NBC's ensemble comedy about the world’s most off-task study group hits its stride in the third season, balancing its high concept ambitions with satisfying character developing moments. The DVD release is another solid one across the board, even though the absence of a high definition version continues to vex. Community: The Complete Third Season Release Date: August 14, 2012 Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Packaging/Materials: Two slim cases with slipcover Year: 2011-2012 Rating: NR Running Time: ~8:30:00 MSRP: $34.99 THE EPISODES SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen Standard definition Audio Dolby Digital: English 5.1 Stereo Subtitles English SDH Various The Episodes: 4.5/5 Another year at Greendale Community College promises to be a year that’s different. And by different I mean just as fun and weird as the previous two years – the proclamations of certain daydreamed musical fantasies notwithstanding. This go-around the ever insular study group has chosen 100 level Biology as its academic rallying point, bringing with it a whole new set of social challenges, like learning to work with people they don’t know or even necessarily like. Surprisingly it’s Jeff (Joel McHale) who will fight the hardest to remain part of a group he once considered a means to an end. A new professor, played by “The Wire’s” Michael Kenneth Williams, is also expecting a lot from them, introducing a level of rigor that has so far been absent in the Greendale college experience. Yet despite Professor Kane’s best efforts, academics will remain a low priority as the school plays host to another series of ridiculous events, from the re-marriage of Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) and her baby-daddy Andre (Malcolm Jamal Warner) to the split between BFFs Troy and Abed (Donald Glover and Danny Pudi) that propagates through the school in the form of a days-long pillow fight. Meanwhile, Annie (Alison Brie) comes face-to-face with her Asian doppleganger frenemy; Britta (Gillian Jacobs) declares a major and wastes no time proving it a bad idea; Pierce (Chevy Chase) tries to resolve his insidious daddy issues; and Chang (Ken Jeong) gets out of the Greendale ductwork and crawls his way up the ranks of campus security. An unassuming air conditioning school program, headed by John Goodman’s Vice Dean Laybourne, will also reveal itself as the true heart of the school as well as the eventual undoing of the flamboyantly perplexed Dean Pelton (Jim Rash). Though in the past “Community” has been guilty of sacrificing genuine character development for oh-so-clever jokes in its high concept episodes, the season’s third installment, “Remedial Chaos Theory,” in which multiple timelines generated by the roll of a Yahtzee die reveal various shades of the core characters, shows the writers have figured out how to strike the balance. The subsequent “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps” (a spoof on horror movies), “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” (an homage to the documentary “Heart of Darkness”) and the phenomenal “Pillows and Blankets” (a Ken Burns “Civil War” parody) confirm the show has hit its stride and can no longer be accused of being too clever for its own good. The latter part of the season also finished strong with the canny “Law & Order” parody “Basic Lupine Urology” and the penultimate episode “The First Chang Dynasty.” So it comes as a surprise that in its strongest year, the show experienced its greatest behind-the-scenes turmoil, eventually resulting in the ouster of creator and show runner Dan Harmon. Additional staff departures, a reduced order for episodes, as well as the relocation of the show to Friday nights is further writing on the wall that the show is in its final days. In a way it seems appropriate, given the number of years it typically takes to earn a degree, but given how little the Greendalers have actually learned, it’s hard to say what kind of diplomas they’ll be walking away with. No doubt it will be hilarious though. "Community: The Complete Third Season" on DVD includes all 22 episodes that aired between 2011 and 2012 on NBC. "Community's" fourth season is scheduled to premiere Friday, October 19th at 8:30/7:30c. Video Quality: 4/5 It’s disappointing the show is relegated to standard definition treatment after seeing it broadcast in high definition, but the DVD image quality is strong enough that there’s no need to call for a boycott. This despite cramming as many as eight episodes onto a platter, an increase compared to previous releases. Viewers will notice occasional moiré in fine pattern areas, compression noise in swaths of background areas, and softness or haziness in wide shots. But color, black level and contrast are uniformly solid, suffering only a little under the dimmest of light levels (which are relatively infrequent). There's also a touch of edge haloing from time-to-time, though not enough to distract. All 22 episodes are framed at 1.78:1 and enhanced for widescreen displays. Audio Quality: 4/5 Surround activity in the 448 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track provides support for the music soundtrack, and sometimes some crowd noise and other types of environmental effects. The mix isn't the most subtle, but it gives the decidedly non-subtle show a little more dimension than a straight stereo mix would. Bass response is also very