‘Community’ Made Mini Study-Break Episodes for Short-Attention-Span Fans

Did ‘Community’ accidentally invent Reels?
‘Community’ Made Mini Study-Break Episodes for Short-Attention-Span Fans

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If TV sitcoms were an older generation’s way of condensing two hours of movie laughs into 22 minutes of TV hilarity, the good people behind Community knew that even that was too long. To be more precise, Xfinity and Comcast believed there might be something to this new “YouTube” phenomenon and sponsored 90-second, bite-sized versions of the show to see if they could generate some 2000s viral action. The commercials, er, mini-episodes, aired during Community’s first season.

Annie provides the mini-episodes’ reason for being, setting up a schedule that works in a 90-second study break after every 36 minutes for maximum brain retention. The highlight of the first break? I’ll vote for Chevy Chase’s Pierce, who’s been workshopping a new comedy character, James British. Troy thinks he’s doing a pretty good Austin Powers. 

Thirty-six minutes later in the Greendale Community College universe, the study group takes its second break. Surprisingly, Jeff argues for continued studying since they’re almost finished. When everyone insists on a 90-second respite, he suggests a game of Truth or Dare, resulting in three solid laughs in the mini-ep’s dwindling seconds. This edition’s MVPs are Troy and Abed, with a dare played out to its hilariously painful conclusion. And is this study break the secret beginning of the Troy/Britta romance?

The last study break is all about kicking back and relaxing! Somehow, that’s all that’s needed to explore the group’s generational divides. It also was the introduction of “The Floor Is Lava” game into the Greendale-verse, a theme more fully explored in Season Five’s “Geothermal Escapism,” the episode that would be Donald Glover’s last.  

All told, the fast-paced study breaks were an inventive attempt at creating internet-sized episodes to boost the show’s popularity. TV comedies still do this today, but instead of producing original content, they simply slice up existing episodes into TikToks and Reels. It wouldn’t be surprising if those 90-second (or less) versions are the way that most of today’s sitcoms are consumed. So… thanks, Community?


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