The Hip New Kids and the British Old Guard: Community vs. Fawlty Towers

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The Best Sitcom Episode Ever Tournament is pitting 32 of the greatest episodes of funny TV shows ever produced against each other in a single-elimination winner-takes-all (well, takes-nothing) competition. Every day, we’re putting up episodes for you, our loyal readers, to vote on. Today: Community vs. Fawlty Towers.

Community — “Remedial Chaos Theory,” October 13, 2011

Community has done a lot of beloved “thematic” episodes, but none played with the form and structure of the 23-minute sitcom episode quite like “Remedial Chaos Theory.” With each roll of the die we saw how the study group’s dynamic changed based on who left the room, from the positive to the downright-disastrous (that troll, oh god, that troll). While in other hands a conceit such as this could have gotten bogged down in logistics and its own cleverness, writer Chris McKenna was able to have each different timeline say something new about these characters, elevating it above its structural gimmick. It’s what gets people so obsessed with this show: beyond the frequent thematic and structural fireworks, there are real, wonderful characters here that people really connect with. Being around to be able to watch this show, well, that’s the best possible timeline. — Adam Frucci

Fawlty Towers — “The Germans,” October 24, 1975

Fawlty Towers is one of the most revered sitcoms of all-time, and “The Germans” is its most memorable episode. John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty is at his best when he’s completely overwhelmed, and this episode has him dealing with a lot: running the hotel while his wife is hospitalized, struggling to hang a moose’s head up on the wall, holding the least successful fire drill in history (sorry, David Brent!), escaping from a hospital, and desperately trying not to offend some German guests. Like most episodes of Fawlty Towers, “The Germans” is an expertly-played farce. It popularized the phrase “Don’t mention the war” and certainly features the Best Walk in Sitcom History in Cleese’s goose-stepping Hitler impression that echoes the classic Monty Python “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch. — Bradford Evans