Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Top 10 Parody Episodes In Community

Monday's blog about parodies got me thinking about some of my very favorite parodies - the ones found in the TV show Community. A lot of sitcom try to do genre parodies, but nearly every single one in Community works. The writers clearly have fondness for the styles they're spoofing, and they manage to make it work beautifully. So here are my top 10 parody episodes the show has ever done, from least favorite to absolute favorite.

10. Pillows and Blankets
(parodying the Ken Burns Civil War documentary)

There have been a few documentary-based Community episodes throughout the show, but this is my favorite, as it's parodying a very specific type of documentary. With voiceover narration, still images, and "dramatic reenactments" of emails and texts sent among the students, this episode tells the story of the infamous war between the Greendale students who wanted to make a pillow fort and the Greendale students who wanted to make a blanket fort.

9. Basic Human Anatomy
(parodying body switch movies)

Toward the end of a disappointing fourth season, we got this gem, written by Jim Rash, a.k.a. Dean Pelton himself. Body switching movies all pretty much have the same format, and this follows it pretty closely, with some good laughs. We get to see Donald Glover's portrayal of Abed (impressive) and Danny Pudi's portrayal of Troy (less impressive, but still fun). On top of that, it tells a surprisingly moving story about courage and taking responsibility. Sweet and funny, it's probably the best episode of the season.

8. Modern Warfare
(parodying various action movies)

The first season of Community wasn't as parody-heavy as seasons two and three, but toward the end we did get the first of the paintball sagas. As a paintball war breaks out on Greendale's campus, we get this very funny parody of - well, there are several action movies referenced here, but the overall feel is very Rambo-esque to me, with not only the action sequences but the recurring theme of "War changes people and it is bad." Either way, there are plenty of jokes to catch, and it was one of the first episodes to really take hold of the nerd culture and say, "Listen up, people. This is a show to watch."

7. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
(parodying stop-motion Christmas specials)

Some of the more overtly ridiculous parodies are given a plausible explanation, such as this one, where Abed wakes up one December morning to find he sees the entire world as claymation. His friends work to "fix" him, and what follows is a hilarious, but also completely endearing, story about Christmas and tradition. It's a beautifully creative way to tell what could be a generic holiday season story.

6. Basic Rocket Science
(parodying space/astronaut movies)

Here's where sorting my favorites gets really difficult because they're all so good. Much of this episode is apparently parodying the movie Apollo 13, which I have not seen, but many of these astronaut and space adventure tropes are very, very familiar in general anyway. The concept of the episode is great: The study group gets caught inside a renovated space flight simulator (sponsored by KFC) that then "takes off" as the simulator is towed away. It's just a fun science fictiony spoof.

5. Regional Holiday Music
(parodying Glee and various musical styles)

This Christmas episode does not have a plausible explanation, and there's absolutely no reason for everyone to be breaking out into song (aside from the fact that the glee club teacher maybe has evil magic powers?) but the songs are so funny and so perfectly matched to each of the characters that it doesn't even matter. My favorites: Annie's disturbing but hysterical little girl twist on "Santa Baby," and the choir of children asking Shirley through song what the meaning of Christmas is.

4. Epidemiology
(parodying zombie movies)

While zombie parodies have been done to death, no other one has an ABBA-filled soundtrack, to my knowledge. That, for me, is what pushes this episode so far to the top. It's mildly funny to watch Greendale students transformed into zombies, it's hilarious to see zombies chasing survivors around as the music blares: "Gimme, gimme, gimme a man after midnight!" The jokes are solid, the tone is perfect, and it remains one of the show's best parodies.

3. Paradigms of Human Memory
(parodying clip shows)

My thought process as I first watched this episode:

"Oh, gross. A clip show. Those are so lazy."

"Did I miss an episode? When did that happen?"


2. Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps

This is like six or seven different horror parodies all in one. The gang tells spooky stories to each other, each in a slightly different style, mirroring the personality of the storyteller. From vampires to The Human Centipede to a "more believable" version of the cliched cabin-in-the-woods story, each one of these is worth watching... although Shirley's uber pious story of the wicked being punished by demons is my very favorite.

1. Digital Estate Planning
(parodying retro video games)

This is my all-time favorite episode of Community, and I'm not even sure I can tell you exactly why. Every single joke just works for me, and I love the gimmick that they all have to play an old video game together. The old-timey avatars, electronic audio, and many gaming jokes work together to make one of the most consistently entertaining TV episodes I've ever seen. I've seen it probably about six times, and I still start giggling when Annie and Shirley accidentally set the blacksmith on fire. (I also think the Abed/Hilda subplot is completely adorable.)

If you watch Community, what are your favorite parodies from the show? Or, an alternate questions for those who don't watch it, do you have any favorite parody moments from other TV sitcoms?

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