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Docu Drama: An Advance Review of Community's "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking"

Question: What do LeVar Burton, Firefly , and twisted mind games have in common? Answer: They're all together in one place on this week's sensationally satirical episode of Community ("Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking"), written by Megan Ganz and directed by Joe Russo, which I watched earlier this week. (That was, as you'll learn soon enough, an "explanabrag.") NBC's Community has already tackled zombie invasions, paintball wars, outer space, and stolen pens with vigor and gonzo spirit intact, so it was only a matter of time before Dan Harmon and his merry band of mischief makers in the writers room would attempt to transform the actual physical format and style of the series for an episode. In this case, "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" does just that, satirizing the mockumentary style of such fellow NBC series as The Office and Parks and Recreation , as Danny Pudi's Abed attempts to make a documentary which shows the st

Flock of Pegasi: An Advance Review of Community's "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons"

It's said that in writing, as with most things, you shouldn't break the rules until you've mastered them. That is, until you truly understand the logic behind why certain guidelines exist, you shouldn't seek to subvert them. It's clear to me that the writing staff of Community , operating under visionary creator Dan Harmon, not only understands the rules but relishes the opportunity to throw them out the window, stomp on them, and have Leonard repeatedly run them over in the parking lot. This is, after all, the same collective that has produced over the course of two seasons such innovative and mind-blowing installments of television such as "Modern Warfare," "Epidemiology," "Contemporary American Poultry," "Cooperative Calligraphy," "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas," and "Basic Rocket Science," all of which tested the resilience and scope of the American sitcom form. This Thursday evening, the brai

Top 10 Nontraditional Holiday TV Episodes

Happy Festivus, everyone! To celebrate today (in addition to the feats of strength and airing of grievances), I rounded up the top 10 nontraditional Holiday television episodes over at The Daily Beast , from Community and Seinfeld to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who . (And, yes, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia 's direct-to-DVD special--which just aired on FX for the first time this month--made the list, naturally.) An aside, I could have filled the entire list with just British television shows, from The Vicar of Dibley and Doctor Who (which both made the list) to Gavin & Stacey, Blackadder, Catherine Tate, Absolutely Fabulous , and about a zillion others. But I am curious to know: what is your favorite nontraditional holiday episode/special? Putting aside the traditional Rudolph and Charlie Brown Christmas , what are some of the more out there holiday episodes or specials that add that extra spike to the eggnog? Or make that Festivus aluminum pole shine

Year in TV: The 10 Best (and 5 Worst) TV Shows of 2010

It's that time of year when we bid farewell to the last twelve months and start looking toward the future, but it's also a chance to reflect, to catalogue, and to reminisce as well. My selections for the Ten Best (and, cough, five worst) TV shows of 2010 have now gone live over at The Daily Beast . The series selected represent the very best that television had to offer the past twelve months and include such shows as Mad Men, Community, Terriers, Parks and Recreation, The Good Wife, Fringe, Justified, Boardwalk Empire, Friday Night Lights , and Modern Family. It wasn't easy to whittle down the competition to just ten shows as, despite the overall drain in creativity this calendar year, there were quite a lot of fantastic series. (In fact, one of the very best of the year didn't even air on American television at all: Season Three of BBC One's Ashes to Ashes --including its breathtaking and gut-wrenching series finale --would have made this list if it had been o

AOL Television's Skype Second Opinion: Community's "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"

What did you think of last night's episode of Community ? This week marked another go on AOL Television's Skype Second Opinions, where I connected via Skype to ramble on for a few minutes about this week's episode of Community ("Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"), which included stop-motion animation, sad quick Christmas songs, actual humbugs, a gorgeous (seasonal) theme song, a trip to Planet Abed (where the atmosphere is 7 percent cinnamon), Christmas pterodactyls, the best Lost gag anywhere, and so much more. (You can read my advance review of "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" from earlier this week over here .) You can watch the video in full over here at AOL Television or right below. Community returns with new episodes in January.

Uncontrollable Christmas Cheer: An Advance Review of Community's Stop-Motion Animated Christmas Episode

There's something both innately comforting and deliciously off-kilter about this week's stupendous Christmas-themed episode of Community ("Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"), which uses the stop-motion animation of holiday classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to offer an imaginative and emotionally resonant episode that explores the true meaning of Christmas (or any holiday, really). Community has thrived at both satirizing and embracing certain comedic tropes, twisting them together into a malleable and winning format in which anything and everything is indeed possible, from a zombie attack to an all-out paintball war, transforming broadcast network comedy into an infinitely elastic form. In this case, it's quite easy to accept that the Greendale gang would be portrayed as plasticine personages, as the episode unfolds from the perspective of meta-embracing Abed himself, who claims to have woken up that morning seeing everything in stop-motion animation

Raising the Bar: Thoughts on Community's Contemplative "Mixology Certification"

