Theme: Standout TV episodes
Community episode 3×14; “Pillows and Blankets”
There is no shortage of standout Community episodes. It is a TV show that excelled in pulling off big half hour comedy concepts. Everything and anything seemed possible in the strangely immersive, and never anything less than intense, corridors of Greendale Community College.
A college unlike any other, filled with students frighteningly dedicated to bringing alternate realities to vivid life, rather than focusing on an academic degree. Episode after episode one fantasy world after the other emerged, pausing scholarly pursuits in favour of all-out paintball warfare, cultish dictatorships, and a civil war between pillow and blanket fort builders to name a few.
Immersive alternate universes magically transform the grey setting of a subpar community college in six seasons of hilarity. In some ‘very special’ episodes, Community weaves together truly wonderful satirical tributes to genre fiction. Playing off of the viewers’ familiarity with the tropes and cliches of genre, Community honours the best of well-worn formulae, jokingly points out their restrictions, all while never losing sight of its characters and the intricate relationships that make up this strangely adorable study group, at the centre of Greendale.
The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg vs. The united forts of Pillowtown
Episode 3×14 “Pillows and Blankets” encapsulates everything that I love about Community. It is filled with meta madness, it expertly parodies genre, and it creates a completely immersive world, dragging every character into the insanity of Greendale and its students’ dedication to an insane alternate reality. Lastly the core story revolves around the show’s ever-beating emotionally resonant heart – the sacred bond of friendship.
Our beloved study group at Greendale Community College bicker and insult each other constantly. Dryly manipulate time and time again to reach selfish goals. This peculiar study group’s solidarity and loyalty towards each other is often in short supply. But one thing was always certain. BFF’s Troy and Abed would be supporting each other in whatever capacity was necessary as interdependent extensions of one another. This fourteenth episode of the third season of Community documents the troubling moment when these otherwise so reassuring two best friends, find themselves on opposing sides in a brutal war of their own making. Former BFF’s turned arch enemies – a terrifying prospect!
It is, as the title so eloquently suggests, a war of opposing ideologies. Troy seeks to beat the Guinness World Record building the largest blanket fort, while Abed seeks to protect the original spirit of the pillow fort, unsullied by the more malleable blanket material and construction work. Greendale is at an impasse. Troy becomes the leader of The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg, while Abed commands the United Forts of Pillowtown.
This whole delightfully insane scenario is portrayed as where we watching a Ken Burns Civil War PBS documentary. The look is completed with an atmospheric Morgan Freeman-esque narrator, accompanying still photos of important figures of the war – such as Annie’s Florence Nightingale tribute cleaning feathers off of dehydrated ‘warriors’. Seasoned throughout are talking head interviews recounting the horrors witnessed, as well as found documents in the modern form of text-messages complete with nonsensical emojis, bringing essential first hand accounts from the midst of battle to light.
The eccentric cast of characters that typically roam Greendale’s halls are expertly weaved into this faux civil war narrative. My personal favourite being the ongoing joke of Britta’s unfathomably horrendous capabilities as a ‘war photograther’ during the conflict. She ‘brittas’ every photo she takes but as is her style she keeps on going, aiming for a stylish black and white feel. It all perfectly capturing Britta’s desperate fight to be someone important but never quite possessing the depth of conviction that would lead to any substantial action. She is often horrible but also frighteningly relatable. That’s the thing with all these Greendale weirdos. They are cartoonish, self-obsessed, and selfish but also oh so achingly familiar in their unsuccessful trek through life.
In the end Jeff saves the day once again, but as always it is actually him who is saved just a little bit by the weirdos of Greendale and their utterly unique approach to the world. Once again Jeff comes to a somewhat profound and moving conclusion, surprising himself as well as the viewer. As per usual the sentimental milestone is punctured by his dry sarcastic personality. The sentiment remains devoid of cheapened sentimentality. The comedy is never compromised for emotional resonance but perfectly balanced and intertwined, cementing once again Community’s standing as one of the finest comedy shows to have been on TV. Always funny, often times poignant to boot.
Let your childish freak flag fly
It is little wonder that Community was so decidedly a cult hit. It never reached the audience numbers that it arguably deserved, but what its viewers lack in numbers they make up for in sheer enthusiasm. A show that appeals to the dedicated media consumer, perhaps better described under the moniker ‘fan’.
I am proud to be a media fan. It means I care deeply about the media I consume. I interact with it and take the experience, the stories I’ve been told and helped construct, with me when engaging with new texts. It is this world of constant intertextuality, of no holds barred immersion, and enthusiastic belief in imagination and collective storytelling that finds a deserved sitcom home in Community. A home where this enthusiastic approach to everything is challenged, at times ridiculed, but in the end also shown as magical and filled with boundless fun.
As Jeff tells Troy and Abed in this episode, they are both children pretending to be adults, and that just happens to be the way they approach the world, and they should be allowed to do so. It works for them. I think most of us can relate to the feeling of ‘playing adult’ and while few of us dare to let our childish freak flag fly outside of the comfort of family and best friends (and the ever comforting weirdness of the internet), it is reassuring to put on an episode of Community and imagine that somewhere in an alternate reality Greendale Community College exists. A place where adult pursuits are set aside for immersive, dedicated, and oh so fun play.