Welcome to Looking Streets Behind, a weekly Community retrospective column! Each week, we’ll dive into a Community episode that has reached the 10th-anniversary milestone.
We’re switching things up this go-round. Since there isn’t a Community episode that aired on this date a decade ago, I’d like to delve into more of my favorite episodes from the series. This is part two of a top 15 episodes list I posted a while back, which you can read here. Not to worry though — next week we’ll resume our regularly scheduled programming. Filler episodes are fun, huh?
Below, you can find the episodic highlights in seasonal order. You may notice that I omitted episodes from the contentious Gas Leak Year (Season Four). Not because I despised it, but more because nothing really stood out to me beyond a few episodes. We’ll save that discussion for another article.
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“Environmental Science” (S01E10)
This episode solidified Community as my favorite show. Hands down. Bar none. A good friend of mine introduced me to Community. He told me that “Environmental Science” will make me fall head over heels for this little-show-that-could. He was right.
Jeff (Joel McHale) bonding with Chang (Ken Jeong) was a hoot and a half. Pierce (Chevy Chase) aiding Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) with her presentation was equal parts humorous and touching. It was also a stark reminder that Pierce has experienced the softer side of Sears. But, the highlight of “Environmental Science” was, undisputedly, Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) singing “Somewhere Out There” from An American Tail. Not only did it administer a hefty dose of nostalgia for my childhood, but the performance revealed the beating heart of Community. A group of misfits finding kinship. Who can’t relate to that?
“Contemporary American Poultry” (S01E21)
Community took a page out of the Mafia 101 handbook with “Contemporary American Poultry.” In a world where Abed called the shots, we saw our protagonists enjoy the perks of bottomless chicken fingers. Abed lived out his mafia fantasy and became the most formidable chicken finger overlord Greendale had ever seen.
The show was so adept at taking a menial concept and blowing it completely out of proportion in the best way possible. To hilarious results, of course. Not to mention, I loved watching a power-hungry Abed rise to power by harnessing the school’s love for chicken fingers. Pudi was excellent in every episode, but this particular installment stands out to me as some of his best work. Damn. Now I want chicken fingers.
“Pascal’s Triangle Revisited” (S01E25)
Ah, romance. Community incessantly poked fun at rom-com tropes and “Pascal’s Triangle Revisited” is no exception. Professor Slater (Lauren Stamile) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) both publicly professed their love for Jeff. Chang and Duncan’s (John Oliver) rivalry soared to new heights. Duncan’s drunken rap at the dance was nothing short of hysterical. Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) received a canine visitor at the dance. You can never have too many dances at Greendale.
But the cherry on top was Jeff and Annie’s (Alison Brie) kiss. While their first kiss took place in “Debate 109” (an excellent episode, by the way), I think this particular display of affection was the genuine article. Admittedly, I usually re-watch that kiss a few times in a row whenever I revisit this episode because it’s so damn good. One of the best kisses in TV history.
Of course, we saw Jeff evolving beyond his womanizer ways in “Pascal’s Triangle Revisited.” He grappled with his own morality and whether he should be with someone who challenged him to be better (Slater) or someone who accepted him for who he was (Britta).
Eventually, he revealed his true feelings via his romantic snog with Annie. Actions speak louder than words. Jeff and Annie’s will-they-won’t-they was continuously explored throughout the series and this episode was essentially the tipping point.
“Basic Rocket Science” (S02E04)
Community‘s obsession with chicken continued in “Basic Rocket Science,” wherein our crew sans Abed operated a KFC simulator from the ’80s. This was a brilliant spoof of space movies like Armageddon and Apollo 13. The study room was morphed into a NASA-Esque control room. Troy magnificently unlocked the simulator and helped bring our boys (and girls) home.
This episode also introduced us to the “E Pluribus Anus” flag we know and love. “Basic Rocket Science” revealed a plethora of reasons why Greendale was a beloved hot mess. However, it still held the distinction of being the best community college in the entire western three-quarters of the Greendale area. Take that, City College!
“Mixology Certification” (S02E10)
“Hello, during a random dessert, the month and day of which coincide numerically with your expulsion from a uterus.” If that isn’t the best message for a birthday cake, then I don’t know what is. “Mixology Certification” is underrated, in my humble opinion. It’s a Community episode that took place almost entirely outside of Greendale’s walls. We got to see our Greendale Seven existing in regular, everyday life. What started out as a night rife with booze and fun, morphed into an evening of Troy babying the gang. Troy truly became an adult that night.
