With Community FINALLY coming back next week for its fourth (and likely — but hopefully not — last) season, I felt a list was in order.
Here they are: my favorite thirteen episodes of this excellent geektastic comedy.
1. You may be wondering why I did not cap this list at ten episodes — well, you might not, but I’ll tell you regardless: I couldn’t. Every time I tried, my heart just broke a little. How could I exclude that episode? Or that one, or that one?
At thirteen, I am still excluding episodes I really enjoyed — hell, I’m excluding the entire first season — but at least I could sleep at night. This show, you guys. This show is so good.
2. There are some mild spoilers here — obviously, I give some basic plot descriptions, and I do reveal a couple of things that happen in certain episodes, although nothing particularly huge or shocking. If you’re interested in Community but haven’t seen any of it yet and don’t want to be spoiled for even that much, just scan the pictures or something. Probably don’t click on the links. I really don’t think anything here will ruin the show for you, though. And some of these clips I’ve linked to were what made me try out Community in the first place. So, you know. Maybe you should click on the links.
Basically, read the post or don’t read the post. Just whatever you do — TRY THE SHOW.
3. I reserve the right to completely change the order of this countdown whenever I feel like it for no other reason than a mere whim.
13 FAVORITE EPISODES OF COMMUNITY:
13. Paradigms of Human Memory
“The only sharks in that water are the emotional ghosts that I like to call fear, anchovies, fear, and the dangers of ingesting mercury!”
If you’re at all familiar with television, you’ll probably know what a clip show is . . . it’s that episode where characters start reminiscing about the good old times, which leads to you sitting on your couch, watching clips of episodes you’ve already seen. These episodes usually pop up in the fourth or fifth season as a way to cut costs — although Star Trek: The Next Generation was particularly egregious about it and did theirs in the second season — and no one ever really likes them. Until now.
“Paradigms of Human Memory” is a fake clip show, and it’s pretty awesome — Jeff’s spliced-together speech, in particular, is kind of a triumph. Also, the gentle mocking of Jeff/Annie shippers is hilarious, and the continued, slightly less gentle mocking of Glee always makes me smile.
And who can forget . . . SIX SEASONS AND A MOVIE!
12. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
“You have . . . successfully rubbed your balls on the sword.”
I have never played Dungeons & Dragons before, but every time I watch this episode, I really want to try it. I’m pretty sure it’s exactly the kind of nerdiness I would get into. Especially if there’s a lot of Elf Maiden and Hector the Well-Endowed action going on.
One of the reasons I like this show so much is that it completely revels in its geekiness — usually, if you see something like D&D featured on prime time TV, it’s probably because some horrible crime has been committed, and the cops have to interview the Nerdiest Nerds of All Nerds Ever, and the audience is invited to laugh at how freakishly nerdy they all are. (My feelings on The Big Bang Theory, by the way, are . . . mixed. And the promos for King of the Nerds make me very, very sad.)
But Community doesn’t do that here — this episode doesn’t shit all over people who like role-playing games, even though the majority of characters in this episode have never played an RPG before. Plus, seriously, Abed and Annie’s pantomimed sex scene? So. Damn. Funny.
11. Cooperative Calligraphy
“What the hell did you people do in there?”
“Something you and your puppies could only dream of, you non-miraculous sonofabitch.”
Besides being a supremely geektastic show, Community is also a very meta show, and as “Paradigms of Human Memory” serves as their mock clip show, “Cooperative Calligraphy” is their brand of bottle episode. (And inserting a definition for the less TV savvy — a bottle episode is one in which everything is shot in the same location, like a room or possibly a building. It’s another way to cut costs.)
This episode doesn’t have the most riveting sounding premise — Annie won’t let anyone leave the study room until she finds out who is stealing her purple pens — but it somehow leads to madness and mayhem and, appropriately, everyone stripped down to their underwear. You know, sometimes this show makes me feel like I had a really inferior community college experience.
Although that’s probably just because we didn’t have puppy parades.
10. Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking
“If you’re lying to me, if my father isn’t coming, if a car pulls up and anyone other than my father steps out, say an actor or you in a wig, if you pull any Ferris Bueller, Parent Trap, Three’s Company, FX, FX2: the Deadly Art of Illusion bulls**t — I will beat you. And there will be nothing madcap or wacky about it.”
There are a couple of reasons I really adore this episode. One of them is Jeff — I always like the little glimpses we occasionally get of Dark Jeff, and this episode is a little more serious than most in regards to his storyline.
The other reason, of course, is the TOTAL AWESOMENESS that is Levar Burton and Donald Glover. Oh. My. God. I watched a couple of short clips from this episode online before I really starting watching the show — this one and this one — and I just about died laughing. I love you and your tears so much, Donald Glover!
9. Pillow and Blankets
“This war won’t stop with First Blood Part II. It will escalate to Rambo II, which should really be Rambo II: First Blood Part III, but the Rambo titles never made sense. And neither does war.”
Another thing I like about Community — they parody all kinds of stuff, but you don’t have to know the original material explicitly to find the episode funny. For instance, I’ve never seen Ken Burns’s PBS documentary The Civil War before, but I’ve still seen enough PBS and History Channel specials in school to get a kick out of this parody about The Greendale Pillow War. And I really do love pretty much everything about it — the tweets, the poems, the battles, the magic friendship hats. Troy and Abed’s bromance is one of my absolute favorite things about the show, but sometimes I like watching it break down too — as long as the fight doesn’t last too long. Nothing is right if Troy and Abed aren’t TroyAndAbed (in the morning!).
Also, Keith David’s narration? (And this show’s continued The Cape references?) Perfection.
8. Basic Lupine Urology
“You have to right to do whatever you want. Nothing you say or do can be used against you by anyone, but we’d really like it if you came with us, please and thank you.”
Of course, when you do have familiarity with the source material, the parody can only be that much better. And I’ve seen enough Law & Order episodes to know that this parody is so spot-on. It’d be too hard to pick a favorite part — the yam autopsy, Michael “Smiley” Ironside’s cameo, Annie’s victory dance, the true reason for the grisly crime — but I will say that the scene where Starburns tries to escape his pursuers by asking Quendra with a ‘Q-U’ to kiss him made me giggle like a fiend.
(Also, The Yam Autopsy? That should totally be a band name. Or at least the name of an album.)
7. Digital Estate Planning
“Jeff, you just murdered Annie!”
“Well, better than doing nothing.”
You know what not enough television shows do? Take their characters and throw them into an 8-bit video game. Especially not scary, racist 8-bit video games where dirty hippies attack.
Pierce is easily my least favorite character, so any episodes centering around his daddy issues — instead of, say, Jeff’s daddy issues — doesn’t sound terribly appealing to me on paper. Until you factor in the ‘everyone is transported into a video game’ thing, of course. And Giancarlo Esposito’s guest spot. And Hilda, Abed’s soulmate. (Well, his other one. The one that’s not Troy.) And, oh yes, the multiple murders at the blacksmith’s shop.
By the way, if you want to play The Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne yourself? You can download it here.
6. Regional Holiday Music
“Look, at some point, you hit a number of diminishing returns on the sexiness.”
So, that not-so-gentle Glee mocking I mentioned before? This whole episode is devoted to it — it is a Glee parody, an Invasion of the Bodysnatchers tribute, and a Christmas special, all at the same time. Clearly, it is glorious.
It’s not easy picking a favorite song — there isn’t one that I actually dislike. Annie’s Betty Boop number (pictured above) is kind of intensely awesome, but I think if I could only watch one of these songs ever again (*sob*), I’d have to go with Troy and Abed’s completely spectacular Christmas rap.
I wish all the music would become available on iTunes. I’d buy them in a hot second. And the second TeeFury comes up with a shirt that says, “I Am Jehovah’s Most Secret Witness”? I’m THERE.
5. Remedial Chaos Theory
“You’ve got your own place; you’ve got a future; you’ve got a . . . bowl of olives next to the toilet.”
