Friday, February 26, 2021

My Favorite Community Episodes Each Season

(Guest Post by TJ)

I feel like most fans of TV shows have a favorite episode of each season their beloved TV show was on. If not, you should, it will make me look less weird. Regardless, because I’ve watched so much Community in the last year (and re-watched), I’m sharing my episodes from each of its six seasons (still waiting for the movie). 


Season 1: Episode 23: Modern Warfare

The paintball episode that first made people sorry for the cleaning crew. Seriously, how much destruction could one episode of a TV comedy have? Apparently, a lot. One of the things about this episode that makes it what it is, is that it shows the cartoon nature of Community in its strongest sense. 

It also shows one of the biggest character changes. Back in episode 9 of the first season, Annie and Jeff did debate where they won an argument on good vs evil by proving that mankind is inherently selfish. But this episode with its fun and humor has a touching moment that almost goes unnoticed: Jeff gives his priority registration to the person in his group that he deems most deserving of it. Jeff’s reason for the priority registration is extremely selfish (and smart). But in this moment, he decides to give it to Shirley so she can spend more time with her kids. (Still confused as to who’s watching them, but whatever.) 

Jeff, who is doing his best to skate through college, makes his life just that much more difficult by helping out Shirley. It goes to show that deep down inside, he’s not the arrogant selfish jerk that he thinks he is. The act even surprises himself. And while the rest of this episode is lighthearted and fun, this moment is simply wonderful. 


Season 2: Episode 11: Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas

After 35 episodes of complete randomness from this show, you get what has got to be the most random one yet. The entire episode is in Claymation, with the exception of a single shot of the cast in the reflection from the TV they’re watching. If you don’t catch it, it’s not a surprise. But what makes this Christmas episode isn’t it’s play on 1970s Claymation, but rather its message that sometimes your friends are your most important family. 

One of the best scenes is near the end, when Abed is frozen and the Christmas Wizard—er—Duncan is mad at the rest of the study group. But they are able to let him know the true meaning of Christmas….kind of. 

Jeff: The delusion you’re trying to cure is called Christmas, Duncan.

Annie: It’s the crazy notion that the longest, coldest, darkest nights can be the warmest and brightest.

Britta: Yeah, and when we all agree to support each other in that insanity, something even crazier happens.

Annie: It becomes true. 

Troy: Works every year. Like clockwork.

Christmas in the northern hemisphere is just a few days after the shortest day of the year. Christmas is cold and full of snow…in some places. But regardless, Christmas is made bright with its cheer. That’s what makes this episode so great. 


Season 3: Episode 4: Remedial Chaos Theory

I became a Community fan during the early stages of this wonderful pandemic….So, unfortunately I didn’t watch it whilst it was airing. But that’s what binging is for. I really had no clue about the various dynamics in the show whilst watching it. But when I saw this episode full of alternate timelines, which is one of my favorite plot points, it immediately became my favorite. 

This episode likes to continually ask “what if” with a simple roll of the die. There’s an episode of Friends that asks “what if” that shows that sometimes, our different choices may still lead to similar outcomes. But with Community, we get seven different outcomes that really probably wouldn’t end up the same way. You’ve got a moment with Britta and Troy hinting at being a couple as well as a moment between Jeff and Annie, both of which have already been hinted at. While I feel like Britta and Troy didn’t have that great of chemistry, I always feel like Annie and Jeff worked well together. They balanced each other out. 

Of course, this is the episode that brings us the darkest timeline, something brought back at the end of season 4, basically the Community equivalent to Star Trek’s mirror universe. The sad thing is, as I pointed out that different choices lead to similar outcomes, it’s technically two years later when Pierce has unfortunately passed on, something similar to the Darkest Timeline.  


Season 4: Episode 12: Heroic Origins

It’s difficult to pick a favorite in a season that isn’t all that great. Even though "Heroic Origins" is a prequel, it goes to show that sometimes the negative things in our lives can lead to some great things. Abed’s great moment of inviting Chang to join them goes to show who Abed is as a character. While there’s the robotic aspect to Abed, this is a moment that makes him truly human and shows how forgiving of a person he is.

Let’s go to Shirley for a moment. Her husband cheated on her because of…well…we can go with Jeff and Abed. Combined, one person’s robotic negativity and another’s active distain led to an awful circumstance for Shirley. However, even those both those men did something that hurt Shirley’s life, by the end of season four, she has to admit that her life wouldn’t be the same without them.

