Great news if you are a fan of the sitcom Community on NBC. Series visionary Dan Harmon is back and episodes from season 5 began airing January 2, 2014. Episode 2 includes one story arc where Dean Craig Pelton (Jim Rash) is trying to learn and use Microsoft Excel. This inspired today’s podcast:

 Craig P is new to Excel and is trying to set up a cafeteria lunch menu. Unfortunately, because the source list of menu items is alphabetical, he ended up with five types of Meatballs in one week. Today, Episode #1852 shows how to use RANDBETWEEN and INDEX to solve the problem.

In the “Introduction to Teaching” episode, Dean Pelton announces that he is going to learn Excel. He is hoping to get lessons from his man-crush Jeffrey Winger.

At the 3 minute mark the Dean says he is learning Excel and asks if Jeff knows Excel. When Jeff says no, the Dean replies, “Well, you look like you do”

At the 6 minute mark, the Dean tells the faculty lounge he is learning Excel and then says specifically to Jeff that “I am going to boot up my computer and download the tutorial

Several other story arcs abound, but on a few different days, we see a running arc about meatballs in the cafeteria.

Later, around the 17 minute mark, Jeff tries to quell a riot in the cafeteria. The riot is because teachers have been giving minuses when they did not like the student. Jeff notices that they have been having meatballs every day in the cafeteria and Dean Pelton interjects, “that one is on me…I converted the lunch menu to a spreadsheet”.

Seconds later, the camera sweeps across the Dean’s desk while he explains to Jeff… “It’s all based on rows and columns of cells. I think that’s why they call it Excel.”  The dean goes on to say he thinks he has found a 40% savings in the cafeteria.

Dean Pelton, NBC Community

In the shot, we get a really good look at the Dean’s computer monitor.  It is clear the Dean is running Windows 7 and Excel 2010. He does not have the Developer tab enabled. He is not (yet) a user of Easy-XL. In fact, several ribbon tabs appear to be missing (he has Home, Insert, Page Layout, Formulas, then one unknown contextual “Tools” tab, so either the screen is photoshopped or someone on the crew must own Ken Puls’ RibbonX book.


Based on the colors in the cells style box, he either chose a different theme (likely for the dean) or designed his own custom styles – unlikely for someone who downloaded the tutorial yesterday. Already, the Dean is in the third quintile of Excel users, with the spreadsheet likely containing multiplication, subtraction, and Sum formulas. He is making use of cell colors. There are still some rookie mistakes – it would be more efficient to not repeat the “meal/type” headings in rows 9, 11, 13, and 15. Jam all of those rows together and it would be easier to copy and paste the Monday formulas into the subsequent days.

Kudos, though, to the continuity department at Community. In cells C8, C10, C12, we see “Meatballs, Spaghetti”, “Meatballs Swedish”, “Meatballs plain” – which supports the meatballs story arc. That’s fairly impressive for an Excel spreadsheet that stays on the screen for all of a few seconds.

If you are a fan of Community or a fan of Excel, I will invite you to post comments for our fictitious Dean Pelton with your advice to help him up the Excel learning curve. Take a look at the spreadsheet in the picture and help him improve it.

For my part, I am offering Podcast 1852, which shows how to use INDEX and RANDBETWEEN to mix up the menu without having Meatballs five days in a row: PODCAST 1852

The episode ends with a new Excel song, sung in French. The deans looks lovingly at Jeff while a female sings in French that the dean is lonely because Jeffrey is not learning Excel. It is a classic right up there with @SZil’s Santa Baby Excel song.  Watch the Closing Song Here:

Meatball Lunch Specials on NBC's 'Community' SeriesIf you are so inspired, leave your Excel advice for Dean Pelton in the comments of this post. Oh – by the way… the Dean hasn’t converted completely over to Excel. In one shot, the Cafeteria Specials are posted near the pay phone, clearly done in Word or Publisher.

"Don't Fear The Spreadsheet" by Tyler Nash, Kevin Jones, Tom Urtis and Bill JelenMany ‘Beginner Oriented’ Excel How-To books say they can bring you from zero to familiar with the important features of Microsoft Excel – Don’t Fear The Spreadsheet’ actually will. Why are we so confident? Because the questions in this book were asked by an absolute Excel Beginner – Tyler Nash – with the answers provided by three (3) Microsoft MVPs specializing in and dedicated to teaching others Microsoft Excel, from the ground up – Kevin Jones, Tom Urtis and Bill Jelen.

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