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Good afternoon, Communies! Well, that was a heck of a thing, wasn't it? Like Joel McHale, I was a history major in college, so I suspect I appreciated the look and feel of "Pillows and Blankets" even more than most Community fans. Of course, the Civil War era was never my favorite field of study. The Jacksonian era, 1820-1850, that's my jam. I concede, though, that the Civil War was a better metaphor for the conflict between Troy and Abed than, say, the annexation of Texas or the dissolution of the national bank. But maybe in some future episode they could do a flashback about how the Dean became the Dean that parodies John Tyler's ascension to the Presidency following the death of William Henry Harrison. Which was a surprisingly contentious issue at the time! You see, the Constitution was somewhat vague about what happened should the office of President be vacated, and many people argued that only the "powers and duties" of the President devolved to the Vice President, not the office itself. But Tyler said, fuck that noise, I'm the President now, and if you don't like it, you can lump it. Eventually, the 25th Amendment settled the issue, but until then, Tyler's precedent was followed.

Sorry, I seem to have strayed from the point. Let's look at some reviews! I'm trying a somewhat different approach this week. Rather than write summaries of and quote from the reviews, I'm just going to post links and quotes. Let me know what you think of this approach in the comments.

  • Jennifer Marie, A Still and Quiet Conscience: "Truthfully, this episode is great in that it's one of Community's finest hours writing-wise, as well as development-wise for Jeff, in particular. … History was never much of my passion in high school or college, but that doesn't mean I appreciated this episode any less (in fact, it's now ranked #2 of this season for me, falling behind the untouchable 'Remedial Chaos Theory' in my book)."
  • Ethan Later, Television Without Pity: "Given that last night's Community installment combined two things that this show always does very well -- spoofs of documentaries and elaborate battles pitting Greendale student against Greendale student -- it should come as no surprise that 'Pillows and Blankets' was a Season 3 highlight."
  • Todd VanDerWerff, The A.V. Club: "There’s a point in 'Pillows And Blankets'—which is rather impressively committed to its PBS documentary aesthetic—where it seems like the whole artifice is going to crumble underneath the strain of making everything PBS-y. … Then, somewhere around the midpoint, the whole thing abruptly jolts to life again. … The stunt episodes always work best when they come up with some character peg to hang everything on, and I was pleased and surprised to find that the show was going to take Troy and Abed’s feud fairly seriously." He gave it a letter grade of A.
  • Luke Gelineau, TV Equals: "Community has had plenty of 'special episodes' in the past, and most of them have been great. … It was clear that 'Pillows and Blankets' was trying to join the ranks of the elite Community episodes, but something about it just wasn’t resonating with me. … It felt like they were just trying too hard."
  • Alan Sepinwall, HitFix: "I started to get tired of the whole gimmick about halfway through — which is conveniently when the focus of the episode shifted away from paying homage to both the Civil War and [The] Civil War and got back to the reason behind this whole mess and the crumbling state of Troy and Abed's friendship. Because what Community can do that I always find so remarkable is take an incredibly self-conscious bit of pop culture goofiness like a Ken Burns' parody or a My Dinner with Andre homage involving Cougar Town and invest it with real emotional stakes for the characters we've come to care about."
  • Xander Markham: "This episode fell back hard on some of the programme's most overused storytelling beats, prefigured in 'Digital Exploration Of Interior Design' last week. It wasn't a bad episode overall, but one which shows the series struggling to find the right line between pushing its own boundaries and over-reliance on past successes. … 'Pillows and Blankets' was an enjoyable enough episode thanks to individual jokes, but failed to find a satisfactory resolution to the personal stakes behind the conflict, thanks to an aesthetic choice designed around the emotionally disconnected narration of facts rather than feelings and yet another instance of Jeff saving the day thanks to an overfamiliar personal revelation."
  • (I think) Andrew Lumby, The Filtered Lens: "It’s brilliant. … this style is a welcome break for the show, which has been a little light on the parody recently. Community has always excelled when it changes format – the two Abed documentaries were spectacularly done, as were the numerous film parodies the show has done." He rated it 9 out of 10. ETA 4/7/2012: Received confirmation that Lumby was the author of this review.