“It’s a fancy party, Britta.”
Season Three started off a little bit slow for me . . . until the third episode, this episode. This is the episode that shows you how many wildly different paths your life can take based on the smallest factors, like who goes to the door to get the pizza from the delivery guy. Something that small can cause people to get engaged. It can unearth dark secrets. It can influence a woman to change her hair color. Life and limb can, quite literally, be lost.
And, of course, this is the episode that introduces the darkest timeline.
My sister made me a felt goatee for Christmas because she is the best.
By the way, if you want to compare the effects that each timeline had on each character, go here. They have charts and everything. I love people who make charts, so I don’t have to.
4. For A Few Paintballs More
“I had a dream it would end this way.”
This is the second half of the second season finale — when the students come together in a quasi-rebel alliance to take down their common paintball enemies, Star Wars style. There are so many great parts to this episode — the charge on the ice cream truck, Troy’s last stand in the library, Abed and Annie’s unusual and quite brief romance — but the very best part is that thirty second snippet of an epilogue with Jerry the Janitor. The epilogues are usually pretty funny, but this one really made me giggle. I adore Jerry.
Also Busy Phillips and Dan Byrd’s blink-and-you-miss it cameos? Love. It makes me inordinately happy that my two favorite “always-in-danger” comedies totally support each other, even though they’re from different networks.
3. A Fistful of Paintballs
“I’m outta here. I got Coldplay tickets.”
And here’s the FIRST half of the paintball episode. I really should just have listed this one above, for clarity’s sake, but when push comes to shove, I think I actually like the western half just a little, itty bit more than the Star Wars half. That’s not all due to Josh Holloway, although admittedly, I love his guest spot here as the Black Rider. But I also love Annie, who’s a total badass in this episode. I love all the western tropes. And I love how the season-long story of the group versus Pierce finally comes to a head in a one-on-one paint gun duel. (Okay, well, sorta.)
This is actually the first episode of Community I ever saw all the way through. I didn’t know who anybody was or half of what the characters were talking about, but I knew that I had to keep watching. And I never stopped.
2. Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas
“Abed, how many fingers am I holding up and, more importantly, are they still made of clay?”
There are a few reasons I love this episode as much as I do. The less serious reasons — like Christmas wizards and Christmas pterodactyls — would be enough, honestly. So would John Oliver, who I really wish would come back to guest star again. (He pops up a lot in the first couple of seasons, but this is easily Duncan’s best episode.) And just the general premise of the Community cast on a stop-motion animated journey to find the meaning of Christmas is pretty cool.
But Abed’s story kind of hits close to him in some ways. And I really love the “That’s What Christmas is For” song at the end — as an agnostic who’s celebrated Christmas her whole life, I really like the idea that Christmas doesn’t have to mean the same thing to everybody. You might go to church and sing carols, and I might watch Die Hard and eat too much chocolate, but that doesn’t mean we can’t both find value in the holiday. I like the idea that Christmas can be an inclusive holiday, for Christians and non-Christians alike. So this episode pretty much encapsulates my whole view on the season.
” . . . okay, I don’t know why I thought this would work.”
If I have to pick a favorite episode of Community, it’s gotta be second season’s Halloween episode, also known as the zombie episode. Because I love zombies. I mean, who doesn’t love zombies? (Hush, you contrary zombie haters. Put your hands down.) But also because who doesn’t love a zombie-themed episode set to the best hits of ABBA? Do you know when I hear ABBA on the radio now, I think of zombies? Even if I can’t initially remember who sang the song — I’ll be thinking, Who sang this again? And why am I suddenly thinking of zombies? Oh, it must be ABBA.
Other reasons for loving this episode:
Troy’s Sexy Dracula Costume
The Flying Cat
Homages to The Return of the Living Dead
Punching zombies in the face
and . . .
“I love you.”
Season Four airs next Thursday, February 7th, at 8:00 pm on NBC. Here’s to hoping that — even in the absence of Dan Harmon — there are many more equally awesome episodes to come.