In case you don’t know and haven’t heard me rave about it like the late-comer evangelist I am, Community is a US comedy set in an adult education college. It is very funny but it is also so deeply imaginative that I spent the whole second season simply agog.
Now, I do believe that reading the scripts and watching the episodes is an education in writing. I believe that about most scripts: I once read all seven years of Star Trek: The Next Generation scripts in order to see how a successful show finds its feet, matures and ends. That’s 178 one-hour scripts and my conclusion, if you’re interested and have far less time than you imagine this will take, is that most of them were boring puzzles rather than stories.
Whereas I then read all 176 episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in script and enjoyed it immensely.
Only a few Community episodes are online but there are some at Lee Thomson’s fabulous site TV Writing here. Unfortunately, none of them are for the episodes I want to talk to you about.
More than talk: there is a Making Of documentary about two of them that is on YouTube now. Before I show you that, though, let me say that the episodes are sequels to the show’s first big hit. That was a season one story about a paintball game gone wrong – honestly, it is one of my favourite television episodes ever and I long to have been the one to write it – and that’s the lesson I want us to focus on.
Not why you should make a sequel to a hit since that’s obvious financially if in no other way. But actually why you shouldn’t. Why the show was told it could never top that original and how it did. Watch the episodes, would you? In fact, just watch the show. Part of the fun of seeing the episode A Fistful of Paintballs and its second part, For a Few Paintballs More, was the anticipation. And the part of the fun of watching was to see how it used the season leading up to it, how it was a true finale instead of a stunt episode.
Now, YouTube. The Making of the Paintball episodes: