin, and is from a different plane crash. The colour of particular paintballs is important.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:50 PM on October 16, 2011 [15 favorites]


bittermensch, I don't know if this responds to your criticism exactly, but while nobody is exactly calling this show Louie (which truly does revolutionize the sitcom, but is also in its own way barely a "comedy") it is far more daring than the other sitcoms on the air right now. Dan Harmon know his beats, to be sure, and diagrams them out in those circles, but that's simply him describing the bounds of his sandbox.

Take "Paradigms of Human Memory," the clip show composed entirely of new material. That itself is subversively funny, and not easy to pull off, either. South Park did something kind of in the same vein in its infancy, but even they didn't play it as straight or as balls-out as "Paradigms" did. But more importantly, Community used it as both a fantastic episode as well as a parody of it's own standard emotional beats, climaxing in a montage of snippets of Jeff Winger speeches in random locations, just stringing the platitudes together into a seeming whole.

And the episode also served to show off the dynamics of the group, which while not rapidly changing do evolve. Pierce is not the Pierce that we saw last season. Norwegian Troll aside, he hasn't really been anything but loving to the group, and the Doll itself was a knee-jerk reaction to being lonely that Troy had left his mansion, and in a couple timelines he even thought better about it.

Anyway, just my random thoughts.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:51 PM on October 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


One point not brought up: Community has an entirely fresh writing staff. That could account for some... jarringness of the new season.
posted by stratastar at 4:55 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing that has felt most off to me about this season is Pierce. They gave him a big "emotional growth" moment at the end of last season, with him deciding to leave the group even after they invited him back in. The first ep of the new season pushed the reset button on that immediately, with Pierce reverting to wanting to be accepted, and Jeff reverting to wanting to keep him out. It didn't feel true to what we'd learned about either character.

In the actual time-line Pierce doesn't give Troy the Troll, and indeed has evolved enough to realize that his gesture is petty and won't make him feel any better about Troy moving out. So the audience gets to see Pierce acting typically dickish, but also get to see him acting more relatable and human.

It's interesting, because at the start of the season Jeff has his glee-like fantasy about "being more normal and having more fun", but the group doesn't act normal or fun until Jeff is removed from the equation.

Anyway, like I've said before, I think that this season (more so than the others) is building to a larger storyline, and eps two and three were both stage-setting as opposed to punchline (like ep four). It was a mistake that two and three were shown side by side, and having two stage-setting episodes right next to each other threw off the flow of the season and probably turned some people off.

(It feels like I'm commenting on an episode of Lost!)
posted by codacorolla at 4:58 PM on October 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's also worth noting that if the show had continued in the proper order then we would've seen Jeff's ploy with the die first, and then immediately seen him try a similar controlling and ill-fated plot with breaking up the lab partners in the next (more slowly paced) episode, in addition to the jokes about Ertha Kitt and Britta smoking pot making more sense.
posted by codacorolla at 5:00 PM on October 16, 2011


This was the only episode I've watched! It was fantastic. Chop busted, fellow adult.
posted by theredpen at 5:07 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the actual time-line Pierce doesn't give Troy the Troll, and indeed has evolved enough to realize that his gesture is petty and won't make him feel any better about Troy moving out.

You know, this is an interesting point, taken in conjunction with how the 'real' timeline reveals Jeff's changing relationship to the group. In all the other timelines, everyone else in the group just takes it as given that Jeff is in charge, that he knows how to do things the right way. That's the group dynamic from previous seasons. So, of course Pierce, in those other timelines, is going to revert back to the same sort of group dynamic, where he's a total jerk. Only in the timeline where the group doesn't treat Jeff like Dad, does Pierce get to do a nice, grown-up thing.

