DISCLAIMER: The following contains spoilers for Community. If you have yet to watch the series, please do yourself a favor and binge it all on Hulu. You’ll be streets ahead of everyone in your study group if you do.
Can you believe it’s been three years since we left the hallowed halls of Greendale Community College? It feels like only yesterday since Abed first met Troy, since Annie and Jeff shared their first kiss. Time flies when you’re incessantly watching TV, am I right?
Now, Community is easily one of my top five favorite shows. I even enjoyed the (gulp) Gas Leak Year, although I enjoyed it less than the other seasons. Seasons 1-3 are chock full of winning comedic gems, and are prime examples of what Community does best – poke fun at pop culture. Greendale Community College, and all its lovable misfits, provided a pathway to escapism – one paved with whimsy and oodles of heart.
Here, I’ve compiled a list of my top 15 episodes of Community. This wasn’t an easy task, mind you. Just about every episode of this show holds a special place in my heart. Peruse the list below, which is in no particular order. May it inspire you to revisit Greendale in all its collegiate splendor.
1. “Modern Warfare” (S01E23)
Now, “Modern Warfare” is probably the episode that caught me hook, line and sinker on Community. Overall, Season 1 is a strong first outing for the sitcom, but this episode solidified it as a true comedic force to be reckoned with. Greendale is suffused in an “apocalyptic war zone” as a game of paintball takes over the campus. The winner of said game will receive priority registration, which lights a fire under our Greendale Seven’s bums. This episode parodies action flicks. Everything from the slow-motion, sweeping action shots to the exciting score adds to the genius that is “Modern Warfare.” There’s Jeff and Britta’s steamy hookup, shifting alliances and lots of paintballs. Loads and loads of ’em.
2. “Cooperative Calligraphy” (S02E08)
Next, is your typical “bottle” episode. Abed, ever the self-aware one of the group (Dan Harmon) is all about that meta, after all), points out that “Cooperative Calligraphy” falls into said category after Annie holds our heroes hostage in the study room. Why? Someone stole her pen, and she’s hellbent on revealing the culprit. Thus, the Greendale Seven turn on each other in what started out as a harmless investigation into a missing writing implement. Sadly, they miss the Puppy Parade, which tears my very heart asunder just thinking about not seeing a plethora of puppies parade by me. “Cooperative Calligraphy” is true Community: self-aware, heartfelt and brilliantly funny.
3. “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” (S02E09)
Season 2 of Community boasts some of the series’ best episodes. Hands down. “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” weaves a tangled web of, well, conspiracies and double-crossing. Dean Pelton attempts to bust Jeff for inventing a fake night class, but instead he uncovers a host of conspiracies that’s enough to make one’s head spin. The episode has one of my favorite moments on Community ever – when Annie and Jeff try to teach the Dean a lesson by pretending to turn each other, ending in Jeff’s “death.” Jim Rash churns out an epic, side-splitting performance.
4. “Paradigms of Human Memory” (S02E21)
Now, “Paradigms of Human Memory” is an episode overflowing with nostalgia. Our gang takes a trip down memory lane while crafting their 20th (yes, 20th) and final diorama for their Anthropology course. Over the course of the episode we see a flash of memories – the gang visiting a western ghost town, filling in for the glee club as well as Jeff and Britta’s sexual escapades. The twist? They’re memories that we as an audience have never seen on screen. Our Greendale Seven also hashes out the sexual tension between various members of the group – Jeff and Annie, Jeff and Britta, Jeff and, well, just about everyone. Hey, Winger could have chemistry with a wall. That’s the power of Joel McHale.
5. “A Fistful of Paintballs”/”For a Few Paintballs More” (S02E23 & S02E24)
Next, is a two-part saga chronicling Greendale’s second annual paintball competition. This time, Community parodies the spaghetti western and executes it to perfection. Joe Russo, of the Russo Brothers, directed the two-part Season 2 finale. You know, the brothers that directed that one Marvel movie where loads of people die. You know the one. Anyway, Community managed to up the ante from their previous paintball outing with rival City College infiltrating the campus, forcing our heroes to team up and take out the baddies. Oh, and Abed transforms into Han Solo, making us all fall in love with his version of a lovable scoundrel from a galaxy far, far away. Pierce betrays the group. Paintballs rain down on Greendale like colorful balls of fire. All is right with the world.
6. “Regional Holiday Music” (S03E10)
Of course, Community is also known for its annual holiday themed episodes. “Regional Holiday Music” pokes fun at Glee, and finds our gang being persuaded by Abed to sub for glee club after the original members perish in a tragic bus accident. The episode contains original music performed by the cast, with one of my favorite Britta moments. Community even poked fun at Glee‘s problems with obtaining music for the series. At one point, Jeff blurts out “Look! It’s Kings of Leon!” in an attempt to distract the audience at the group’s Christmas performance. This show is never afraid to “go there,” and doesn’t pull punches. Who doesn’t love a musical episode?
7. “Remedial Chaos Theory” (S03E04)
“Remedial Chaos Theory” is easily one of the best comedic TV episodes ever. Bar none. I refuse to budge on this. Abed and Troy host a housewarming party, and Jeff decides to roll the dice on who’ll retrieve the pizza. Thus, Abed contemplates six alternate realities wherein each person gets the pizza. We see every alternate reality play out on screen, and the events that unfold vary with each said reality. This is just another example of the brilliant writing behind Community. Never has a comedic series taken on a behemoth topic such as timelines/time travel. Anything time-related is always tricky to write, but our Greendale Powers That Be did it with panache and ingenuity. Not to mention, the Darkest Timeline came to be with “Remedial Chaos Theory.” Insert maniacal laugh here.
