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Community: Paradigms of Human Memory

“Six seasons and a movie!”

Episodes like ‘Paradigms of Human Memory’ are why I love Community so much.

Like so many of the show’s best episodes, it succeeds because it understand its subject completely. This week the show tackles one of the staples of scripted television: the dreaded clip show. A clip show is an episode that heavily utilises clips from previous episodes to fill out the runtime. These are produced because they are easy to write and cheap to film. It is basically a cost saving exercise so money can be saved for more important episodes -- like season finales. Clip shows used to be fairly common, but they’re mostly extinct now. Television writers these days prefer to use other means, such as bottle episodes, to keep production costs down.

This episode has a classic clip show set up. After finally catching him in the act, the gang stumble upon Annie’s Boobs’ hidden stash of stolen bits and bobs (including regular Annie’s infamous missing pen). This starts them reminiscing about all the adventures, both good and bad, they’ve gotten up to this past year. The twist is that all these flashback, with one or two exceptions, are from episodes we’ve never seen before. This is a clip show comprised of entirely original material.

This approach allows the writers to tailor and shape the clips to specifically fit the story they are telling. Which also means they can just randomly shove the characters into whatever crazy situations they can devise. So if you ever wanted to see the group in a haunted western town, standing in for the recently deceased Glee club, locked in a mental asylum, saving Pierce from drugs dealers, enjoying a free Caesar salad, fleeing from a rampaging robot or expressing their love of The Cape, then you’ve come to right place.

This being Community, the clip show format is never just a one-off gimmick for an episode. The writers use it to further examine just how dysfunctional and self-destructive this group is. Admittedly, they don't really tell us anything we didn't already know. I didn't need this episode to tell me how toxic this group can be for each other or how the individual members can be selfish, insincere, inconsiderate, incredibly stupid, unbelievably horny and all the other crappy things that makes us human. I know all this, it is part of the reason why I like these guys (save Pierce).

All this reminiscing leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Luckily Jeff is here to make everything better by making one of his trademark inspirational speeches, which becomes part of a montage of Jeff making inspirational speeches. What I love about this moment, besides the Herculean work done by the editors, is how it makes fun one of the show's most overused cliches, while celebrating why it is one of the show's most overused cliches. A good Jeff Winger speech never fails to heal all wounds and bring this group back together no matter how unoriginal it may be. At least until the next time the group starts fighting amongst themselves. In which case he’ll heal them with another inspiring speech.

Notes and Quotes

--The Cape did not find a new life on cable. But it did inadvertently inspire this show’s current mantra?

--I really don’t get the whole diorama thing? How is that meant to show students have learned anything? What if your model making skills are dreadful?

--As well as annoying singing shows and thankfully cancelled superhero shows, this episodes also took the time to poke fun at YouTube shipper videos. I’ve never been a fan of these. Too many of them, as this episode brilliantly points out, are just random scenes cut together with a sad song playing over them.

--Abed figures out that Jeff and Britta are having sex. The first hint of this was back in ‘Cooperative Calligraphy’.

--For your enjoyment, here is every costume from the montage of Dean Pelton costumes:

The Tina Turner one is my favourite.

Troy: "Didn't we decide at the beginning of the year that, for the good of the group, we wouldn't allow any intimacy between each other or ourselves?"
Jeff: "Troy, we never said ourselves."
Troy: "Okay, now I'm really mad."

Jeff: "It's called chemistry. I have it with everybody."
Shirley: "Everybody? I haven't felt any of that chemistry coming my way. I don't know if it's because your racist or because I intimidate you sexually, but I know it's one of those two."

Jeff: "Harrison Ford is irradiating our testicles with microwave satellite transmissions!"

Shirley: "Can we please stop fighting? We're starting to hurt innocent perverts."

Jeff: "Why do you always have to take everything we do and shove it up its own ass?"

Four out of four Traveling Wilburys of pain.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


  1. This was such a great idea for an episode. When the first clip started, I was seriously confused. I thought I might have skipped a previous episode.

    I actually like the second clip show "Curriculum Unavailable" better than this one (I so enjoy the montage of ridiculous classes offered at Greendale), but I agree Jeff's speech composed of many speeches is epic.

  2. I know there isn't much love for Pierce in Community reviews but one of the clips I always love in this episode is where Jeff is making a speech and Pierce is on his knees because some Mexican has a gun pointed at his head. I always think... yes... if they were in Mexico that's exactly what would happen! And that it's so matter of fact. I laugh every time.

  3. Thank you for the montage of costumes. Jim Rash is simply brilliant in all of them and this montage is my favorite of the bunch.

    This is an excellent episode for all the reasons you point out. It always makes me laugh.


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