Welcome to Looking Streets Behind, a weekly Community retrospective column! Each week, we’ll dive into a Community episode that has reached its 10th-anniversary milestone. This go-round, we’re delving into “Paradigms of Human Memory.” Wherein the iconic phrase “Six Seasons and a Movie” came to be. Wherein we mourned the cancellation of the short-lived action series The Cape. Not to mention, there may be such a thing as too many dioramas.
“Paradigms of Human Memory” is, undoubtedly, one of my favorite Community episodes. I’ll always associate “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles with the intense, electrifying chemistry that Pierce and Abed shared. Drop a beat.
So, without further ado, let’s scan our collective Community mainframe for some juicy memories! Or something. We’re not robots.
Now, we open with our Greendale Seven creating their 20th diorama of the year for Anthropology class. Said diorama is actually a diorama of the group making their 19th diorama. Diorama.
Anyway, Annie’s Boobs (the monkey) unearths a cache of lost items that it had stashed away in the vents. Troy (Donald Glover) is ecstatic to find his monkey. Chang (Ken Jeong) lathers himself in vasoline and “reverse cow births” through the vent in pursuit of Annie’s Boobs. Let’s read that sentence out loud, for funsies.
Britta (Gillian Jacobs) notices that Annie’s Boobs has been hoarding Annie’s (Alison Brie) precious purple pens. Britta and Jeff (Joel McHale) are whisked off to Memory Lane by the mere sight of a plastic sheriff’s pin. Remember that old Western ghost town with the incredibly racist prospector? This opens a can of memory worms as we see a montage of new scenes that never aired. Until now!
Next, Jeff and Britta coerce the gang into reminiscing about the good times they’ve shared. For example, when they won 70 trophies for competing in Glee Club competitions. Annie reminds them that they subbed for the actual Glee Club, who tragically perished in a bus crash.
Abed (Danny Pudi), being the resident robot, scans his mainframe for juicy memories. He nonchalantly reveals to the group that Britta and Jeff are having secret sex. He discloses two instances that he witnessed that align with this declaration. During the zombie Halloween party and after the gang went on the hunt for leprechauns.
Now, Troy, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), Annie, Abed and Pierce (Chevy Chase) insist that Jeff and Britta have ruined the study group with their inherent narcissism. Britta callously borrowing Annie’s chapstick without asking and tossing it aside. Jeff distracting students in the hallway by announcing that his friends are selling “free iPhones.” Destroying a Habitat for Humanity home and allowing their pals to fall on the sword in front of Dean Pelton (Jim Rash). That house was for humanity!
Then, Jeff and Britta attempt to turn the tables on the crew. There have been plenty of situations wherein everyone else tarnished the group dynamic. Pierce injecting himself with a bevy of flu shots in the hopes of becoming a god. This one feels too on-the-nose at the moment, Community.
Troy and Abed imitating Jeff by donning his jacket and poking fun at his physical insecurities. It was a particularly small egg! Abed knocking Jeff’s food off a table in the cafeteria and loudly proclaiming “Six Seasons and a Movie!” The proclamation that catalyzed a movement.
Later, Annie ponders over the “Annie of it all.” What about her unspoken chemistry with Jeff? The stolen glances? “Gravity” plays and with it a montage of said stolen glances. Jeff reminds her that he has chemistry with everyone. In fact, the same can be said of Abed and Pierce. Cue yet another lovey-dovey montage complemented by “Gravity,” but this time with Abed and Pierce. Chang reemerges from the vents and thinks fondly on his time with Annie’s Boobs.
Next, Dean Pelton bursts onto the scene clad in an intricate costume. Jeff wonders just how many costumes one man can don while bursting into a study room over a period of time. Then, we’re blessed with a montage of the dean’s greatest costume hits complete with his award-worthy puns. The dean leaves, utterly forlorn and defeated.
Now, Troy mentions that it’s good they’re fighting and airing their grievances. But this isn’t the first time this has happened. Their behavior is cyclical. We see yet another string of previous verbal spats. Troy starts screaming in each one, which leads to Troy doing the same in the current timeline. This was a seamlessly filmed bit.
Annie asserts that they’re toxic as a group. So, do they finally split up or keep on keepin’ on? Shirley resumes work on their diorama. Everyone slowly follows suit.
After the diorama is finished, Jeff delivers a heartfelt, eloquent Winger speech to bring them home. All of the sh*t they’ve endured just proves how strong they are as a group. They can withstand anything and everything. The Greendale Seven hugs it out.
