TV Vs. Film: Ten Shows Worth Skipping The Multiplex For

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by The Playlist Staff
May 26, 2011 9:58 AM
26 Comments
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7. “Community
Led by the killer comedy ensemble of Chevy Chase, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs, Joel McHale, Alison Brie and Yvette Nicole Brown, NBC's "Community" follows an ostensibly mismatched study group who, due to variously flawed pasts, find themselves attending the most mediocre of community colleges, Greendale. Originally formed as a defense against diabolical Professor Chang (a truly unhinged Ken Jeong), the little faction find solidarity in each other as they navigate relationships, life lessons and the other student misfits that make up the Greendale student body. But to put a twist on what sounds like melodramatic '90s fare, each episode takes cues from, or in some cases takes down, a different genre or television trope. The show reaches for such ridiculously high concepts and levels of self-awareness -- their recent "clip" episode (a popular sitcom go-to, rehashing moments from stories already aired) was made entirely of new clips from episodes that were never actually episodes -- that it's hilarious. And a lot of fun. The appeal of "Community" definitely comes from its subtleties (or perhaps the chance to see McHale and Glover shirtless), as well as side jokes for viewers that are paying attention: in an episode last fall, resident geek Abed befriends a pregnant student, gets in a tiff with her boyfriend, then helps deliver her baby in the back of a station wagon, all nearly imperceptibly in the background of other scenes. But the show's not without heart, and the "Community" writers still manage to find a saving grace in each of these weirdos and the relationships they forage that will keep you hoping they figure things out -- the depths, and occasional darkness, in the characters are continually surprising. While not every experiment-in-genre nails it -- in the latest season, the best episodes were classics, but there were perhaps more weaker episodes at the other extreme -- the highs are good enough to make up for the lows. The layers upon layers of this one make it best to start from the beginning, so we recommend you do some Netflixing, so you'll be amply prepared when Season 3 hits this fall.
Must-See Episode: Presently available for free on Hulu is the two part season finale, “A Fistful of Paintballs” and “For A Few Paintballs More.” A return to the concept that produced one of the best episodes of the first season, the school finds itself yet again in an epic paintball fight to the finish, this time with a Western flair and then in part two, as an homage to "Star Wars." But once again, there’s also a flurry of ace jokes, and a beating heart in the conclusion as well. This was tricky, though: the show had as many five-star episodes as any on this list, so "Paradigms of Human Memory," "Epidemiology 206," "Mixology Certification," "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" and "Cooperative Calligraphy" were all outstanding, and all worth watching.

6. “Eastbound & Down
Eastbound & Down” was conceived in a kiddie pool by filmmaking alums Ben Best, Jody Hill (“Observe and Report”) and Danny McBride, who also stars. After working together on their breakout comedy “The Foot Fist Way,” they got the attention of partners in comedy Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, who signed on to produce 'Eastbound' for HBO. The series centers around Kenny Powers, an egotistical, mullet-sporting ex-major league pitcher who spent his earnings on coke and steroids and burnt bridges everywhere he went. Powers finds himself washed up, homeless, broke and alone in his hometown of Shelby, North Carolina. Dirty, dark hilarity ensues as Powers tries to reconcile his hometown self, the sports star he became and whatever shit is happening now. Powers is the show, his obnoxious and self centered antics as he strives for his comeback tempered with the occasional self revelation: an ‘awwwww’ for every ‘ewwwww.’ “Eastbound & Down” is shot like a three hour movie, with each 30-minute episode picking up where the last one left off, making it seem like a better quality version of a summer comedy jam. Except every time you think Powers has had a touching yet uncharacteristic change of heart, Hollywood style, he turns around and punches you in the gut, seemingly just for laughs, making him one of the most surprisingly complex characters around. Of course, a comedy as boorishly boundary pushing as "Eastbound & Down" isn't going to be for everyone, although the 1.7 million viewers for the second season opener almost tripled that of the first. This snowballing of viewers is likely indebted to the cult following of the first season, and the release of it on DVD prior to the second season airing. The decision in the 2nd season to leave North Carolina for Mexico and with it most of the first season characters behind ensured that "Eastbound & Down" wasn't retreading the same “coming home” material, and helped keep it fresh. Fortunately, they've kept the essential ingredients -- a Kenny Powers in crisis, the same down-and-out asshole trying to make good - and the killer soundtrack, including the awesome Freddie King classic "Goin’ Down" for the titles. The season ended with Kenny Powers looking down the barrel of parenthood, and Season 3 is likely to be the show's last according to McBride -- last chance to say you saw it when it was first on.
Must-Watch Episode:Chapter 6” -- The first season finale sees it all come together and fall apart again for Kenny Powers, features the typical Hollywood ending speech 'EB&D' style, a cameo by Adam Scott and the whole thing plays like a crass comedy take on "Five Easy Pieces."