While Britta’s storyline isn’t all that great in this story, the Troy/Annie dynamic is quite interesting. While she had a huge crush on Troy to start off, Annie is no longer shy to him. And definitely doesn’t have a problem standing up to him at this point. But she knows that her life is better off with her study group than without it.

This episode really focuses on Abed, Shirley, and Jeff, which doesn’t really happen very often. But what makes this episode one of my favorites is the fun the story has at looking a step back at everyone’s past.


Season 5: Episode 5: Geothermal Escapism

Troy’s final episode is a fun bummer. Yeah, it’s sad that Troy’s leaving. But this episode has a lot of fun going on in it. Abed’s mind creates this full-on game of the floor is lava. This episode shows something that may not have been noticed in the previous games on the show: it really doesn’t celebrate who wins. It celebrates the stories of the rest. 

I mean, there’s a simple question to ask here: Why does Britta win? Simple, because she just wants to help Abed. She recognizes that Abed is trying to hide his pain in Troy leaving. But you’ve got some great moments like Hickey driving a floor cleaner. Britta Britta-ing a joke which leads to Jeff on his back on the floor. Shirley Island with the orb (because apparently the cafeteria is some sort of safe haven in most of these types of games). The “cloning” of Abed and Troy so that they can deal with the absence of their constant friendship. And of course, the return of LeVar Burton in what has to be great closure to a joke started in season 2 about Troy’s inability to be around Mr. Burton.


Season 6: Episode 13: Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television

I love a good a series finale. (Would’ve been better without a few choice swear words.) This one is all about change. Technically, at the end, the only members of the original study group to remain are Jeff and Britta as Abed and Annie leave for their futures. 

The writers seemed to know that the audience preferred Jeff and Annie. That kiss at the end (I forget everything after that) just goes to show that in the end, Jeff and Annie became the main couple. 

The fun thing about this episode is that it asks a “what can happen.” But the problem is that we don’t know. If I were to ignore the seventh season idea but rather say “and a movie” and come up with my thoughts for what I’d see in a movie. First, Annie would return from FBI, now working for the Colorado branch. Troy will have returned with LeVar Burton (Abed having somehow rescued them.) Jeff finally decides what he wants, and that’s Annie (which I’m sure he realized but he just couldn’t find the words.) 

However, one thing about this episode that’s important is that it shows Jeff never really grew as a character. Britta never really grew. Abed kind of grew. It really goes to show that this show did its best to maintain its cartoon persona. However, one thing we really get is that Annie grew. 

She started off as this girl who really became a woman throughout the show. She’s gone from one major to another to another. And then ends up with a job with the FBI. Annie goes from the girl that everyone worries about being taken care of to the girl that can not only take care of herself, but she can take care of others. 

So yeah, not a good discussion about the episode, but really, the episode is just full of randomness just like the good six seasons of Community

Anyway, thanks for reading. Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Why Legend of Korra is Still Significant

 After my "Why Avatar the Last Airbender is Still Significant" post, you know I had to do a follow up on the Legend of Korra

As usual, there be spoilers ahead. 



The Heroes Journey

Where Aang had one overall goal, stop the Fire Nation, Korra's goals are more inward focused, namely what does it mean to be the Avatar. Yes she still has to stop the bad guys, of whom includes some terrifying individuals that make Firelord Ozai look like a baby turtle-duck, but her main focus is one of self discovery. 

Throughout the series we see her doubt herself, question her motivations, trust the wrong people, make mistakes and at one point even run away from her Avatar responsibilities (Luckily not to somewhere she could get trapped in ice, we know what kind of mess that makes). Like Aang Korra is learning to be the Avatar, but unlike Aang it goes far beyond her learning to master all four elements and learning what it means to bring balance to the world. 

A Changing World

Legend of Korra takes place over 50 years after the end of Aang's adventures, and the world has changed significantly since. A new nation, the United Republic, has sprung up and technology has reached the level of around the 1920's. After season two, the world goes through another drastic change when Korra opens the portals to the spirit world, allowing spirits to live in the physical world alongside humans. This causes the entire world to change overnight, with encroaching vines invading metropolitan areas and the return of airbenders. 

Sound familiar? 

