Once one knows the rules, one can break them. That’s the case with NBC’s “Community” and its creator Dan Harmon. He knows what makes a successful sitcom, but then he turns it on its head. Thursday’s (April 21) episode, “Paradigms of Human Memory” is a great example of that.
In the episode, the study group does its own take on the sitcom flashback show that typically shows the characters emotional look back at memorable scenes over the seasons. But the show has only been on for less than two seasons so far, so what’s a young sitcom to do? Shoot around 78 new scenes that we’ve never seen before and have the characters look back on those “memories.”
“I think we’d all agree we worked as a cohesive group better than we’ve ever had,” Yvette Nicole Brown, who plays Shirley, tells Zap2it. “We had such a limited amount of time and so much to shoot. So, it was literally us running, running, running to get everything we needed for that episode.”
“I don’t know how they’re going to fit it all into 22, 23 minutes,” Joel McHale, who plays Jeff, tells us. “But if they do, I know it will be a spectacular episode.”
The crew shot several scenes at Universal Studios Theme Park in Los Angeles. “It was kind of like being on a weird tour,” McHale explains. “Where they’re like, [said in a manner very similar to Jim Rash’s Dean Pelton] ‘You get to shoot a TV show here.’ It was really fun.”
The cast did tell us that there was one particular moving target that they had to work around.
“They wouldn’t stop the tram for anything we were doing,” explains Alison Brie, who plays Annie. “So, people were like videotaping us and we were like, ‘Hi! Hi, everybody!’
“We were shooting and it was like, here comes the tram again,” McHale explains. “Let’s stop. It was like, wait, wait, and go. It was like having a helicopter fly over every seven minutes.”
All the hard work and unforeseen challenges were worth it, though. The episode is seamless in how it incorporates all the new scenes and shows how they bring out the best (and worst) of the group’s dynamics.
“Community” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.