  • Matt Richenthal, TV Fanatic: "It was the ideal showcase for a series that can somehow combine sheer lunacy with actual character development and insight. … Every character note was ideally hit, culminating in what had to be the most moving, imaginary hat-based resolution in TV history. … If I had an emotion for a giant thumbs-up, I'd plaster it all over the screen. This was Community at its zany, touching, hysterical best." He gave it five stars out of five.
  • Ron Martin, 411 Mania: "I’ve said it many times this season and I’ll say it again – nobody does novelty episodes better than Community. This Ken Burnsesque documentary parody is no exception. Even down to narrator, Keith David, the parody is dead on. Even better, each photo gave us an opportunity to look for our favorite characters and tertiary characters (as far as I could tell the only one that was missing was Vicki). … I was wholly disappointed that the narrator never said 'Britta, you’re the worst.' There was plenty of opportunity." He gave it a score of 9.5 out of 10.
  • Brian Collins, Badass Digest: "'Pillows And Blankets' is a hilarious tale that offers up one of those "stunt" episodes that some fans seem to think is all the show should ever do, capped off with two wonderful emotional punchlines that once again can remind pretty much any viewer with a brain why this is one of the best shows NBC will ever air in our lifetimes. … All in all, a terrific episode that delivers on all fronts."
  • Laura Aguirre, ScreenCrave: "Like the paintball episodes that came before it, 'Pillows and Blankets' will go down as one of the best episodes in Community‘s history." She rated it 10 out of 10.
  • Matthew, Polentical: "Community often works best when it kicks the absurdity up to 11, satirizing the seriousness with which individual genres can regard themselves. … I like the concept, but making this documentary style also means that some of the character interaction is stilted, interrupted by the narration and the atmospheric musical accompaniment."
  • Kelly West, Television Blend: "Last night, Community aired what was arguably one of the best episodes of the series, turning a campus-wide war of pillows vs. blankets into a Ken Burns-like documentary. 'Pillows and Blankets' may have even topped 'Modern Warfare.' It came close anyway."
  • Ryan Schwartz, Ryan Schwartz TV and Film Blog: "Tonight, Dan Harmon and his staff of writers might have created what could very well wind up being one of the finest episodes of any comedy on television in 2012, 'Pillows and Blankets.' This Ken Burns-inspired episode of Community was more than just aesthetically stunning. It was impeccably written and extraordinarily acted. … Where's Community's outstanding comedy series Emmy, huh?"
  • Steve Heisler, Vulture: "Community never judges its characters for their whims and desires. … The jokes flew fast in “Pillows and Blankets,” much quicker than in most regular episodes."
  • Matthew Newlin, California Literary Review: "With 'Pillows and Blankets,' though, Community has outdone itself in terms of sheer brilliance and inventiveness. Possibly the best episode in the show’s short, but impressive, history…. This episode is outstanding for a variety of reason, mainly the complete dedication the writers had to this style of historical documentary. Nothing is played for laughs; the comedy comes from the juxtaposition of the serious approach with the absurdity of the premise. … It is a reminder that Community hasn’t lost its brilliance or creativity and that now, more than ever, it deserves at least six seasons and a movie."
  • Mark D Curran, TV Geek Army: "The epic conclusion to Troy and Abed's fort-war was a happy mess of war-movie references and the semblance of the History Channel`s former glory."
  • Henry Hanks, CNN.com Marquee: "What could have easily been a rehash of the three paintball episodes, was instead a smart parody of the Ken Burns documentary style (especially his classic "Civil War" mini-series), with text messages between Jeff and Annie replacing the famous narrated letters from soldiers to their sweethearts. The episode also continued Jeff's story arc this season of actually growing as a person. When he took the time to bring out Troy and Abed's imaginary friendship hats to end the war, it was one of the sweeter moments on the series."
  • Shaunna Murphy, Hollywood.com: "the show is often at its best when it's taking on genres and generally pushing the crazytown envelope. And boy, did 'Pillows and Blankets' deliver. Harmon and co. not only provided a thrilling documentary that should be shown on PBS -- they packed an emotional punch and advanced Jeff's character in a way that didn't seem forced or cheesy."
  • Alyssa Rosenberg, ThinkProgress: "I thought this was a remarkably facile means of dealing with the really profound issues that plague Troy and Abed’s friendship.… At its best, as in 'Introduction to Mixology,' [sic] Community’s capable of being wildly performative and achingly meaningful. This episode doesn’t live up to that standard."
  • Justin Wier, Sound on Sight: "Over the course of these two episodes Community has been in top form, both on a conceptual level and in terms of character development. With the exception of Shirley and Pierce (who has provided some of the biggest laughs) everyone has been featured in a story arc that gets to the core of who they are."
  • Matthew Guerruckey, Drunk Monkeys: "There was a lot of complex storytelling here, but it felt effortless because the episode was so much damn fun. From Jeff and Annie’s banal texts to Britta’s consistently horrible photographs to The Changlorious Basterds (a name I literally cannot say or type without giggling like a little girl), every gag worked tonight. " He gave it a letter grade of A-plus.
  • Geek Furious: "An epic episode. Not full of laughs but full of genius. I feel sorry for every other show on last night for not being able to measure up. If you didn't love it, then perhaps you should have been watching the Idol results show. No thinky too muchy!" He gave it a rating of 97.4443 out of 100. Ok…
  • Andrea Towers, The Voice of TV: "The episode hit all the right notes … Where Community hits its nail on the head more often than not is where it deals with human emotions and effectively shows us stories of relationships while allowing us to enjoy them in a more humorous manner, where we’re not so blinded by the serious side of the situation.… It worked because aside from the fights and the parodies, it showed us something real.… The fact that this show can do this while staging a war full of fluffy pillows is why it remains my favorite."
  • Robert Canning, IGN TV: "'Pillows and Blankets' was a stellar episode Community, twisting a pop culture reference in a way that not only provided laughs but a well-told story with heart."
  • Derek B. Gayle, KSite TV: "One of the funniest, most touching and heartfelt episodes of the series … does it provide some big philosophical discussion on the nature of humanity? No, but that’s what we have our Battlestar Galacticas and Breaking Bads for. Community is here to make us laugh and make us feel, even if for the simplest of reasons."
  • Carl Cortez, Assignment X: "Like many of COMMUNITY’s episodes, this one is as weird as they come – telling the story in the past tense, through more imagery and voiceover than actual scenes and it is quite good." He gave it a letter grade of B-plus.
  • Community podcast, Rockford Register Star: "Community, right now, is NBC's most popular sitcom, because the ratings suck so bad for everything else. Take that, the rest of NBC!" I'm not that good at transcribing the spoken word, so just go listen to it. In brief: Chris Soprych felt let down by it, while Will Pfeifer and Melissa Westphal liked it. (Westphal watched it twice!)
  • Kelley Locke, Character Grades: "The resolution of their fight might have seemed quick if you didn’t realize it wasn’t a resolution at all. It was a deferral.… I personally felt Jeff’s interactions with Troy and Abed were more compelling than his text messages with Annie." The grades: Troy — A; Abed — A; Jeff — B+; Annie — B-; Britta — B; Shirley — B+; Pierce — B.
  • Dave Harvey, What Culture!: "'Pillows and Blankets’ is a season highlight and was much needed after last weeks lukewarm offering.… Overall a memorable episode that took on a new documentary format and nailed it perfectly, whilst managing to squeeze in some touching moments of friendship, which give Community its heart."

Ratingswise, the series dropped two-fifths of a percent, to a 1.3 in the key demos. But! Every other show was down as well, and most of them dropped more: Big Bang Theory was down half a point, and Idol was down three-fifths of a point. And Community was still the most-watched show on NBC last night, and managed to notch five trending topics on Twitter while it aired in the East Coast and Central time zones. (Thanks for @supersarah33 for documenting the trending topics!) And Joe Adalian of Vulture reports that Community scored a 1.6 in the "hard to reach men 18-34 demo," tying them with Idol.


Apr. 6th, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC)
" Other shows will depict their characters doing ridiculous things with a wink and nudge to the audience, as if saying, "Look how silly we are!" "

Well said! To me, this is what 30 Rock does. Don't get me wrong--the show is funny, but this is exactly what they do. It's like "Look! Liz is doing something silly and unfeminine! (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)"

This was probably my second favorite episode this season, after the untouchable Remedial Chaos Theory.

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