Our world has been changing dramatically over the last year, from the ongoing pandemic to riots to natural disasters, and we have had to learn how to adapt the best we can. While we don't get adorable Studio Ghibli spirits to play with (Except we got Baby Yoda, which let's face it, has been the saving grace of the last year, that and Animal Crossing), our world still looks vastly different from what it used to. Legend of Korra is about learning to adapt to change, knowing that change is a natural part of life and to make the best of whatever situation you find yourself in. 



Trauma 

Season three gives Korra her most significant story arch. She begins in hiding from literally everyone, fighting the demons of her past. By this point she's already had her bending taken away by Amon, had her connection with Rava the spirit of peace severed and with it her connection to the past Avatars, and been poisoned by Zaheer which put her in a wheelchair for nearly a year. She has lost the connection to her spiritual self and is seeing visions of an angry Avatar state Korra who wants her dead. 

While she defeated each villain, the battles have taken their tole on her physically and mentally. To the mind time isn't really a concept it can process, and with severe trauma it can tend to become stuck in moments, not realizing that the danger has passed. Korra was experiencing this as she fought her memories of her past enemies. She was told by Toph that some of Zaheer's poison lingered in her body, which creates the perfect metaphor for the trauma still swirling inside Korra's head. 

Most narratives the hero beats the bad guy, sometimes by the skin of their teeth, and the next day they shrug off just having been in mortal danger as just part of the job. Legend of Korra doesn't do that, instead giving our hero actual consequences to her fighting and showing the emotional tole that having to repeatedly fight for your life can have on a person. This is a lesson that needs to be taught in far more settings, remembering that not every hero always bounces back. 



Power of Mentorship

Korra has her team of friends to create the new Team Avatar, which are all as helpful as they are fun to watch, but the truly significant relationship throughout the course of the show is the one Korra has with Tenzin, the airbending master and son of Aang. At first the two clash on almost everything, since Korra's temper and energy clash with Tenzin's reflective calm. But eventually both learn from each other as Tenzin mentors Korra first in airbending then in how to be the Avatar in general. Again in most media this would either be glossed over or relegated to a single training montage with the hero needing to be shown to be strong enough to figure everything out on their own. 

The truning point in Korra and Tenzin's relationship comes in season one, when the dangerous cult leader Amon confronts Korra at Avatar Aang Memorial Island. Amon has demonstrated the ability to permanently take away someone's bending ability, and Korra is terrified to face him but does so anyway. During the confrontation, Amon has Korra helpless and lets Korra believe that he's going to take her bending only to instead threaten her before disappearing into the night. Moments later Tenzin finds her, bending in tact, only for her to collapse into his arms while she sobbs about how terrified she was of Amon. Tenzin gives her the space to cry and lets her know that it's okay to be afraid. The strong independent hero teaches the greatest lesson of all in this moment: That it's okay to not be the strong independent hero and to ask for help. 



-JOE

Monday, February 22, 2021

“I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.”


During “The Pandorica Opens”, upon hearing the story of the Pandorica, River Song makes one of her off-handed snarky comments about the Doctor. “I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.” We never got a clear answer as to whether the Doctor was ever a “wizard” who locked a “feared being” in the Pandorica. Maybe River’s assumption was right and the Doctor locked an enemy in there? But so far, we don’t know. However, it did make me wonder if there are any other wizards we’ve heard of who could secretly be the Doctor. Here are a few I thought of.


Seventh Doctor - Radagast the Brown

Indulge me in some headcanon for a second. After the Seventh Doctor said goodbye to Ace (sometime after “Survival”), the Doctor went to another world. Future? Past? Who’s to say? But let’s call this world “Middle Earth”. Here he learned about “magic” and became known as Radagast and enjoyed isolating with forest animals. This is what Sylvester McCoy plays both the Seventh Doctor and Radagast in The Hobbit. It’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s a fun thought.


Post-Seventh Doctor - Merlin

This theory isn’t unique to me. If you’ve watched the Seventh Doctor era of Classic Doctor Who, you may recall the Doctor being called Merlin in “Battlefield”. The Doctor didn’t remember being Merlin, so we can safely assume “Merlin” was an incarnation of the Doctor after the Seventh. Based on different versions of the wizard Merlin, you can see aspects of the Doctor. For example, in Disney’s Sword in the Stone, Merlin appears to time travel and he has a bag that’s bigger on the inside. And in BBC’s Merlin, the young wizard appears to live unaged for thousands of years, much like the Doctor. Maybe someday we’ll get a Merlin story?


