The new year has brought about not only a rebirth of this humble blog, but also one of its most treasured cultural artifacts: Community. Sure, Community was never really “dead” to begin with, but last season saw it walking around uncomfortably in its old skin, as some sort of TV show zombie (not to be confused with “zombie TV shows” like The Walking Dead, though that program, too, has taken on a certain undead quality). The return of Dan Harmon as showrunner, we hope, will change all that (and look out on Friday for our collective discussion of last week’s premiere); for now we’re going to psych ourselves up by reliving the glory days and talking about our favorite episodes of Community.
S3E06-“Remedial Chaos Theory”: A fan-favorite, “Remedial Chaos Theory” has everything that makes a good Community episode; it’s filled with good character moments, the structure of the episode leads to some incredible comedy, and it’s practically written to be picked apart for references and callbacks. As Jeff rolls the dice for a game of Yahtzee, Abed warns him that this will create six different timelines where anything could happen. Each of these is then shown, and they include some of Community‘s best gags of all time. Pierce’s Eartha Kitt story, Troy smoking a candy cigarette, Britta not being allowed to sing “Roxanne”, and the creation of “the darkest timeline”, which went on to interfere with the “prime timeline” where Abed catches the dice before it falls to prevent any other dimensions from occurring. It was a smart episode, and opened up a literal new world for the show to explain and crack jokes about.
S2E19-“Critical Film Studies”: Although I am the least familiar of the group with this episode’s two main source materials, I can’t deny the brilliant bait-and-switch that it pulled on thousands of viewers like myself. Just as Community was hitting its high point in popularity, it garnered enough attention to be featured in magazines. The preview for this episode simply showed the Greendale gang in Halloween costumes based off of the characters from Pulp Fiction. Thinking the whole episode was going to be a fun Tarantino spoof, I tuned in live. What I quickly realized was that it was far from that, and even some of the characters were surprised. As is usual with the show, Abed is the one to deconstruct the whole thing, and his development into the titular character from My Dinner with Andre reveals this episode to be one of the show’s most clever.
S1E23-“Modern Warfare”: If someone were to track the exact point where I realized that Community was a special series, it would probably be somewhere in the brilliantly-shot paintball fight scenes of “Modern Warfare”. This episode proved that Community wasn’t just a well-written situational comedy, but also an intelligent spoof of genre films. Even though the stakes are relatively low, the eponymous warfare that takes place in Greendale College this episode is filmed and treated like real war, with bunkers, alliances, and supply runs taking place all on campus. It’s just a fun romp of an episode, and the climactic scene where Jeff and Britta make love before being attacked by Chang wielding a paintball-filled exploding vest and golden guns is one of the most memorable scenes of the entire show.
S2E09-“Conspiracy Theories and Interior Designs”: I recently rewatched a few episodes of Community, and this one was my reintroduction into the show. Jeff and Annie go to uncover the secrets of Jeff’s imaginary blow-off class, which has a real teacher, while Troy and Abed turn the school into a blanket fort. The two stories coincide perfectly. The blanket fort starts off as a seemingly childish construct: a couple of pillows, and a few blankets. However, the design expands to fill up the entirety of Greendale, allowing for cameos from Leonard, Starburns, and the rest of the motley crew who make up Greendale. Meanwhile, Jeff’s story arc ends in a culmination so perfect I can’t bring myself to spoil it. All in all, this highlights what Community does best: cracking funny jokes while coming up with an insane story.
S2E21-“Paradigms of Human Memory”: In this episode, the group thinks back to the events of the past year. This show is meant to be a clip show, but as Community always does, the product turned out better than it had any right to. Instead of actually making a clip show from the previous episodes, the show takes clips from scenes that happened right after the events of another episode. At first, the viewer is led to believe that these are regular clips, but as the clips get crazier and crazier, the realization dawns that none of this ever actually happened in the show. Once that hits, the episode becomes fresher and funnier. When the group reconciles at the end of their argument with a montage of Winger monologues, the episode proves that Community embodies heart and humour.
S1E11-“The Politics of Human Sexuality”: One of my favorite things about Community is the fact that every episode has a memorable joke. This episode is about the STD fair that Annie is running. There are a few hilarious moments, including a racial sexual joke, a joke about the childish names for penis, and of course the quote to not use condoms. Please don’t judge this one before you see it. This episode really adds to the relationship between Troy and Abed, and builds the base of Annie’s character. This is a truly funny experience of an episode that is always great to rewatch.
S3E14-“Pillows and Blankets”: When people talk about their favorite Community episodes, they usually end up picking from the show’s storied arsenal of genre pastiches (i.e. the paintball episodes), since those are the most readily memorable. For now, I’ll lump myself in with the rest and talk about my all-time favorite genre-pastiche episode, the Ken Burns spoof episode “Pillows and Blankets.” In my opinion, the best pastiche episodes are the ones that subvert a genre you already hold very dearly, so maybe my love of history and well-done historical documentaries predisposes me to loving this episode, but I would argue that it still has everything going for it: it brings back and expands upon a concept from a previous episode (the pillow fort from “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Designs), advances the overall plot of the season, gives every character a chance to shine (Annie as a Florence Nightingale figure and Britta as a laughable war photographer), and makes Troy and Abed’s relationship more realistic and three-dimensional.
S2E14-“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”: Community really hit its stride in the middle of its second season, and no episode is more emblematic of that than “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.” The strength of this episode is that much of its plot and humor happens around the study room table, during a game of Dungeons & Dragons with Fat Neil. While most Community episodes tend to rely on visual cues for their high comedy moments, this episode doesn’t need to play around with its look all that much, letting all of the flavor of the episode come from the interactions between the characters. I would go so far as to say that the parts of this episode that are in the study room serve as a far better bottle episode than the episode which did the meta riff on bottle episodes (“Cooperative Calligraphy,” which is itself quite funny). My one complaint is the use of Pierce as the villain, though of all the episodes where that conceit was employed, it seemed to fit here the best.
S2E17-“Intro to Political Science”: Although not an outright genre pastiche, this episode still possesses that patented Community charm, taking a seemingly sensible community college event (a class election) and turning it into an utter farce. The other episode I praised for their treatment of the characters and their creative storytelling, but this episode I love for the jokes. From Troy’s “notches” joke at the beginning (watch to figure out what I’m talking about) to Troy and Abed’s election commentary, to the ultimate debate between Leonard and Magnitude, this episode is a testament to Community‘s ability, at the end of the day, to just be a smartly written sitcom about life at community college.
Raring to give us a piece of your mind? “Regional Holiday Music” still your favorite episode, just because of Annie’s Christmas song? Ranting is encouraged down in the comments section. “Repilot” will be discussed on Friday, so return in a couple days for that.