Community has always been a show that demands a lot from its viewers:
Constant attention to detail; indulgence of the occasional conceptual over-reach in its writing; the ability to pretend to be invested in Shirley's relationship with Andre.
But all of that hard work becomes a faint memory when Community really gets cooking. And since Community Season 1, the show has often gotten its cooking-est during genre parody episodes.
Though parody episodes have been a TV staple for longer than anyone reading this has probably been alive, no one executes them with the fervor and all-around excellence of Community.
Those same qualities that sometimes work against the show - that obsession with detail, that willingness to reach conceptually far beyond where any sane TV writer would go - pay off wildly during these kinds of installments.
Community's tiny zombie movies or Western epics or Christmas specials that aren't just satisfying as comedy... they harvest the genuine pleasures of those genres as well, working them into the episode's DNA, leaving us with half hours that aren't just knowing parodies, but loving tributes.
That Christmas episode (Community Season 2 Episode 11) was genuinely heart-warming; those Western episodes (Community Season 2 Episode 23 and Community Season 2 Episode 24) really do draw you into their high(ish) stakes.
And in addition to all its other marks of excellence, Community Season 5 Episode 3 had me genuinely invested in its mystery. Yes, I'm a bit biased (in addition to being a Community die-hard, I also love crime procedurals and think butts are quite hilarious) - but even if you are not a butt-lover or a Numb3rs apologist, this half-hour was so perfectly constructed that it was nearly impossible to not get wrapped up.
The music cues! The lighting! That blue filter, for the love of god, THAT BLUE FILTER!
The genius of the full-tilt Community parody episode - not the off-hand reference to "Pulp Fiction" or "Good Will Hunting," but the fully-committed, full-episode parody - is the way it uses something absurd as its subject matter to make a larger point about why we watch genre TV and film.
We don't watch episodes of our favorite crime procedurals because we're invested in the individual crimes; we watch them because the pleasures of the genre structure are so great, they can still exist even when the crime is butt-based.
Of course, using an episode of a TV show to make that point is snotty, hyper-intellectual, and show-off-y, in addition to being totally true. So, in a way, genre parody episodes of Community are really Community at its Community-est.
But you don't have to be someone who desperately misses film school in order to enjoy this half hour. The Community quotes were outrageously good, almost as if the writers are showing off, having a victory lap to show that they've reclaimed their kingdom; the dialogue was beyond inspired, even if you didn't catch who the ACB was at the end.
It was Britta, right? Right??
Perhaps I am not as good at watching crime procedurals (or parodies of crime procedurals) as I thought.
What is the Best Film/ TV Genre Parody Episode of Community?