Future Doctor - Newt Scamander

This idea will be even more amazing if BBC decides at a future date to cast Eddie Redmayne as the Doctor. My first time watching Fantastic Beasts I got definite Doctor vibes from him. Maybe it was the bigger-on-the-inside suitcase. Maybe it was the running down the hall with Tina in hand (just like a companion). Either way, a British guy with a fantastically out-there outfit… he could be the Doctor. He even licked the ground in Crimes of Grindewald. Although if we’re talking Harry Potter world, maybe the War Doctor as Ollivander would work.


Any Doctor - Wizard of Oz

It doesn’t necessarily fit into the 1930s Wizard of Oz, but let’s think for a second. His clothes are super flamboyant (worse than the Sixth Doctor’s clothes) and his hot air balloon could definitely be the TARDIS (chameleon circuit fixed in the future, of course--it’s been done before). Oz could be an alien world that people visit in their dreams. Maybe the Wicked Witch was Missy in face paint? 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Falcon and the Winter Soldier Binge List


We're officially less than a month from the premiere of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. So if you've forgotten your Marvel history during all the delays, check out our binge list to catch the high points for Sam and Bucky and get your fix in while waiting for the release. Lots of these were on the WandaVision list, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy them again.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2 hours 4 min)
Obviously First Avenger introduces the Captain America mantle. And of course the movie also introduces Bucky Barnes, one of the title characters of this new Disney Plus series. He doesn’t become the Winter Soldier until after the events of this movie, but he has his start here. Gotta include that backstory.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2 hours 16 min)
So since neither Sam nor Bucky appear in Avengers, we’re skipping right past that one. It includes Captain America, but that’s not important here. But in Winter Soldier, we get introduced to several characters who are set to appear in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. We meet Sam, the Falcon, of course. In addition, we also meet Sharon Carter (Agent 13) and we see Bucky’s alter ego (Winter Soldier) for the first time.


Avengers: Age of Ultron (2 hours 22 min)
We may have skipped the first Avengers movie, but since Sam appears in Age of Ultron, we’re picking this one up. We see him working alongside the original Avengers. In addition, at the end of the movie, we get a glimpse of the Falcon working with the Avengers as a new-ish team is formed.

Ant-Man (1 hour 58 min)
This would be more optional viewing in preparation for Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The movie obviously focuses most on Ant-Man. However, at one point he breaks into the Avengers compound and fights Sam. So if you want a little extra Falcon, make sure to include this one in your binge. Also, a Civil War scene/preview appears in the credits.

Captain America: Civil War (2 hours 28 min)
It’s been said that Civil War is less a Captain America movie and more an Avengers movie. That may be the case, but we still get a good focus on Cap’s people. We see Sharon Carter again, Bucky returns to action, and Falcon and Cap team up off screen as they take off at the end. We also get introduced to Zemo, who is set to return as a major villain. In a credits scene, we also see Bucky getting put into stasis in Wakanda.


Black Panther (2 hours 15 min)
Like Ant-Man, the movie as a whole isn’t so important for this watch-through. However, one of the credit scene is an important part of Bucky’s transformation. It’s short, but it shows how the Wakandans have been able to presumably take away Bucky’s brainwashing and take him out of stasis. It’s a short scene, but worth it.

Avengers: Infinity War (2 hours 40 min)
We’re getting the band back together. While Tony is off into space, on Earth we’ve got Cap getting an army together. Of course Falcon and the Winter Soldier are included. Things don’t exactly work out in the end for the Avengers, but that’s why we’re going straight into Endgame.

Avengers: Endgame (3 hours 2 min)
Obviously Endgame is short on Falcon and Winter Soldier scenes, but it’s also equally obvious how important this movie is for the overall storytelling. After the original Avengers and their comrades bring everyone back, we get set up for whatever this next phase of Marvel has to bring us. Cap is gone. Tony is dead. And who knows what else happened during the Blip. I guess we’ll find out in Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Follow That Bird - 36 Years Later

 Trying to find something to watch recently my wife and I found Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird and decided to give it a rewatch to see how goofy and useless it is. 

Less than 10 minutes in and my heart was broken. 

WHAT RIGHT DO YOU HAVE TO PLAY WITH MY EMOTIONS, SESAME STREET?!