Ah, how the child becomes the parent. Last night's sensational and heartfelt episode of Community ("Mixology Certification"), written by Andy Bobrow and directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, brought us Troy's 21st birthday and took the group out of the study room for a night of debauchery that gave us a glimpse into Shirley's dark past, Annie's home life, Troy's state of mind, and Abed's, um, love of Farscape . Now in its second season, Community has proven that it's adept at conflating genres and smashing expectations about what's possible within the confines of a broadcast comedy: it's a workplace comedy, thriller, horror survival story, romantic comedy, mystery, buddy comedy. An episode jam-packed with jokes and sight gags can give way to an episode like this one, that's higher on the heart quotient and lighter on overt humor. And that's a Very Good Thing for a thoughtful and contemplative episode like this one. The series' inn

The Daily Beast: "Twitter's TV War"

Twitter should be a tool for audiences to interact with the talent behind their favorite shows—instead, anonymous users heap abuse onto writer-producers for ruining "their" shows. Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, "Twitter's TV War," in which I speak to Community 's Dan Harmon, Bones ' Hart Hanson, and Grey Anatomy 's Shonda Rhimes about the complicated relationship between access, privacy, and angry fans on the social networking platform. I'm curious to know what your take is and whether you side with showrunners or fans. What happens when the dialogue turns ugly? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Community Creator Dan Harmon Reacts to Idol Move

Fringe fans aren't the only ones concerned by the midseason schedule unveiled this evening by FOX, which includes the move of American Idol to Wednesdays and Thursdays in January . The move means that the reality juggernaut, which has seen its ratings deflated somewhat of late, will now air opposite NBC's cult comedy Community . But it's not time to send in the save our show letters just yet. Creator Dan Harmon, reached by Televisionary on Friday evening, had this to say. "My reaction: We have nothing to worry about," Harmon told me. " American Idol has a totally different audience. They like popular things." So there. Viva Greendale.

AOL Television's Skype Second Opinion: Community's "Conspiracy Theories and Soft Defenses"

What did you think of last night's episode of Community ? This week marked another go on AOL Television's Skype Second Opinions, where I connected via Skype to ramble on for a few minutes about this week's episode of Community ("Conspiracy Theories and Soft Defenses"), which included a vast array of conspiracy theories, an incredibly sprawling blanket fort (village?), gunfire, confessions of true love, Dean Pelton, lessons, Professor S. Professorson, fake night school courses ("Learning!" "Reading?" "Introduction to Basics"), and more than I could possibly fit into this wee paragraph. (If you couldn't guess, I loved this week's episode.) You can watch the video in full over here at AOL Television or right below. In two weeks on Community ("Mixology Certification"), when the study group convenes to celebrate Troy's birthday, they realize he is actually turning 21 and decide to hit the bars; Jeff and Britta

Monkey Business: Community's Bottle Episode Shines

If you missed last night's episode of Community ("Cooperative Calligraphy"), written by Megan Ganz and directed by Joe Russo, you missed out on not just a hilarious and accomplished installment but the very best bottle episode ever to air on television. The search for Annie's missing pen transformed the group into separate individuals, as paranoia and suspicion ripped our community asunder, accusations and frustrations rearing their ugly head as the gang shut themselves into the study room to figure out what fate befell that gel-grip purple pen. It wasn't about the pen, of course. It was, as I said in my glowing advance review of "Cooperative Calligraphy," about the way in which something insignificant can become something monumental, how a mountain can be made of an anthill, how a pen can become the thing that divides a group. The pen, in this case, is most definitely more powerful than the sword. (And especially scissors, proven here.) By strippin

Bottle Episode: An Advance Review of Community's Exquisite "Cooperative Calligraphy"

It's said that in a murder investigation, there are no secrets. The lives of everyone, from the victim to those around them, are laid bare under the harsh light of scrutiny. If you're concealing something, it will come out. The same holds true for a different sort of investigation, this time surrounding a missing purple pen belonging to Annie (Alison Brie) on this week's genius episode of Community ("Cooperative Calligraphy"). While the episode is ostensibly about the quest to track down this errant stylus, it's the bonds of the study group that come tumbling down when the finger of suspicion is pointed at each of them. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the very best bottle episode ever produced. For those of you who don't know, "bottle episode" is a technical term for an episode of television that's produced in one single location. It cuts down on the bottom line (something studios like quite a lot) as there aren't additional sets,

Zombies (and Dancing Queen): Community's Awe-Inspiring Halloween Spectacular

As I said last night on Twitter, I didn't think I could love Community more than I already did and yet last night's episode ("Epidemiology"), written by Karey Dornetto (who previously scripted the "Contemporary American Poultry" episode) and directed by Anthony Hemingway ( True Blood ), proved me wrong entirely. In the hands of the immensely talented cast and crew of Community , this Halloween episode transcended all boundaries, injecting horror tropes into its comedic trappings without sacrificing the ephemeral spirit of what makes this show unique in the first place. Rather than offer up a dream or a similar faux reality, Dan Harmon and Co. found a way to have an actual zombies attack on Greendale Community College... and still keep the emotional integrity of the series. While people succumb to an illness related to a highly classified experimental military compound purchased as "taco meat" by a cheap Dean Pelton and the gang attempts to stay

AOL Television's Skype Second Opinion: Community's "Epidemiology"

What did you think of last night's episode of Community ? This week marked another go on AOL Television's Skype Second Opinions, where I connected via Skype to ramble on for a few minutes about this week's episode of Community ("Epidemiology"), which included zombies, ABBA, Aliens, Halloween costumes, and experimental military compounds. You can watch the video in full over here at AOL Television or right below. Community airs Thursday evenings at 8 pm ET/PT on NBC.