Granted, Pierce does try to do a nice thing in one of the other timelines, by taking the gift back... But you don't get to do that. Once you've housewarmed someone, they stay housewarmed.
posted by meese at 5:18 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like Community quite a bit (when it isn't smug) but it's never been a ground breaking show that's shaking up the very foundations of the sitcom. I turn on a Community episode and, just like Cheers, I know exactly what I'm going to get: Jeff will be charming yet pompous, Abed will make pop culture references, Troy will say dumb yet amusing things, Pierce will be mean, Britta will be a delusional yet lovable liberal, Annie will be an over-achiever, Shirley will be nice and ignored.

I think I'm going to just have to agree to disagree with you on this. I don't at all think Community is free of its own internal tropes, but I think it does do unexpected things with its characters more often than other great sitcoms. That doesn't make it better than other shows -- half of the fun of Seinfeld was that the characters never, ever learned anything. But to me it's hard to argue that Community isn't fundamentally different in structure than most other sitcoms, similarly to the way Seinfeld was different when it came out.
posted by auto-correct at 5:30 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


One point not brought up: Community has an entirely fresh writing staff.

Why/how did that happen?
posted by crossoverman at 6:29 PM on October 16, 2011


It's not entirely fresh, but Dan Harmon and Megan Ganz were the only one's left. I think it was genial enough, and people just found other gigs at the ends of their contracts. Other writers' rooms will respect the hell out of Community experience, and can pay a lot more.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:40 PM on October 16, 2011


Why/how did that happen?

The d6 came up '4'.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:59 PM on October 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Why/how did that happen?

My guess is that they quit or got fired. Dan Harmon himself says he's hard to work with (in the WTF podcast he mentioned that Sarah Silverman said he needed to be the "biggest asshole in the room").
posted by drezdn at 6:17 AM on October 17, 2011


This was such an amazing episode. Crisis on Infinite Earthas.
posted by jbickers at 7:37 AM on October 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Jeff had rigged it so that he would never have to go get the pizza. When Abed caught the dice and pointed out the fact, they sent him down to get it. He therefore didn't stop Britta from singing "Roxanne," which precipitated the dance party.

I have now seen the (awesome) episode, but I just want to point out how much fun this paragraph was before seeing it. At least in part because “Dance Party” always makes me think of that spot in We Love Katamari.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:30 AM on October 17, 2011


The six distinct timelines were created by Jeff's diceroll, which, in and of itself was based in deception.

My takeaway was similar to yours, in that, the best timeline worked out to be the one where Jeff is called out on his innate instinct to be sneaky, and owns up to it.

There are other good timelines, but that's the one where everything comes together properly.

And while I doubt they will, I desperately want them to do something else with the evil-alt-timeline. I don't know why, but the concept is so much fun.

Plus, I can see something really funny with Abed and bizarro-Abed just sitting around talking about the relative merits of goatees.
posted by quin at 9:04 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why/how did that happen?

As I understand it (from Twitter and the S2 DVD commentary), most of them couldn't hack the frequent all-nighters and departed amicably for less-strenuous pastures.
posted by Zozo at 9:11 AM on October 17, 2011


I was just sad that no timeline involved the phrase "Annie get your gun".
posted by atbash at 9:39 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, as a non-Nielsen fam (ok, we don't even have cable), I'm going to go out and buy some Community DVDs. What else can I do to help see it stay on the air? We've seen too many good shows cancelled to think it was a certainly Community would get even this far -- this episode could easily have remained a what-if, and how many more like it are to come?

(I would eventually have bought them anyway, but it occurs to me that the time to do so is now)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:15 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else think Piece can see alternate realities? I watched the ep for the second time, and on the first run through, he says "people are hitting their heads", after only Jeff hits his. He can see the alternate Jeffs!
posted by flaterik at 2:19 PM on October 17, 2011


It must be the Buddhist Ponzi Scheme the he's bought into!
posted by stratastar at 3:12 PM on October 17, 2011


nothing really goes wrong when Pierce leaves either.

oh, but it does! It's like the lack of Pierce creates an asshole vacuum - Jeff's behavior is the worst. Remember that Troy and Britta only arrive at their new connection because Jeff started bullying Troy for no apparent reason as soon as Pierce left the room. Pierce had always (to me) seemed to exist outside of the group dynamic, but this episode made me reconsider.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:22 PM on October 17, 2011


