Hello, Communies! jheaton here, filling in once again for myr_soleil, who is in Washington receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Or something, I don't know. So let's not just stand here, let's get to it!
- Todd VanDerWerff of the A.V. Club gave the episode an A. "This was one of their best yet, an episode that blended all of the things the show does well, then turned them up as high as they would go." (Incidentally, since he's been one of the show's biggest boosters, I'd like to point out that VanDerWerff will be joining the A.V. Club full-time as their TV editor starting next month. Congratulations, Todd!)
- Another of the show's biggest boosters, Alan Sepinwall of HitFix, didn't do a straight review of this week's episode, offering up instead some behind-the-scenes details he gleaned from spending a day in the writers room while they were breaking the episode and from a follow-up interview with Dan Harmon after the script was finalized. He did say that he laughed, "a bunch of times, even after hearing most of the jokes in multiple stages previously."
- "The George Takei voiceover to open and close 'Epidemiology' was one of the funniest gags Community has ever done," writes M.L. House of TVFanatic.com. He or she gave it a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars, saying "I loved everything about this installment."
- Michelle St. James of Daemon's TV isn't sure how she feels about the Shirley/Chang thing, but that shouldn't be read as a complaint, because as she writes later in the review, "my only complaint about this episode of Community is that my name isn’t Kevin."
- The mysteriously titled X-Files Reviews at The TV Obsessed gave the episode a score of 9.4 out of 10, but doesn't go into much detail about why those 0.6 points were deducted. S/he does mention that s/he hopes parody episodes such as this and "Basic Rocket Science" don't "completely overwhelm the show and the actual community college stuff," so maybe that explains it. Regardless, s/he called it "a great episode" and "a total blast." (More like 94% of a total blast, am I right?)
- "This was a great episode," writes Corey Sherman of TV Guide. "I loved the fighting and biting. I loved the costumes. I loved the Abba soundtrack. I loved George Takei narrating the opening and closing of the show," though like Michelle St. James he despairs over not being named Kevin.
- Rohan Ramakrishnan of ScreenCrave gave "Epidemiology" a score of 10 out of 10. "This is a must-watch episode; it’s got great dialogues, great character interaction, great atmosphere, and it’s incredibly funny to boot," he says, mentioning the way everyone just starts acting like they always do once they become zombies as being particularly hilarious. He was also happy to see Troy get the spotlight for once. ("The football episode was about Annie, really.") His only complaint was about the Shirley/Chang hookup.
- Drew Stewart of Television Blend wondered before the episode aired if in his excitement over a zombie-themed episode he had "set the bar too high" for "Epidemiology", but once he saw it he concluded that "Community knocked it out of the park." I would call that a mixed metaphor, but never mind. There was only one thing he didn't like: when he tuned in a 8:00 and saw a few seconds of the Shrek special, he feared Community had been pre-empted. One would think someone who watches TV for money would have been aware of the schedule change, but what do I know.
- "The episode falls just short of being the new yard stick for the show," says Noel Kirkpatrick of Monsters of Television. In his opinion, the only thing keeping "Epidemiology" from surpassing "Modern Warfare" is its lack of a strong character beat. But aside from that he liked everything about it, especially that they fully committed to the premise without questioning or winking at it. He also loved the special opening credits, and that Dan Harmon paid for them out of his own pocket.
- The episode inspired awe in Jace Lacob of Televisionary. "I didn't think I could love Community more than I already did and yet last night's episode ("Epidemiology") ... proved me wrong entirely." He had nothing negative to say about it at all, even going so far as to say that all other comedies now seem a little bit less funny. Jace also contributed a video review for TV Squad, which is likewise adulatory.
- Speaking of which, Zach Handlen of TV Squad calls "Epidemiology" a "terrific example of the sort of rewards Community's mix of realism and absurdity can yield," even going so far as to suggest that Community has the potential to reach the heights attained by The Simpsons in its legendary fourth season. His only criticism, if it can be called that, is that it might have been able to do even more if it had been an hour long.
- Alison Dingeldein of latimes.com's Show Tracker blog provides more of a recap than a review, but does say, "in the glut of Halloween episodes I’ve watched in the last week, this one stands out. Zombies, ABBA and Peggy Fleming: How can you go wrong?"
- Daniel Carson of houstonpress.com's Art Attack blog called the episode "smart, entertaining, and just plain wonderful TV," praising the creators for grounding the surreal antics by providing a "legitimate human-interest story that parallels the surrounding craziness." He thought the idea of throwing Chang and Shirley together was "so insane it was perfect."
- We'll wrap it up with the only negative review I saw. Andy Greenwald of nymag.com's Vulture blog says "'Epidemiology' just didn’t work." It's hard to summarize his complaints, but it boils down to a feeling that when the episode is as divorced from reality as this one was, it's hard to invest in the characters as people. He does concede that there were some "primo" jokes--he liked the Flava Flav joke (which went went completely over my head) and the way Jeff behaved as a zombie--but concludes that "an ambitious failure is still a failure."
The ratings were very strong for the evening: a season-high 2.4 rating and a 7 share in the all-important 18-49 demo. (Source: TV by the Numbers.) The big increase can be probably attributed to any or all of three factors: spillover from the Shrek Halloween special that ran in Community's normal timeslot; extra eyeballs from 30 Rock viewers who accidentally tuned in thirty minutes early; and not having to go up against The Big Bang Theory. Gosh, who would have thought that a strong lead-in and weaker competition would improve Community's ratings? Oh, that's right, everybody thinks that. And apparently everybody was right, so go us.
Finally, on the social media front, despite our best efforts, we were unable to get #NBCCommunity, #28minuteslater, or #GreendaleZombies to trend on Twitter. But! ABBA did trend, so we'll count that as a win. And the official Community Facebook page adopted our 28 Minutes Later hashtag for its Halloween at Greendale event page.