(this is a post for Community fans, clarifying an odd rumor about a recent episode. No need to read more if you’re not absurdly obsessed with our show).
I have been trying not to read reviews, and especially the discussions under them, this season, as I have become emotionally fused with our TV show in a way that makes it hurt every time someone says it’s not perfect. However, there was so much discussion about this week’s episode that I have seen a few reviews, now, courtesy of provocatively captioned links sent to my twitter, etc.
There is this one particular pet theory circulating that, as a populist TV producer, I can’t allow to be out there without being on record firmly denying. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure I fully understand the theory itself, but I know it’s not true at a glance, because it has something to do with the episode “Competitive Ecology” being aired out of order on purpose because it was actually “from the timeline in which Abed gets the pizza in Remedial Chaos Theory.”
It’s just not true. I am really sorry that the air-order-swap has sent a false signal of hidden complexity. I have been meaning to explain the very unmysterious reason for the air order swap when I had time, in keeping with a promise I made you guys long ago.
The production code of “Remedial Chaos Theory” is 303, because it was the third episode to be written and shot. We intended to air it third. Troy and Abed’s apartment is 303 because, hey, we needed an apartment number, so we gave it the production code’s number.
As you MIGHT imagine, 303 was a bit of a challenge to write, shoot and edit. And as you might imagine, the episode entitled “Competitive Ecology” was relatively easy to write, shoot and edit. Relative to 303, anyway.
At a certain point, with 303’s delivery deadline looming, I panicked. I felt that the episode was nowhere near complete. Chris McKenna had invested so much into the episode, and we were about to lock picture on something that was not delivering on this script that had nearly given him a stroke. And an early director’s cut of Competitive Ecology came in, and I looked at it, and it was working great. It was six hours from being broadcastable, and Chaos Theory needed an amount of TLC in the edit bay that I couldn’t even estimate. I just knew we had to sit there and work on it. A lot.
So I ordered the swap. Not NBC. I talked them into it. We considered things like the Eartha Kitt contradiction, which some execs recommended pulling from 304, but I thought, perhaps erroneously, that it would feel like a “set up” for the fact that Pierce is constantly bringing it up. We considered the “marijuana lighter” concept, and I decided that, you know what? Shirley just already knew that Britta was a stoner, how could she not.
One thing I did not consider was that fans starving for our weirdness were going to get back-to-back “normal episodes” with Chang-as-cop B stories, and that, in a season in which backlash is basically unavoidable, we were going to leap headlong into it, because everyone was going to start making decisions, as of the third episode, about how the season was going, etc.
It aired out of order because it was a bitch to edit. I’m sorry it’s not more complicated than that, but I’m sure glad the explanation isn’t more sinister. The “real” timeline - that is to say, the one which the NBC TV show Community will continue to track - is the timeline you see mapped at the center in those awesome transitions created by Channel 101’s Duncan Brothers. That center, or “prime” timeline, is the one in which Abed catches the die, exposes Jeff as a selfish hooligan and the group sends him down for the pizza. That is the “real” timeline. And when we were not in it, I did everything I could to make it clear. As much fun as we want to have, we never want to confuse you or lie to you. We just don’t consider that a right that we have. I hated that stupid “The Killing” show on AMC after the first five minutes; don’t show me someone discovering a body but then reveal that the camera was somewhere else and it was a pig. That’s dumb. That’s not storytelling, that’s a parlor trick and an abuse of power. That kind of shit was cool in the third act of Silence of the Lambs, when she was ringing the doorbell and the SWAT team was ringing a doorbell and you suddenly realized that the SWAT team was at the wrong house and Starling wasn’t. The “deception” in that moment was the POINT of that moment in Silence of the Lambs. Starling had wandered from her flock, straight into the wolf’s den, and WE were the only ones that knew it. That was a [very brief] lie the camera engaged in to EMPOWER the audience and make the story more riveting. Wow. What a tangent. Anyway.
Is timeline 1 real? Is Evil Abed out there?
Those are really, really good questions that I think only a really, really good show would answer. Enjoy.
They are airing a rerun next thursday. But the week after that is Halloween.
It’s a fun one.
Your praise of Remedial Chaos Theory has got me feeling really good. I have some pretty interesting stuff I could show you when I get a chance. There’s photos of the whiteboard in the room where McKenna was breaking this story. And there’s a text message conversation from last season between me and Megan “Marie Claire” Ganz in which you can see the seed for Remedial Chaos Theory get planted and then sprout. Well, it fascinates me, anyway. What else do I have to be fascinated by.
I love you guys for loving that episode. Talk to you soon.
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