Apparently, everyone’s cool with Jeff and Britta’s fling now. Thus, the pair decides to call it quits. It’s not Britta, it’s Jeff. Chang finds the study room empty save the gang’s finished diorama. Will he ever be a bona fide member of the study group?
Then, “Paradigms of Human Memory” ends with an animated short narrated by Dean Pelton. He’s inadvertently showered with radioactive goo, which transforms him into a superpowered villain. He mercilessly slaughters the study group. After the Greendale Seven arrives in heaven, Jeff reflects on the error of his ways and feels remorse regarding how he treated the dean. Does Jeffrey have a crush?
The one-liners, facts and gags!
Now, there are so many legendary one-liners and gags in Community‘s “Paradigms of Human Memory.” Shirley’s line and simultaneous delivery of “Can we please stop fighting? We’re hurting innocent perverts” never fails to elicit a chuckle from me. “Feast your ear tongues on these memory pops” is such a perfect Britta line. In addition, “Humanity is premiering, you jag!” is an equally Britta-esque bit.
“Harrison Ford is irradiating our testicles with microwave satellite transmissions!” is another great Jeff line of dialogue. I do wonder how they collectively ended up in a mental facility though. Troy’s “I’ve seen enough movies to know that popping the back of a raft makes it go faster!” always makes me chortle.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I left out the dean’s myriad of excellent, pun-tastic one-liners. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a dean!” “Deanie, vidi, vici!” “What’s dean got to do with it?” “Guys, Greendale’s music department is flat ‘baroque.'” Rash’s delivery and immaculate performance definitely elevate his always pitch-perfect dialogue.
Jeff’s Winger speech is the quintessence of Winger speeches. “Look, we’ve known each other for almost two years now. And yeah, in that time, I’ve given a lot of speeches. But they all have one thing in common: they’re all different. These drug-runners aren’t going to execute Pierce because he’s racist! It’s a locomotive that runs … on us. And the only sharks in that water- are the emotional ghosts that I like to call: fear, anchovies, fear, and the dangers of ingesting mercury.
Because the real bugs aren’t the ones in those beds. And there’s no such thing as a free Caesar salad. And even if there were, The Cape still might find a second life on cable. And I’ll tell you why: El corazon de la agua es verdad. That water … is a lie! Harrison Ford is irradiating our testicles with microwave satellite transmissions!
So maybe we are caught in an endless cycle of screw-ups and hurt feelings. But I choose to believe it’s just the universe’s way of molding us into some kind of supergroup.”
Not to mention, the fact that the clips were interwoven with the above Winger speech enhances this bit’s brilliance.
Facts and gags
This is the first episode to showcase “Six Seasons and a Movie.” Fun fact: the Jeff/Annie montage was apparently an homage to a fan video that was posted on November 15, 2009, on YouTube. Chevy Chase’s “caw-caw” bit wherein he steals Abed’s French fries is in reference to Three Amigos, a 1986 film that also starred Chase. “Paradigms of Human Memory” honored The Cape, which starred Keith David. This prefaced David’s actual involvement with Community. Later, Abed dressed up as Vince Faraday, the nemesis of David’s character in The Cape.
Additionally, Jeong co-starred with Crystal the Monkey in The Hangover Part II. Yes, Annie’s Boobs was a Hollywood star. The diorama with Chang standing outside the study room window is top-notch. And it’s not the first time we’ve seen Chang in any form observing from the outside looking in.
Dan Harmon had to pay $30,000 of his own money in order to play “Gravity” in the episode. “Paradigms of Human Memory” may have been an homage to clip shows of old, which gained popularity in the 1950s. Initially, it was a way for movie studios to save money by airing old footage as “flashbacks.” However, this particular outing contained all-new footage, accomplishing something that was never done before (at least at the time).
The Annie of it all!
Ah, the Annie of it all. The Britta and Jeff of it all. The all of it all. “Paradigms of Human Memory” is a Community staple. A perfect piece of comedy and you cannot tell me otherwise. If anything, watching these “unaired” clips just makes me want full-fledged episodes featuring said clips. I want to learn more about the hunt for leprechauns, Troy popping the back of that raft, the ghost town, the Habitat for Humanity fiasco, the Caesar salad debacle, the mental facility and more. Give it all to me. Tattoo that sh*t onto my eyeballs.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna inject myself with multiple COVID-19 vaccines to see if I become a god.
What do you love most about Community‘s “Paradigms of Human Memory”? Sound off in the comments below! Be sure to join me next time for another installment of Looking Streets Behind, where we’ll be buzzing about “Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts.” If not … then frankly, my dear, I don’t give a dean.
Until then, stay streets ahead.
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