How the community created the perfect clip show episode

Clipshow episodes are inherently redundant: These types of stories reduce production costs and fill out a season’s episode roster by creating an episode that mostly contains flashbacks from previous episodes that have already been shown. Sometimes the clip show episode serves to remind viewers of what happened up to that point or to catch up with viewers who may not have seen every episode.

If they run long enough, every sitcom will eventually have a clip show episode. And while some can be entertaining and even a good way to catch up on everything that’s happened on the show so far, the clipshow episode’s redundancy is still a negative point against it, making episodes like this highly skippable. Usually nothing new happens. There isn’t usually much new footage, other than the occasional short scene of characters saying to each other, “Do you remember when that happened?”


community, on the other hand, did an incredibly creative clip show by subverting the nature of these types of episodes in Season 2 Episode 21, “Paradigms of Human Memory.” In short, no previously used footage was included in the series of mini flashbacks. None of the clips have ever been shown before, and most of them are entirely new circumstances, with a few minor exceptions.

Community paradigms of human memory
Image via NBC

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During the final stages of a class project involving the creation of a diorama, the study group – Jeff (Joel McHale), Brita (Gillan Jacobs), A bed (Danni Pudi), Annie (Allison Brie), Troy (Donald Glover), Shirley (Yvette Nicole Braun) and Pierce (Chevy pursuit), supported by Chang (Ken Jeong) – discovers that a thieving monkey has been stealing small trinkets from them throughout the year. The episode begins with typical clip show setup, with the characters reminiscing about moments shown in season one and up to this point in season two, including a miniature sombrero from Jeff and Pierce’s overly ambitious Spanish project (Season 1, Episode 2, “Spanish 101”) and Annie’s purple pens from the bottle episode (Season 2, Episode 8, “Cooperative Calligraphy”).

The very inclusion of Troy’s monkeys dates back to the chicken mafia family that formed the study group in Season 1 Episode 21 (“Contemporary American Poultry”). Each regular clip show episode would start from here with a series of short flashbacks using previously shown footage. but community from this expectation very early on.

When Britta mentions the time the group visited a tourist town in the Old West, the clip the episode cuts to is entirely new. Casual viewers who haven’t watched all the episodes leading up to this episode might not even realize it, but the Old West adventure that keeps coming up has actually never happened on camera. The same goes for the St. Patrick’s Day mishap, the skipping rope game in the cafeteria, and many other increasingly unexpected and strange circumstances, like a haunted house and a padded cell.

Image via NBC

Although the flashback clips are quick and the characters behave as if the experience was being shown, the clip show also contains circumstances that are not entirely new. Abed’s nervous breakdown from Season 2 Episode 12 (“Abed’s Runaway Christmas”) is revisited, but rather than showing footage viewers are already familiar with, those moments are revisited from different angles. The first flashback shows the study group guiding Abed through the winter wonderland in live action, although the Christmas special this is from was animated entirely in stop motion. The second flashback shows the same animation, but extends one of the scenes to include Jeff and Britta’s flirtation.

This out-of-the-box approach to the clipshow episode isn’t without reason. “Paradigms of Human Memory” prioritizes character work so that a complete and dynamic storyline runs through the episode. When Abed uncovers Jeff and Britta’s secret affair, the study group is forced to confront their messy brand of friendship and how they might counteract toxic fights. The flashbacks are used as evidence to support certain characters’ arguments and provide an entertaining framework and reason for the flashbacks to exist. Abed begins with a series of clips that suggest Jeff and Britta are dating, the study group as a whole brings up all the times Jeff and Britta confront the group, and Britta provides evidence that everyone is at some point selfish was. Even the dean (Jim Rash) falls victim to the group’s increasingly aggressive flashback fights.

The jabs get more personal (and the flashbacks more stylistic and hilarious) as Annie describes seemingly mundane and normal interactions with Jeff through the lens of her crush on him as “Gravity” from Sarah Bareilles plays throughout the assembly. To be clear, Jeff does the same thing with interactions between the most random pairing, Abed and Pierce, and the same song is used, turning the romantic montage parody into a parody of himself.

Image via NBC

“Paradigms of Human Memory” has a kind of spiral into several levels of chaos. As the group laments that they always fight, the flashbacks become throwbacks in time to past arguments and how they always end the same way. This sort of initial spiral is too much for Troy, who is screaming and suffering from a nosebleed, but this direction for the episode was well hinted at in the very first scene, where the study group’s diorama is shown as a diorama in which they are building another themselves diorama.

Although the clips are short and have a similar feel to the regular clip show, they are entirely new and weave into a cohesive show of how the study group interacts with one another, highlighting their most dysfunctional moments as well as their most heartwarming. Thankfully, as always, Jeff is able to get the situation under control, but even the classic Winger speech is subverted: as it spans multiple layers of clip show flashbacks, Jeff’s speech becomes incomprehensible nonsense. But it doesn’t really matter what he says; the fact that Jeff is bringing things back to the status quo is what counts because there is peace again within the study group.

This one episode can be seen as a reference point showing how community walks a fine line between being an average sitcom and breaking all the rules. Almost every storytelling element included in clip shows, plus some of community‘s own tropes, are in some ways undermined. This makes the clip show episode, which is considered uncreative, a unique experience. Unlike many other clip show episodes from past and current series, these subversive elements make “Paradigms of Human Memory” unavoidable.

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https://collider.com/community-perfect-clip-show-episode/ How the community created the perfect clip show episode

Jake Nichol

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