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26 Comments

  • Christopher Bell | August 21, 2011 8:27 AMReply

    The Time Capsule episode is season 3, I believe. Honestly though, you have to give it a few episodes before things really kick in. It's a show very dependent on your affection for the characters.

  • The Playlist | July 11, 2011 8:18 AMReply

    This piece partly inspired me watching "Louie.” Or rather, my gf wanted to watch, i remember it was on this list and therefore I acquiesced. Great show.

    However, I started watching some "Parks & Recreations" -- a time capsule episode -- and it was pretty unfunny. Was that from season 1? I hope so.

  • George Otwori | June 5, 2011 6:51 AMReply

    TERRIERS is one the most ground breaking shows ever made. I know other shows are given credit to having novelistic quailties. Once you watch Terriers it gives whole new meaning to blending the TV and Novel mediums. I remember watching this show and missing the numerous of payoffs. I just couldn't place the familiarity with Novel medium until the last two episodes. This show literally shattered my perception on what is quality.

    So I only hope that in the near future someone revisits compelling organic world just as intriguing as TERRIERS was.

  • PT | May 28, 2011 11:11 AMReply

    Can anyone tell me what the soundtrack is playing in the background of Doctor Who episode 6 in the first few minutes while still in the Tardis ?
    Driving me crazy !!!!

  • The Playlist | May 28, 2011 9:35 AMReply

    Having just watched the first episode of Showtime's "Shameless" for some reason and mostly hating it, i'm really glad to see it's nowhere on this list.

  • Oliver Lyttelton | May 27, 2011 9:52 AMReply

    @Melvyn
    "Is this a joke? I haven’t seen anything except Game of Thrones..."

    Well, then how do you fucking know enough to weigh in?

  • Melwyn | May 27, 2011 9:11 AMReply

    Is this a joke? I haven't seen anything except Game of Thrones, and even in the pilot, it seemed so hollow. How could you mention an epic show like 'The Wire' in the same paragraph as GoT. Stick with films guys, this list honestly is embarrassing. "You fail me."

  • TheoC | May 27, 2011 6:46 AMReply

    But wasn't Parks and Recs mid season replacement due to Pohler's pregnancy and not how good or bad the show was doing?

    Anyway great list well written, I must check out terriers(I like me some Logue) and of course Game of Thrones.

    Well done a great read and great alternative to reading how well the Hangover part 2 is doing.

  • Christopher Bell | May 27, 2011 5:54 AMReply

    An honestly embarrassing list.

    Great.

    Anyway, I'm now paying attention to TV more than I have in years... but still playing catch-up. I"m working through season 2 of "Breaking Bad" and its fantastic, but yeah, it's got plenty of acclaim. It's more that than it airing in summer that lead us to relegating it to the honorable mentions.

    I love "Parks and Rec." I watched the pilot and hated it, but I gave the first season a shot and while I didn't like it too much, Season 2 is where it's at. It's also surprising how great Rob Lowe is.

  • Sid | May 27, 2011 4:48 AMReply

    Venture Bros. is better than everything here. And Game of Thrones (the books) are the best pieces of fiction since Shakespeare in his prime.