The Daily Beast: "NBC's Disastrous Season"

Poor Peacock. NBC continues to flail in last place, with new shows like Outlaw and Undercovers bombing and veterans like The Office eroding. Over at The Daily Beast, I take a look at the current state of NBC in my latest feature, "NBC's Disastrous Season," in which I offer six possible ways to save the Peacock. What do you think of NBC's current crop of programming, from highs like Chuck, Community , and Parks and Recreation to lows like Chase, Undercovers, and The Event? Do you agree with my assessment and my suggestions? Head to the comments section to discuss.

You Humble Me: Christ Figures and Meta Films on Community

I've been upfront about my love for NBC's Community , one of the rare gems on the Peacock's lineup at the moment. In a season of such middling programming, it's rewarding to see such an experimental series such as this one continue to mine its format for such riches. This week's episode of Community ("Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples") dealt head-on with a hot-button issue: religion. Naturally, it was handled in true Greendale fashion, with the central issue emanating from an Anthropology lesson and some YouTube videos, including what appeared to be a send-up of "Bed Intruder" and a shout-out to creator Dan Harmon's Channel 101 web series Laser Fart about a superhero who could, well, you can figure out the rest. While the series hasn't shied away from shining a spotlight on some sensitive issues and with the characters' belief systems, this week's installment pitted the faith of single mom Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) agai

AOL Television's Skype Second Opinion: Community's "Basic Rocket Science"

What did you think of last night's episode of Community ? This week marked another go on AOL Television's Skype Second Opinions, where I connected via Skype to ramble on for a few minutes about this week's episode of Community ("Basic Rocket Science"), which included an Apollo 13 homage, the KFC Eleven Herbs and Space Experience, butt flags, heroes' welcomes, SANDERS, and more. (You can read my advance review of this episode here .) You can watch the video in full over here at AOL Television or right below. Next week on Community ("Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples"), Shirley consults Abed when she decides to make a religious film, but the two end up clashing after Abed reveals his plans to make one, too; Pierce is recruited by a group of students his own age.

AOL Television's Skype Second Opinion: Community's "The Psychology of Letting Go"

What did you think of last night's episode of Community ? This week marked another go on AOL Television's Skype Second Opinions, where I connected via Skype to ramble on for a few minutes about this week's episode of Community ("The Psychology of Letting Go"), which included Shirley's best line ever, June Bauer (Betty White) discussing Inception with some African tribesmen, the return of John Oliver's Professor Duncan and his feud with Chang, Pierce's mother being inside a lava lamp, Annie and Britta wrestling in some crude oil, and more. You can watch the video in full over here at AOL Television or right below. Next week on Community ("Basic Rocket Science"), Dean Pelton asks the study group to clean and refurbish the Greendale flight simulator; after an accidental launch, Abed must navigate a safe return. (You can read my advance review of this episode here .)

The Right Stuff: An Advance Review of Next Week's Space-Fueled Community

Holy Apollo 13 homages! You do not want to miss next week's Community . Yes, there's still this week's Pierce-centric episode to look forward to, but it was with a certain impish glee that I sat down to watch next week's hysterical and out-there episode of Community ("Basic Rocket Science"), written by Andy Bobrow and directed by Anthony Russo, in which the gang blasts off into to outer space. Well, sort of, anyway. In true Community style, the gang unwittingly recreates some of the most famous moments from Apollo 13 without actually leaving the earth's atmosphere. It's a masterful and bizarre installment revolving around Greendale's space (simulation) race with their bitter rivals, City College, which is planning to announce its own flight simulator. Lest Greendale be turned into a parking lot for the rapidly expanding City College, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash, here at his finest) launches a scheme of his own, one involving an old and seriously

AOL Television's Skype Second Opinion: Community's "Accounting for Lawyers"

What did you think of last night's episode of Community ? This week, another go on AOL Television's Skype Second Opinions, where I connected via Skype to ramble on for a few minutes about this week's episode of Community ("Accounting for Lawyers"), which included Annie chloroforming a janitor, the Heather Pop and Locklears, another glimpse at Ben Chang's creepy innermost thoughts, Troy and Abed's latest caper, an amazing tag, and more. You can watch the video in full over here at AOL Television or right below. Next week on Community ("The Psychology of Letting Go"), the group attempts to comfort Pierce when his mother dies; Professor Bauer takes a leave of absence and Professor Duncan attempts to take over her Anthropology class.