You'd better sit down for this one.
You're speeding along through Netflix's newest original series Orange Is the New Black. You're really investing in the ups and downs of anti-heroine Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a white collar criminal adjusting to life in a New York prison. By now, despite all her flaws, you've come to love Piper. You wonder if she'll turn it all around and abandon her proclivity for bad choices. You wonder if she'll earn the trust and friendship of her fellow inmates, many of whom have not taken kindly to her uppity sensibilities. But you also wonder, on the other hand, if the prison will take her down, bury her beneath the dark rubble that exists within her. Well, wonder no further; it doesn't matter. Because she doesn't exist.
If you've made it to the 11th episode of Orange Is the New Black, you might have taken note of a gift bequeathed upon a group of downtrodden inmates by one Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley): a bag of Let's Potato Chips. An innocuous sight to many. But to Community fans, the Let's brand will jog a few memories.
Memories of Leonard "The Human Raisin" Rodriguez (Richard Erdman) proclaiming his delight with the snack food on his YouTube channel. Of Dean Craig Pelton (Jim Rash) paying an unannounced visit to students Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) and Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), munchies in tow. Of Troy and girlfriend Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) squabbling over the quality of the product... although that was a Season 4 episode, so we don't have to talk about it. Yes, while Let's may not be a real potato chip syndicate, it exists with quite a fervor in the Community universe. And, apparently, in the Orange Is the New Black universe. Which means, quite inarguably, that these two shows exist in the same universe.
And, of course, it doesn't stop there. Not even close.
If you're an Orange Is the New Black watcher, then we must assume you are a subscriber to Netflix. And if you are a living human, then we must assume that you're a fan of Arrested Development. In said case, you might have caught a glimpse of GOB munching a few Let's Potato Chips while chumming around with his newly acquired entourage. Does this mean there are three shows that fall into the mix? Hell no. It means there are about a thousand.
Back in the days of Arrested yore, fans were treated to a scrapbooking seminar taught by undercover detective John Munch — Richard Belzer's character in the Law & Order franchise. Belzer, as Munch, had a series of other one-off cameos (The X-Files, The Wire, Sesame Street, 30 Rock) and appeared on Homicide: Life on the Street... a show linked by the Alfre Woodard character Roxanne Turner to none other than St. Elsewhere. St. Elsewhere famously concluded by revealing (spoilers!) that the entire six-season reality existed inside the mind of an autistic child named Tommy Westphall. And with this reveal, it would be only logical to conclude that Homicide (due to the Turner connection) was also concocted by young Tommy. As well as every show linked to that one by John Munch... and every show linked to every one of those shows. It gets pretty extensive.
This is old news, of course. Many have spent years calculating the mass of victims of Tommy Westphall's insatiable imagination. And now, we can welcome Orange Is the New Black into this community. Also Community.
So next time you're watching Litchfield's psychotic world unravel around the hapless (or nefarious?) Piper Chapman, fearing you might no longer be able to bear the treacherous events crafted by Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, take relief in the simple fact that it's all just the daydreams of some kid staring into space in 1988.
But take heed: the Tommy Westphall universe is forever growing, striking down the veritability of people and places everywhere. You might be next.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter | Follow hollywood.com on Twitter @hollywood_com
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So, it's Valentine's Day, and you — again – are single. You could go out with your friends, hitting the town to scope out its most eligible of bachelors/bachelorettes. You could also use this rare pass you have to consume an entire bottle of red (or two) on a Thursday night, listen to some Joni, and cry. Or you could be a major whore and text your exes, and if that doesn't work, hit up the casual encounters section on Craigslist. No one is judging! (Yes, yes they are.)
But you know what? Screw that noise. Because maybe you have an excuse. Maybe you don't feel well. Maybe you're on a diet because you just moved to the city and drank too much last month, and you gave up chocolate for Lent. Maybe you just prefer the company of your cats to other human beings in general. Or maybe you're me, and it's all of the above. Either way, maybe you just DO NOT CARE about Valentine's Day. So saddle up, kids — there's a lot of good stuff on TV tonight, and despite what everyone in your office and on commericals is telling you, you are in your full right to sit on your ass alone and watch it.
