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'The Heart, She Holler' and PFFR's Insane Trilogy of Ignorance

heartshehollerThe production company PFFR, headlined by the infinitely unconventional Vernon Chatman, John Lee, and Alison Levy, have produced some of the most unique, challenging, (and naturally) hated programs to have graced Adult Swim, a channel already known for different, more absurd programming. In the past, PFFR created such brilliant experiments in television like MTV2’s Sesame Street-skewing, public-enraging Wonder Showzen, the CGI New Age-spouting, low-rated Xavier: Renegade Angel, or the most “mainstream” of their programs, Delocated, a series whose star is wearing a ski mask and has his voice modulated for its entirety.

But their latest entry, the Southern gothic, soap opera-aping, The Heart, She Holler, almost immediately proved that it was going to be PFFR’s weirdest entry yet, what with the David Lynch infused universe it takes place in, where a deceased magnate talking to his kin through an endless supply of VHS tapes is the most grounded aspect of the show. But when it began (or endginned, your call) in 2011, it was far from clear that it would be the final piece of a trilogy that PFFR has been telling nearly since they began. A trilogy of ignorance, racism, and destruction that started with Wonder Showzen, developed through Xavier: Renegade Angel, and is now finally coming into focus and concluded with what the third season of The Heart, She Holler has had to say. READ MORE

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Making Sense of Serializing 'South Park'

southpark-lordeSouth Park has made a name for itself by breaking boundaries and pushing the envelope, with their incredibly streamlined production schedule allowing them near-unrivaled power on commenting on breaking and current events. So it’s a little surprising that the most unpredictable and ambitious thing South Park did this season was experiment with serialized, continuity-heavy storytelling. This season embraced the approach more than ever before, almost distilling the year into a singular storyline that they kept returning to.

While its prevalence has fluctuated throughout the season (some episodes have functioned entirely as standalone entities), it’s worth assessing why South Park has decided to make this shift this late in the game, and if it’s paid off and is something they’ll continue to do. READ MORE

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Bearing Down on 'Community’s Triumphant, Challenging Fifth Season

Community’s return this year was one of the most anticipated comedy events of the season. The theme of redemption (always a deep part of the show) seemed especially prevalent, as this season had the tall task of establishing why this show still needs to exist. That it deserves to return after a lackluster (by previous standards) fourth season, that Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna returning as showrunners would be able to steer the show in the right direction, and that a Pierce and Troy-less Community wouldn’t feel like an imitation of itself; that this wasn’t a Scrubs season 9 sort of situation. Not only did the show stand up to all of these challenges, but it also managed to become even more confident and daring in the places it chose to go, giving it arguably its most ambitious, consistent season to date and the perfect "return" we could have asked for.

While much of this season (and the series as a whole) has been about maturing and moving on, one of the smartest things the fifth season does is also embed the topic of Harmon’s return into the show’s DNA in an organic way that largely provides the first half of the season with the tonal grounding that the show needed after such a confused previous year. Harmon’s return is subtly reflected through each character’s reactions and relationships. To lose your creator (or God, or lover) is traumatic, and to then have them come back to you is a complicated thing to try and process, for them and for us.

Dan Harmon’s other series Rick and Morty has a moment in one of its episodes where there is a television channel (albeit from an alternate reality) with us on it, and not unlike that idea here, we too are students of Greendale; afraid and excited about what it means to get back something we have already mourned. It’s remarkable that the first few episodes of the season don’t fumble more as they try to process this feeling. The only reason it even attempts such a radical thing is because Community understands that every show we let into our homes becomes a part of our family (or study group), like a living entity that can change us. Harmon is Greendale, we are the Save Greendale committee, and each member of the committee represents our emotions, and is calling us to come together and succeed through this year. We have returned to a place where we know we are loved. This Mk-II study room table isn’t just a table; it’s a time machine. READ MORE

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Looking at 'Rick and Morty's Meticulously-Crafted First Season

The inaugural season of Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s runaway Cronenbergian monster of a hit, Rick and Morty, wrapped last night, ending a nearly flawless season of ambitious animated television. The scope and complexity of Rick and Morty should be no surprise considering that Harmon is no stranger to ambitious, meticulously-constructed television on his other series, Community. What’s especially worth noting in Harmon and Roiland's collaboration this time around is that Rick and Morty is essentially your only hope to standing up against the unforgiving universe(s) and all of its bleakness.

It’s also a very, very funny show. READ MORE