Where The Air Is Sweet

Muppet movies fall into two categories: The Muppets playing around in the real world or the Muppets doing a parody of a classic story. Follow That Bird follows the former but in between all the silly bits is this sad emotional undertone that just doesn't exist in other Muppet movies. 

The plot is that a group of well meaning birds decide that it's improper for Big Bird to live without other birds on Sesame Street so they adopt him into a family of dodos, creatively named the Dodos. Big Bird says goodbye to his friends and goes to Illinois, where he realizes that dodo stereotypes are founded in truth. After the family tells him that his best friend Snuffy isn't welcome to come visit because he isn't a bird, Big Bird peace's out and decides to walk back to Sesame Street, following the logic that since the plane took two hours to get him there it would only take him three hours to walk back. The gang back home hear that Big Bird has flown the coop (Bird pun) and hop into a caravan of wacky vehicles to find the bird and bring him home. 

THE FEELS

The thing is, Sesame Street isn't known for high concept adventure, they're known for teaching kids how to read and count, but somehow without knowing it a jaded 35 year old horror fan found himself emotionally invested in these characters, particularly between Big Bird and Snuffy. I'm not joking when I say that with this film these two should be retroactively added to every bromance post we've ever written on this blog. Not only is Snuffy the catalyst for Big Bird wanting to come home, he's the driving force whenever Big Bird is lost. In most films this role would be taken up by a love interest, but here since Big Bird is six years old the driving force being getting back to his best friend makes far more sense, and is a shot right to the feels. 

To further intensify the sads, the film features songs emphasizing Big Bird feeling lost and lonely, including a medley of all his friends trying to find him. Again, Muppet movies usually have music, but rarely are they this sad or this heartfelt, usually it's Tim Curry dressed as a pirate singing about having cabin fever or Kermit singing about how it's Christmas eve. 



Worth Another Watch

Overall, Follow That Bird was an unexpected treat. What we thought was going to be cheese and muppet jokes turned out to be a solid film about a person who just wants to go where he is loved, and those who love him trying to find him and bring him home. The goofy parts are Muppet gems, and the emotional parts will make you want to call your bestie and let them know how much they are loved. This is a film that hasn't been talked about enough in the last three decades but definitely needs to be brought back into the conversation. 

-JOE



Monday, February 15, 2021

Pixar Popcorn

Last month, Pixar released 10 shorts that they call Pixar Popcorn. It's 10 short films, ranging from 1 to 5 minutes long. (Thank goodness the longest one is Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele just riffing on each other for 5 minutes!) Head on over to Disney Plus and spend 22 minutes munching on these popcorn snacks. 

And bite-sized shorts deserve bite-sized reviews: 10 shorts, 10 words per review, 10 kernel rating. 

"To Fitness and Beyond"

10 Word Review: Rex tries push-ups. Hamm attempts sit-ups. Need I say more? 

Rating: 6/10


"Unparalleled Parking"

10 Word Review: Montage of cars parking. Reminds me of adolescence. Lizzie FTW.  

Rating: 5/10


"Dory Finding"

10 Word Review: Best parts: Dory's glasses, Ellen's vocalizations, and all the bubbles.

Rating: 7/10


"Soul of the City"

10 Word Review: This is Gorgeous. Orderly. Life-affirming. Familiar. Tranquil. Geared towards adults.  

Rating: 9/10


"Fluffy Stuff with Ducky & Bunny: Love"

10 Word Review: A Ducky versus Bunny debate (d)evolves into a rap riff.  

Rating: 10/10


"Chore Day - The Incredibles Way"

10 Word Review: Clones and laser eyes make chores easy. S'mores with Jack-Jack!

Rating: 8/10


"A Day in the Life of the Dead"

10 Word Review: How skeletons live their (after)lives. Fun with dead body parts! 

Rating: 6/10


"Fluffy Stuff with Ducky & Bunny: Three Heads"

10 Word Review: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are "denomic" geniuses. More banter!   

Rating: 10/10


"Dancing with the Cars"

10 Word Review: I enjoyed the title ... and the conga ending the short.

Rating: 4/10


"Cookie Num Num"

10 Word Review: The Incredibles use powers to win a cookie. So fun! πŸͺ🦸πŸ’ͺ 

Rating: 10/10


One of the fun things to watch for in the Pixar Popcorn (besides Pixar's famous Easter Eggs) is the various interactions that Luxo Jr. has with popcorn kernels in the opening logo. Enjoy this Pixar snack!



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