RELATED: Be Mine! 6 TV-Inspired Valentines From Your Favorite Characters
If You're Longing for a Different Holiday... It may be February everywhere else, but it's still October in the hallowed halls of Greendale Community College. Community will finally air its Halloween episode tonight at 8PM, so tune in to NBC if you like joy and happiness. To make things even better, Parks and Recreation is on right after... with an episode that will feature Ron Swanson filling in for Leslie during a live TV performance. Oh Parks, you beautiful tropical fish.
If You're Searching for that Supernatural Someone... Why go outside with your REAL boyfriend when there are Salvatores on TV? The Vampire Diaries is new tonight at 8PM, with an episode that will heavily feature Jeremy's arms.
If You Want to Hear Sweet Songs About Love... Then Fox is the place to be. Not only is Glee having an (OMG) wedding, but American Idol will reveal its top 40.
If You Need a Little Mystery in Your Life... Kidnappings and Nazis and clocks, oh my! ABC will premiere its new mystery show Zero Hour tonight at 8PM, so tune in if conspiracy theories are your thing. Grey's Anatomy and Scandal will follow, so it's sure to be a drama-filled evening over at ABC.
RELATED: 'Community' Gets Scary For Valentine's Day: Six of the Scariest Romances at Greendale
If You Like Laughing at the Failure of Others... Search no more, friends! Bravo is serving up hours of The Millionaire Matchmaker, from morning until 10PM. Quick, let's leave work so we can watch crazy rich people get rejected!
If You Like Things That Are Beautiful and Wonderful and Oh God I'm Going to Cry Just Thinking About This... The Disney Channel is playing Wall-Eat 8. Sniff.
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If You...Oh, Just Why the Hell Not? Encore is playing Gremlinsat 8! This has nothing to do with Valentine's Day, but this movie should be watched every day.
If You Think You're Going to Die... The National Geographic Channel is playing Doomsday Preppers all night. Have fun making that bunker, weirdo.
If You Don't Give a Damn... Then TCM is playing Gone With the Wind at 8PM. Tune in to watch love lost! See, it's not just you.
If You're a Masochist... TLC is playing Say Yes to the Dress all night. But ew, why would you do that to yourself?
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Haston/NBC]
Love is a curious thing. And on Community, it just gets curiouser and curiouser. So curious, in fact, that this Valentine's day, the Greendale gang is actually celebrating Halloween (the perils of having one's season pushed back a few months, we suppose). While it feels rather counterintuitive to watch tales of ghosts and goblins and Pierce on a day about celebrating love, it's actually pretty normal in the realm of Community, where love gets a little... frightening at times.
Consider this list one for the single people out there. You may be alone today, but at least you're not in one of these scary relationships:
RELATED: 'Community' Season Premiere Recap: Abed TV
The Ballad of Britta and Subway
Who says a girl can't fall in love with a human proxy for a global sandwich company? Britta's love for Subway was real, and though it didn't last, sometimes you can still hear her whispers on the moor-er, the hill behind Greendale where Leonard hangs out, saying "Suuuuubwayyyy! Suuuuubwaaaaay!"
RELATED: Last Minute Valentine's Day Plans, Inspired By 'Community'
Ch-ch-chang and Sh-sh-shirley?
Chang's Domestic Bliss: A Major Award?
Are you really surprised Chang has two spots on this list? And when you think about it, his domestic partnership with this mannequin leg was actually less surprising than his hookup with Shirley. Of course, that doesn't make watching him caress the plastic knee any less disturbing.
RELATED: 'Community' Cast on Season 4
Love Knows No Bounds For the Dean
It has since been replaced by a love (or something) for Jeff, but once upon a time, the Dean became something of a furry, but only for those dressed as dalmatians. What's worse is that this terrifying, muscle-clad human on YouTube is the one who unlocks the creepy obsession. This is the part where we all shudder.
Everything I Dean, I Dean It For Jeff
The Dean may have stopped off in Dalmatian town, but his heart truly beats (yeah, we'll go with that PG version) for Jeff Winger. Just a single look from Jeff in his devilishly stylish aviators sends the Dean over the edge, (nudge, nudge) if you know what we mean. Yeah, we're a little scared by this too.
