As Dan Harmon explained in the behind-the-scenes commentary for the season 3 episode, the writers didn’t realize until writing the script that the characters had already said “Beetlejuice” twice before, so they decided to go ahead. But even though the joke wasn’t as planned as it seemed, it still shows how well the Community writers remembered what they did. The writers were always willing to take the show’s story and twist it in fresh, subtle ways, whether or not casual viewers could reliably pick up on it. It was a habit that continued all the way to Season 6, which featured a memorably meta joke about Frankie (Padgett Brewster) that likely confused much of the audience.
The running joke was the fact that before she joined the show as a main cast member, Brewster had a minor, one-off role as the school’s IT lady in Season 5. In Season 6, Frankie remarks, “I’m trying to find the IT lady.” My e-mails to her come back to me in Aramaic, and when I call, I hear an undulating, shrill whistle that makes my nose bleed.’ It’s a joke that only makes sense if you remember Brewster’s unremarkable 40-second scene from the previous season. If you didn’t, this is a joke that will seem like a fluke.
With “Community” in the works right now, there’s no telling what weird, subtle jokes the writers will have. We still don’t know anything about what the film is about, but we can at least believe that the writers’ attention to detail will not go anywhere.