I found the Jeff timeline to be a comment about the show. The group may not need him, they may even be happier without him. But what the group turned into in the minute he was gone wouldn't last two weeks on network TV. It felt like Dan Harmon was baldly saying "Jeff is the reason this show exists."
posted by dry white toast at 10:05 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suppose the episode order "Remedial Chaos Theory" and "Competitive Ecology" will be corrected on the s3 DVD. That's almost too bad; I enjoyed some of the speculation that arose over fallout elements that appeared before they were set up. My favorite wild theory was that the timeline where Abed goes to get the pizza represents an alternate reality that would be visited further on in the season.

Also, it appears that Troy and Abed have a vending machine where a refrigerator would naturally go.

It looks more like a refrigerator with decals on the front to make it look like a vending machine.
posted by vaghjar at 10:05 PM on October 17, 2011


Pierce had always (to me) seemed to exist outside of the group dynamic, but this episode made me reconsider.

Don't forget S01E22 -- Pierce gets kicked out of the group and tensions rise -- no one wants to be "the new Pierce".
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:21 PM on October 17, 2011


Yeah there were a bunch of jokes in episode 3 (aired) that only made sense if you had seen episode 4. Such is life.

I am going to go watch the episode again.
posted by stratastar at 10:22 PM on October 17, 2011


Important: All 6 timelines at once.
posted by auto-correct at 12:22 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love that the worst outcome came with rolling a one.
posted by drezdn at 12:32 PM on October 19, 2011


I was wondering about that! Pierce mentioned telling the group his Eartha Kitt secret in episode 3, but we don't hear it until episode 4.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:30 PM on October 19, 2011


I kinda wonder who Chevy Chase brags about boning IRL. Because I kinda feel like ALL of Pierce's plot points are the writers way of taking the piss out of Chevy for being an egotist blowhard.
posted by stratastar at 3:05 PM on October 19, 2011


Stratastar, I'm pretty sure you're right about that. I'm convinced part of the reason Pierce ended up in a full body cast was because the writers were tired of him "improving."
posted by drezdn at 3:11 PM on October 19, 2011


I ass you mean improvising, not improving :)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:06 AM on October 21, 2011


Remember, when you ass, you make an assume out of... wait
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:09 AM on October 21, 2011


Yup meant to say improvising. There was a section in the anti-drug play that I'm pretty sure was inspired by Chase's constant attempts to offer "improvements."
posted by drezdn at 2:00 PM on October 21, 2011


I just marathonned my way through the Season 1 DVDs and I'm a convert. My first exposure to the show was watching the latter half of "The Art of Discourse." I wasn't favorably impressed. A lengthy sequence of our characters exchanging "duuuuh!!!" with some teenagers, followed by Animal House pastiche. Inspired, if I recall correctly, by mentions here, I later saw season 1's paintball episode, and a few episodes of season 2, including the paintball redux. And then I got the DVDs.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The opening of "The Art of Discourse", with Abed introducing his checklist of things movies and tv had taught him he had to do for a successful year at college was really funny. And it established the episode being about increasingly contrived situations derived from college movies. I still think the "duh" stuff was pretty stupid, but, in context, the Animal House pastiche worked.

The Greendale College of Community is like Discworld -- it's pervaded with narrativium. Stories happen and suck people into them and bend them to their needs. They try to get through as best they can. Abed's more or less aware of it, though he's as affected as everyone else.

I love it.
posted by Zed at 1:32 PM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just noticed that in the Jeff-gets-the-pizza timeline, Pierce throws the Norwegian troll away twice.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:33 PM on October 29, 2011


I still have "a Pocket Full of Hawthornes" stuck in my head...
posted by the_artificer at 10:04 AM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am way too excited about tonight's special guest: The most awesome power ballad ever written for not only a Batman film, but THE WORLD.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:05 PM on November 10, 2011


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