What's your favorite scary Community romance? Perhaps we'll encounter another on Thursday's Community "Valloween" episode at 8 PM ET on NBC.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: NBC]
From the second Britta says to Abed, “I hereby therapize you,” we know we’re in for a wild journey through the recesses of Abed’s never-ending imagination on the Season 4 premiere of Community. It’s the perfect way to return to Greendale: by experiencing it through a ‘90s multi-cam sitcom lens, and later through an even simpler ‘90s cartoon lens. If we can’t have Dan Harmon, lord please give us some Abed.
We open on Abed’s happy place, and to Britta’s dismay, it’s not the babbling brook she taped a picture of to her notebook, but an evenly-lit three-walled version of the study room. Each of our favorite characters are boiled down to their bases essences, especially Jeff, who literally tells the room “congratulations” when he comes in. It’s a dream we didn’t realize Abed had, but when he replaces Pierce with Fred Willard, it all makes sense. Much like fans of TV’s remaining multi-cam giggle-fests: this reality is simply easier to take.
RELATED: ‘Community’ Season 4 Premiere: Our Review
The dark Harmon edges may be missing in this fourth season of Community, but the smart pop culture commentary mixed with the heartfelt antics of six best friends (and Pierce) delivers enough to keep us happy.
And while Abed’s Happy Community College Show on Abed TV may poke fun at the multi-cam sitcom, it also shows a great reverence for the format as an essential component of TV’s ability to act as an escape, a way of soothing us when life is simply too much. Community is not that same simplistic escape, and it’s a shame that an easy multi-cam show like The Big Bang Theory continues to crush it in the ratings, but they both have a spot on television. Abed says so.
When we come back into the “real” world, it’s the first day of senior year, Annie is “doing senioritis,” and Jeff is actually doing his best to help the whole group get into the overbooked history class: History of Ice Cream.
He’s even sending away cute, ditzy girls obsessed with Instagramming themselves (low hanging hipster jokes, ahoy), but there’s a catch: the Dean has set this whole thing up. He’s “forged” his own course cards, claiming his foolproof system of pink notecards and sharpies has been “hacked.” Oh, Dean. You’re not even trying to hide it now. (We missed you.)
Then we’re in it: the games the promos have been teasing for weeks. The Hunger Deans are a game that pits all the students against each other for a chance at ice cream (and that history credit for learning about the history of said tasty treat). It turns out Jeff took summer classes and he needs this class, which is the only history credit this semester (suspicious much?), to graduate early. “I want us to take the class together I just wanted it to be the last class we take together,” he says to the dismay of the whole group.
The notion that college is almost over, and that that day may come sooner for Jeff than the others, plays games with everyone. Annie, who’s busy executing senioritis by not sayin’ her Gs, is suddenly terrified of the boring future she’s been working for. But it’s Abed who takes this stimulus as an excuse to retreat to Abed TV, where the Dean has lost the MS Paint file that stored the school records, forcing the friendly friends to stick around for three more years to play catch up.
When Jeff throws down his Jobs magazine to chase from freshman hotties, Abed is totally comfortable, back in the glow of the reality he thinks he knows best.
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Jeff, convinced he’s “New Jeff” and not “Old Jeff,” who’s self-serving and addicted to texting. He dives headfirst into the Hunger Deans, nabbing six unforgeable balls (damn that Dean’s bite-mark system!) so he and his friends can take the ice cream class together. He won’t do it without them, but he really wants that credit, so he’s going to spend all his energy getting those balls. (Don’t worry, Pierce knows there’s a joke somewhere in all this.)
Jeff sexy tangos the Dean into submission and gets the truth: the Dean took away all the history classes and set up this elaborate ruse thinking Jeff wouldn’t participate in order to keep him at Greendale longer. Jeff doesn’t seem all that upset by it.
But when Britta and Troy return from their pseudo-erotic couple fight in the fountain after Britta fails to play by Abed’s rules for wishing in the fountain, Abed’s happy place has become a real problem. Abed’s Happy Community College Show characters, like all sitcom characters, have found a sudden way out of their problems: a safe, shaped like a rubber ball that contains backups of their school records. Huzzah? Not for Abed.
