Saturday, May 17, 2014

COMMUNITY - Season 1


Season One Began September 17, 2009
*Click the episode title for a link to a full synopsis

25. Basic Genealogy (C) 
This episode is about as bad as Community gets, which is still better than most sitcoms on television today. A few laughs, but most of the story ideas just fall flat. 


Jeff tries to get Troy to join the Greendale football team in order to save himself from being on Greendale promotional material. Some funny stuff, but a pretty forgettable episode.

The prime story line of Britta cheating in Senor Chang's class produces a lot of great laughs, especially the trial by the Greendale pool. One nice thing about the first season was how much of the campus they shot (it was really Los Angeles City College). Unfortunately, you never see the Greendale pool used again in the series. Despite a good prime story, Troy and Abed's side story sinks this near the bottom of the season.

I'm sure that Annie and Shirley as cops was funnier on paper. It works here, but not as well as it should.

Britta and Troy's secret dance class is good, but Dean Pelton finding out about Jeff and Prof. Slater's secret relationship is the real highlight of this episode.

There isn't as much commentary or insight into religion as one might expect, but the group fight at the end of the episode makes it all worth it.

The central story line of Abed using film to work through family problems doesn't fully click, but I love John Michael Higgins' portrayal of Prof. Whitman encouraging Jeff to "seize the day."

Season 1's finale episode is very funny, but has a tough time doing anything of consequence in regards to lead character relationships. It's clear that the writers were still trying to decide just how serious they wanted to take overall dramatic arcs moving forward in the series.

Chang is exposed for not having a degree and a more difficult Spanish teacher takes his place. A good example of a solid first season episode with great laughs, believable enough stories, and simple film references like Troy's Good Will Hunting plumbing skills.

A good episode, but in my opinion its a little overrated by Community fans. Jeff having to play in short shorts (and eventually in the nude) is funny, but the secondary story of finding Abed a date just doesn't work that well. The "White Abed" reveal at the end is creepy in the bad way. It is a funny, but uneven episode.

Upon first watch, the Britta and Jeff insult competition with a group of teenagers seemed childish. However, after seeing it again, the idea really does hit upon a vein of truth. Solid supporting story lines round out this episode.

A really solid episode. There are some great freak out moments from Troy and Chang, while even Jeff and Shirley have some good stuff together here.

The first season of Community used lots of school dances and events as basic plot devices and this episode revolves around an STD fair. Funny episode, but Jeff gets the best dramatic character moment when we see him change his method for storing names in his phone.

The episode revolves around the aftermath of drunken phone calls made by Jeff and Britta. Abed and Jeff, like in "Home Economics" get some great moments together. 

11. Debate 109 (B)
The central debate story is perfect. It is a natural outlet to see Jeff's series long struggle between his selfishness and selflessness. Unfortunately, the secondary story with Abed's prophetic web show isn't anywhere near as good.

10. Pilot (B)
The pilot episode of the series still captures the relationships and characterizations that would come to define. It is surprising how early the show understood its characters. Still,, it wouldn't take on its iconic conceptual edge until much later in the first season.

9. Spanish 101 (B)
This episode introduces Senor Chang and ends with a hilarious presentation by Pierce and Jeff.

Coming back from winter break the show kept up its strong momentum. Lots of funny story lines in this one, with Jack Black providing some great moments as Buddy. Owen Wilson has a brief cameo at the end inviting Buddy into the cool group. 

Annie and Vaughn produce a lot of good laughs, especially Vaughn's final song. The secondary story of Pierce trying to get a good "off the cuff" joke while watching Kick Puncher with the group is great. 

Introducing the term "Ghosting" to the Community universe. The show was really clicking here, even creating a great moment between Pierce and Jeff.

The first Halloween episode features Abed's Batman and Pierce's epic drug overdose

Troy and Abed sing "Somewhere Out There" as the all the threads of the episode come together. It's one of the series greatest moments. 

This is the best example of what the best episodes of Community would look like if they never went the route of their famous concept episodes. The several story lines all feature funny moments and good character beats. It's not iconic or definitive for the series, but it's a good glimpse at what Community would have looked like if it continued to follow a more standard sitcom format.

Community does Goodfellas. This was the first real concept episode and its one of the best of the entire series. What makes this concept work is that it isn't just Community parodying Goodfellas (and broader gangster tropes), it is a Goodfellas like story embodied in the study groups' character dynamic and the community college setting. "Contemporary American Poultry" stands out because it doesn't just imitate, it appropriates the spirit of the Goodfellas.

What "Contemporary American Poultry" was to Goodfellas, "Modern Warfare" is to action films. This episode is widely considered one of the greatest television episodes of all-time. A school-wide game of paintball for priority registration provides a great excuse to appropriate ideas, moments, and beats from some of the most iconic action films. My personal favorite moment is the John Woo inspired sequence with Chang and the Die Hard/Rambo inspired final moments with the Dean. Everything in this episode clicked so well and it became such a defining moment for the show, that every episode after it stood in its shadow (they basically re-made the episode in season 2 and season 5).

Season 1 By the Numbers:

What do you think? Do I have right to be confident about my rankings, or is it a good thing I'm holding them lightly? Feel free to comment below.


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