We met Caroline, Annie’s alter ego, as she tempted the fates and contested her moral compass with a fake ID. Jeff and Britta sloppily and drunkenly made out. Abed was hit on by Paul F. Tompkins as the pair dished over Farscape. Additionally, we learned that Shirley had a rowdy, alcohol-riddled past. I’d party with Shirley. Overall, the episode was a nice peak into our core characters’ normal lives.
“Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking” (S02E16)
Community specialized in out-of-the-box installments. “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking” even felt like a documentary, as the cinematography reflected the typical docu-film style. Pierce claimed he was dying after his overdose, so he gathered the crew together so they could receive their bequeathings. In true Pierce fashion, he sowed seeds of discord with almost every study group member encounter he had. Britta had some terrific lines in this episode, but the highlight for me was the legendary LeVar Burton‘s involvement.
Troy’s reaction to meeting LeVar was nothing short of comical. His meltdown where he claimed, “You can’t disappoint a picture!” is a line I frequently bring up even without context. That, and “Set phasers to love me!” I legitimately cackled the first time I watched that scene. Glover was unequivocally brilliant. The end credit scene with Troy and LeVar also cracked me up.
“Intro to Political Science” (S02E17)
Pop-Pop and Magnitude’s pièce de résistance. The political debate to end all political debates. While South Park inevitably became the student body president of Greendale, we can still admire candidates like Annie Edison for running on a strong platform. Troy and Abed’s coverage of the student body presidential elections served as a highlight for me. Troy describing Garrett as “God spilled a person” was the cherry on top. I have added that phrase to my vernacular as a way of describing folks that just don’t have it together. Like yours truly.
Additionally, I’d like to note that Community essentially predicted Joe Biden winning the 2020 presidential election. In the episode, Biden, who was vice president at the time, was supposed to visit Greendale. However, Abed artfully diverted the VP’s course. Agent Vohlers (Eliza Coupe), who established a delightful rapport with Abed in the episode, informed Biden regarding their changed plans. He mentioned how he dreamt he was a real president. See! This show was truly ahead of its time!
Jeff’s objective to prove to Annie that politics is a popularity contest paid off in spades. This episode was relevant then and is especially timely today. People will believe anything and politics is all about popularity. I’ll pop-pop to that.
“Critical Film Studies” (S02E19)
“Critical Film Studies” featured the Pulp Fiction birthday party of my dreams. Pudi served us yet another of his best performances as Abed attempted to abandon pop culture forever. He even donned a fancy sweater! Abed regaled us with an intricately detailed story of his time as an extra on the set of his favorite show Cougar Town. Funnily enough, Danny Pudi did have an extra role as Abed in an episode of Cougar Town. In return, Busy Philipps was an extra in the Season Two finale of Community. It was the crossover we definitely needed.
Abed’s turn as a “normal” person having dinner with Jeff was actually anything but. He was still “spoofing” a piece of pop culture: My Dinner with Andre. This episode was more proof that Community‘s beating heart really did lie with found family. Abed’s friends accepted him for who he was, flaws and all. He didn’t need to “normalize” himself in order to fit in.
“Pillows and Blankets” (S03E14)
Who would have thought that Troy and Abed could ever turn against each other? Not I! Fun fact: Keith David provided narration for this episode prior to joining Season Six as Elroy. “Pillows and Blankets” played like a documentary on the History Channel. A great, historic war laden with pillows and blankets took place at Greendale Community College, with equally historic best friends Troy and Abed on opposing sides. In true Community fashion, smart comedy ensued.
One of my favorite moments involved Jeff and Annie writing texts to each other amid the “war.” Like love letters between a nurse and a soldier during World War II. Annie used Gatorade to replenish the pillow-wielding soldiers, serving as another subtle yet brilliant highlight for me. Not to mention, I loved that the whole school was embroiled in said war, ignoring all classes and subsequently disrupting school life. All for a pillow war. Priorities, right?
“Basic Lupine Urology” (S03E17)
The Law & Order spoof we 100 percent needed. Yams died, people. Yams! Troy, Abed, Jeff and Annie decided to investigate the murder of their yam for biology class. All of the typical procedural drama tropes are explored, including the ever-pervasive good cop/bad cop. A trial unfolded, with notable Community players Star-Burns (but his real name is Alex) and Todd (no offense) testifying before a court of Greendale law. Justice was served that day. True, gritty, Law & Order-y justice.
Community fired on all cylinders with episodes like “Basic Lupine Urology.” Any time the show poked fun at TV/film tropes or engaged full-on meta-humor mode was when it truly shined.