solid, particularly in the season's final episodes. Center channel dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible. Special Features: 4.5/5 The bonus material goes a bit lighter on the video featurettes this time, most likely to make room for the increased number of episodes per disc, but again includes commentary tracks for every episode, a hilarious set of outtakes, and deleted scenes for those wanting even more time with their favorite Greendale characters. The commentaries are generally pretty entertaining, but those that have more than a few participants can go off the rails a bit given how well everyone seems to get along. But for “hang out” style commentaries, the tracks certainly can’t be beat. [Disc One] Audio Commentaries Biology 101: Gillian Jacobs and Yvette Nicole Brown Geography of Global Conflict: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Martin Starr, and Andy Bobrow Remedial Chaos Theory: Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Chris McKenna Competitive Ecology: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Maggie Bandur Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps: Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Jim Rash Advanced Gay: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Matt Murray Studies in Modern Movement: Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, and Jim Rash Documentary Filmmaking: Redux: Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Jim Rash Outtakes (6:42) Deleted Scenes (6:42) Biology 101: Britta tries to help Abed; Chang tries out his baton. Geography of Global Conflict: The Model U.N. moderator smells it too. Remedial Chaos Theory: Britta argues with Shirley over pie. Competitive Ecology: Pierce’s study partner tries to get to know him; discussions about age. Advanced Gay: The hand gestures for the air conditioning school; Jeff tries to get in touch with his dad. Documentary Filmmaking: Redux: Chang volunteers to be Jeff’s understudy; Dean Pelton talks about Luis Guzman; Dean Pelton tortures his talent. [Disc Two] Audio Commentaries Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism: Joel McHale, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Chris Kula Regional Holiday Music: Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Steve Basilone, and Annie Mebane Contemporary Impressionists: Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alex Cooley, and Kyle Newacheck Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Malcolm Jamal Warner Digital Exploration of Interior Design: Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Yvette Nicole Brown, Dan Eckman, and Chris McKenna Pillows and Blankets: Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Andy Bobrow Origins of Vampire Mythology: Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, and Jim Rash Virtual Systems Analysis: Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, and Matt Murray A Glee-ful Community Christmas (6:21): The glimpse behind the very special Christmas and “Glee”-inspired episode features video footage from the production and on-set interviews with Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Joel McHale, and Danny Pudi. This is War: Pillows vs. Blankets (13:24): The cast and crew talk about the making of the truly inspired Ken Burns documentary parody, “Pillows and Blankets,” covering the writing, set and costume design, and the performances. Outtakes (7:15) Deleted Scenes (2:36) Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts: Shirley and Pierce make a pitch; Annie gets indignant; Troy and Abed turn off a hot girl Digital Exploration of Interior Design: Pierce looks up a word; Britta and Subway communicate clandestinely Pillows and Blankets: Mediation fails; Garrett flips out; Annie’s war journal [Disc Three] Audio Commentaries Basic Lupine Urology: Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Rob Schrab Course Listing Unavailable: Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Dino Stamatopoulos, and Tim Saccardo Curriculum Unavailable: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Martin Starr, Andy Bobrow, and Adam Countee Digital Estate Planning: Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, and Yvette Nicole Brown The First Chang Dynasty: Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jay Chandrasekhar, Alex Cuthbertson, Matt Fusfeld Introduction to Finality: Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Steve Basilone, and Annie Mebane Outtakes (5:31) Bonus Outtakes (2:43): It’s a special bodily functions installment, most pantomimed, but in at least one instance, real. It must have been flu season. Deleted Scenes (3:50) Basic Lupine Urology: Leonard armwrestles Course Listing Unavailable: Annie airs her complaints about Greendale; Troy and Abed rap it out; Dean Pelton explains himself; Chang shows Dean the fine print Introduction to Finality: Jeff explains things to Britta; the Limpken wrench; Jeff takes a client; courtroom antics with Alan and Jeff; Troy begins the challenge Recap The Episodes: 4.5/5 Video Quality: 4/5 Audio Quality: 4/5 Special Features: 4.5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment earns a solid “B+” for its release of “Community’s” phenomenal third season. Though the absence of a Blu-ray release will continue to be a sticking point, the DVD is a must-have for fans, even though its presentation may not be on par with what’s seen in weekly high definition broadcasts.