He retreats further into his happy place within a happy place: a shameless rip-off (or homage, depending on how you look at it) of Muppet Babies called Greendale Babies. It’s an even easier, more infantile version of escape and Abed is stuck there when he plays out the gang’s motto about playing together FOREVER.
Troy realizes Abed is not f-y-n-e, but f-i-n-e (which is code for “not fine”), and Britta admits she told Abed to go to a happy place in his mind. It takes all of Troy’s patience to not lose it on his new girlfriend (or something), and has the whole group hold hands with Abed so they can incept him out of his multiple dream levels. But it doesn’t work. They need Jeff, who must choose between Abed and the last Hunger Dean ball.
He ultimately makes the right choice, and Abed’s imagination gives cartoon baby Jeff a speech to deliver about change and how it’s difficult, but necessary.
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It’s a speech we can’t help but feel is directed at us. We’re resisting the change of a Harmon-less Community, and one whose final season may be flashing before our eyes right now. But as Abed says, everything he loves about the group was once the future.
So what’s the point in trying to stay in the past? Where’s the potential for finding the real life happy place with a group as perfect as the study group if we’re always insistent on stayi ng in the past?
There couldn’t be a better way for Community to come back to us. The dark edges brought by Harmon are gone, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come to find value in this change and this new future. And who better to teach us this lesson than Abed? (Besides, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have listened to anyone else.)
Of course, that doesn’t help the fact that in addition the Dean living next door to Jeff this semester, we’ll also have to deal with that naked, slimy Kevin with “Changnesia” next week. And just when we thought that whole battle for Greendale last season scared him off once and for all.
Grading on a Curve
Abed was supposed to be envisioning a babbling brook for his happy place, but he pulled in layers of their world, something he knows will upset fans of the babbling brook, but he thought the initial universe was a bit limiting. +50
Abed has Jeff and the study group reading “Jobs” magazine while Pierce is reading “Coffins.” +60 Abed's reality TV show ad on Abed TV: American Sword Cooks +10
Troy and Abed living out a Bosom Buddies parody in the tag. +15
"I'm trying out the hipster look. It's cool, but also not." -Troy on his new hipster glasses +10 “Last year we wished for Osama Bin Laden and the Dorito taco.” -Abed "Yeah, but Obama got credit for both" -Troy +30
"F-i-n-e or F-y-n-e? We made one of them a code for 'not fine'" -Troy +35
"Why do I like this?" -Troy, being strangled by Britta +15
Shirley is the one with real prank ideas even though Annie didn’t think she could handle “doing senioritis”: they fill the Dean’s car with popcorn. Yes, because that is an actual prank. +30
Shirley making her "Oh lord, no" a sassy catch phrase in Abed’s multi-cam sitcom. +50
Annie’s prank on the Dean is sneaking into his office so he’ll have the sneaking suspicion that someone was there. Okay, she’ll move his stapler. -15
"Yay hospital administrator! I can't wait to be buried alive under a pile of paperwork hoping to summon up the courage to talk to Dr. Patel, the gorgeous Indian neurosurgeon who doesn't even know I exist." -Annie while pranking the Dean. Woo, senioritis. Killer fake future backstory though, bro. +30
“Is that blood on your shirt?” “No, it's cool, it's Leonard's.” - Jeff during the Hunger Deans +25
"Here's the deal, Jessica Biel" -Britta to Abed -5
"It's progressed, but it hasn't progressed progressed. It's progressing. It's progressive" -Britta, on her relationship with Troy -100
Britta does the wishing all wrong and wishes to “end all wars.” -50
In Abed's happy place Pierce is played by a man who got caught jerking off in a movie theater instead of Chevy Chase. -1000
"If you want something you have to work for it or use a spell" -Pierce on Abed and Troy’s wishing well tradition +15
“There’s got to be a ball joke in here,” -Pierce, holding Jeff’s balls and failing to see that that is the joke -15
"All these balls. So close I can taste it.” -Pierce holding Jeff’s balls -20
"Gay balls! Nailed it!" -Pierce -1000
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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