  • scribe | May 27, 2011 4:10 AMReply

    Nice article guys- Loved the piece on Louie and Parks and Rec.

  • sp | May 27, 2011 3:04 AMReply

    Thanks Playlist for giving props to FX’s “Archer". It is easily the best comedy on tv , hands down !

  • Kathleen Walsh | May 27, 2011 2:52 AMReply

    Weeds fucking sucks. The first season was brilliant, this past season is nigh unwatchable. I love me some Dexter, but that show has definitely not suffered for praise and acclaim, and when was the last season on? I'm only just beginning the third season. I love this list for alerting me to the fact that I should be watching Fringe, of all things. Need to check out Game of Thrones and Archer too. Parks and Rec is my religion, and its upsetting it got slotted to a midseason replacement, but I'm just glad it's back and so consistently amazing.

  • jonathan | May 27, 2011 2:51 AMReply

    30 Rock is the most unfunny piece of crap on television. Maybe people would realize this if Alec Baldwin's voice wasn't calming down their frustration at every other ridiculously annoying character on the show. Can not stand it.

  • Jax | May 27, 2011 2:45 AMReply

    SAMCRO!

  • Misanthrope | May 27, 2011 2:35 AMReply

    Let's not forget that Curb Your Enthusiasm comes back soon!

  • Mike_M | May 27, 2011 2:10 AMReply

    I know you mentioned Breaking Bad, but that should be on the list and not a honorable mention. You cite that it hasnt been on the air since last summer is a bad reason especially since Terriers is canceled so you cant even watch it anymore.

    Also Sons of Anarchy is a great so as well.

  • samir | May 27, 2011 1:51 AMReply

    You guys are too harsh on Boardwalk Empire. It's one of those shows that youll like a lot more if you watch in a short period of time. After I finished the season and got the full picture is when I really started appreciate the characters and politics of the show. It's not the best show, and it can be better, but that's the best thing about it, it can be even better.

  • wray | May 27, 2011 1:40 AMReply

    WEEEEDSS!!!!!

  • Brendan | May 27, 2011 1:31 AMReply

    I second the "Fuck Dexter!" sentiment, and as someone who is almost finished with a Parks & Rec marathon, I'm really glad to see it at #1 here (so much so I forgive you for that fucking spoiler...). Breaking Bad is definitely the best show on television, though. No contest.

  • Sheed | May 26, 2011 12:49 PMReply

    Sons of Anarchy and Archer, FX takes care of its business.

  • HD | May 26, 2011 12:39 PMReply

    Sons of Anarchy!

  • The Gang | May 26, 2011 12:36 PMReply

    Uh, how about some love for "Always Sunny in Philadelphia"? Last season was uneven, not surprising considering the horde of mercenaries hired to write episodes, but it's The Gang!

    Who doesn't love The Gang?

  • poagwn | May 26, 2011 10:49 AMReply

    "american dad," despite it's lackluster first season, has grown into a wonderful, wonderful show. unlike most of macfarlane's trash, a.d. feels like it actually has direction, and it's paced wonderfully - a single episode will sometimes take place over the course of months or years, which gives it an almost filmic quality few other shows have. it also has a heart. the relationships between the central characters are well defined and fully drawn, and roger the alien has grown into a tool of comedic greatness.

    american dad's major flaw is its inconsistencies. not every episode is as good as it could be, but when it hits, it's the best animated show on network television. being a seth macfarlane show, it can also be a little mean spirited. still, there are some essential episodes. "rapture's delight" is one of the most absurdly ambitious animated half hours i can think of. it really is worth checking out.

  • Michael Bay Evil Twin Brother | May 26, 2011 10:15 AMReply

    Fuck "Dexter".

    Bravo! for mentioning "Louie" !

  • Michael Bay | May 26, 2011 10:04 AMReply

    At least you gave "Breaking Bad" a mention, but what about "Dexter"?

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