“The First Chang Dynasty” (S03E21)
Chang ruled Greendale with an iron fist in “The First Chang Dynasty.” A new world order took hold. Chang had a deadly keytar solo! We also learned that the sun and sky will go with Chang when he dies! The Greendale Seven hatched an Ocean’s Eleven-like plan to infiltrate Greendale and save the real Dean Pelton, who was being held hostage no thanks to Chang.
Troy and Abed brought forth their best plumber impersonations with Rod and Barry. Jeff disguised himself as Ricky Nightshade, a Criss Angel knockoff, and Britta was his Gothic assistant. In the end, Troy saved everyone and sacrificed his livelihood by joining the Air Conditioner Repair School, Greendale’s strictest program to date. Thankfully, it was a temporary farewell as Troy later dropped out of the rigorous A/C repair program.
This episode embellished the heist genre to perfection. Also keytar solo.
“Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” (S05E03)
The Ass Crack Bandit made a triumphant return in “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics.” Annie took it upon herself to bust the devious fiend who incessantly dropped coins down people’s butts. Unfortunately, Troy became a victim of The Ass Crack Bandit and even gave a compelling speech at a school assembly. Protect those bums, folks.
“Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” was pure Community at its zaniest. As far as I’m concerned, this show embraced its zany tendencies like no other. While the episode failed to catch the real bandit, it opened up a dialogue as to who it could be. Greendale’s own cold case! Additionally, this installment ended on a somber note as the group learned of Pierce’s death.
“Cooperative Polygraphy” (S05E04)
The gang discovered that Pierce had passed in the previous episode. Pierce left each of the remaining Greendale Seven something of value in his will. However, in order to receive their bequeathments, they first had to endure a polygraph test under the strict eye of Mr. Stone (Walton Goggins), the executor of Pierce’s estate. Goggins was perfection in this role and the rest of the cast brought their A-game as well.
As Pierce did in “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking,” he stirred up tension between the group without even being in the room. Canisters of sperm aplenty were dispersed among the group. We learned that’s how Pierce died — by depleting himself of his own sperm.
This episode ended on a bittersweet reveal. Troy was given Hawthorne Wipes shares, which equated to $14.3 million. But, in order to get said money, he had to take a ship called The Childish Tycoon with LeVar Burton and sail around the world. This episode aired right before “Geothermal Escapism” (which is on my first list), and it marked the bon voyage of one Troy Barnes.
“Modern Espionage” (S06E11)
Secret paintball, y’all! “Modern Espionage” revived Greendale’s greatest asset — the paintball wars. Frankie (Paget Brewster) threatened to expel students who participated in secret paintball on campus after a mysterious instigator shot Star-Burns with silver paint. However, our core crew saw it as an opportunity to take said instigator down … with some paintballing of their own.
If you’re wondering whether Community was poking fun at movies like Mr. & Mrs. Smith, then rest easy in the knowledge that the show was doing just that. In fact, Abed and Annie even paid homage to the above movie while dressed in black tie regalia at a fancy party. Espionage thrillers were the name of the game in this episode. I’m so glad that the show had a paintball outing in its final season. It wouldn’t be Community without it.
“Wedding Videography” (S06E12)
“Now this is a man that knows how to marry his cousin!” Elroy admitted he had a problem with pleasing white people in “Wedding Videography,” which cracked me up and then some. Once he yelled out that line, I was done for. I couldn’t stop laughing. Keith David was the perfect addition to the study group, and I’m sad we only had Elroy for one season. In this episode, the gang attended Garrett’s wedding and reception. Abed seized the opportunity to film their escapades a la mockumentary.
This episode proved that the group couldn’t function without each other in social settings. They heavily relied on themselves for entertainment, support and just about everything else. This served as the penultimate episode, and prior to “Wedding Videography,” the seeds for the group disbanding had been planted. In the series finale, Abed moved to LA to throw his hat into the Hollywood ring while Annie took an internship with the FBI. But now I digress.
“Wedding Videography” poked fun at The Office as Annie frequently “Jim-ed” the camera. As a fan of The Office, I appreciated that little nod. No genre was sacred as far as Community was concerned. It was equal opportunity teasing. I loved the show for that and so much more. Now, “everyone stay and eat cake, or go to hell!”
RELATED: Stay streets ahead by catching up on previous Looking Streets Behind installments here!
Do you have any favorite Community episodes that didn’t make this list or the previous one? Sound off in the comments below! Be sure to join me next week for another installment of Looking Streets Behind, where we’ll be diving into “Mixology Certification,” an episode that undeservedly flies below the radar.
Until then, stay streets ahead.
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