8. “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” (S03E08)
Next is another installment shining the spotlight on the comedic talents of Jim Rash. “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” finds Dean Pelton assigned with the task of crafting a modernized TV commercial showcasing Greendale Community College. What starts out as an innocent commercial shoot quickly spirals into an over-budget project with an unraveling Dean at the helm. Oh, and Abed films the whole kit and caboodle. Annie comes down with a case of Stockholm Syndrome, claiming the Dean is a misunderstood genius. Troy and Britta have a mental breakdown over having to shoot a “hug” for 12 hours. Chang finally gets his time in the sun when he replaces Jeff as the Dean in the commercial. TV gold, folks. So much gold.
9. “Digital Estate Planning” (S03E20)
Ever wanted to see what our Greendale Seven would look like as 8-bit characters? Well, you’re in luck. “Digital Estate Planning” revolves around Pierce trying to claim his inheritance from his deceased father. But first, he must play his father’s video game and win it. Thus, Pierce enlists in the help of his study group friends to help him secure his fortune. “Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne” actually looks like an entertaining game, and I wish it were real. Alas. At least we’ll have this Community episode to get our Hawkthorne fix. Not to mention, Troy and Abed throwing lava. Abed marrying a peasant girl. Just another day in the world of Greendale.
10. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” (S02E11)
Now, Abed loves Christmas. Like, really loves Christmas. So much that in this Community episode he imagines all his friends are claymation. He coerces his friends to join him on an adventure to find the meaning of Christmas. There’s singing, dancing, a dragon and plenty of the heartwarming charm Community is known for. As it turns out, Abed associates Christmas with the valuable time he gets to spend with his mother. Unfortunately, his mother cancelled her visit with him to spend time with her new family. Abed’s reconciliation with his mother’s decision broke my heart. Thankfully, his friends are there to support him – in claymation and in real life.
11. “Epidemiology” (S02E06)
Halloween creeps into Greendale like some strange zombie-esque disease when the students contract a strange zombie-esque disease. Our Greendale Seven must take shelter from the growing horde of zombie students and prevent themselves from becoming the walking dead. As it turns out, the Dean brought expired meat to the campus’ Halloween party. Thankfully, the night is saved by Troy and a SWAT team swoops in to aid the community college. Oh, and the episode’s spooky escapades are set to the music of ABBA, which inexplicably seems fitting. Community is very adept at crafting the perfect holiday-themed episode.
12. “App Development and Condiments” (S05E08)
Next, Community brings our society’s obsession with social media into stark focus. A new app called Meow Meow Beanz becomes all the rage at Greendale as students become the guinea pigs for the beta version of said app. Students can give each other numerical ratings. Soon, the campus descends into a “dystopian future,” wherein your numerical ratings dictate your position in society. Let it be known that Community aired this episode before Black Mirror. So, there’s that. This show took a bold stance by holding up a mirror to our collective face, reminding us that social media could potentially be our downfall. Not to mention, they did it with humor and heart.
13. “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (S02E14)
Are you a Dungeons & Dragons fan? Then “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” is for you! Our study group partakes in the role playing game, where Pierce is finally solidified as the true villain of Season 2. Jeff and co. take in a fellow classmate named Neil whose spirits are low. What follows is the most epic game of D&D known to humankind. Annie and Abed engage in some unspeakable acts, while Britta fights for fantastical creature rights. Oh, and Neil effectively slays Pierce, much to the joy of everyone involved. May the good ones always prevail. This episode is chock full of the witty humor I so love about Community. Lots of humor and dragon slaying.
14. “Geothermal Escapism” (s05E05)
Now, this episode made me whip out the tissues. “Geothermal Escapism” finds our crew bidding their farewells to Troy, as he sets out to see the world with his inheritance from Pierce. Did I mention LeVar Burton is his firstmate on his sailboat? Greendale becomes the backdrop for a high-stakes game of “Hot Lava,” which Abed sets up as a going-away present for Troy. However, Britta suspects that said game is just a facade masking Abed’s real feelings regarding his best friend’s departure. This one hit home for me. Troy is my favorite character, and Donald Glover really injected him with nuance. That aside, this episode was the perfect send off for Troy. What a beautiful homage to a wonderful character.
15. “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” (S06E13)
Lastly, the finale. Yes, that finale. “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” was a bittersweet pill to swallow. On the one hand, I wanted at least ten more seasons of Greendale hijinks, but on the other the prophecy always foretold of six seasons and a movie. Who am I to ignore a prophecy? As the school year comes to a close, Abed urges his friends to conjure their perfect Season 7.
How would a seventh year at Greendale pan out? As a fan of Annie and Jeff, this episode smashed my heart into pieces. Jeff’s Season 7 involved a life filled with Annie and the family they cultivate. However, the reality is vastly different than the fantasy. Annie accepts an internship with the FBI, while Abed moves to LA to pursue film. Thus, the group is scattered across the country. The episode is an ode to change – yes, change is hard, but sometimes it’s necessary. Of course, the episode ends with one last shot of the study room, and once again I’m reaching for the tissues.
Well, that’s all I wrote. I hope this list inspires you to rewatch Community, and be whisked away on a whimsical and witty journey. Now, here’s hoping we get that movie, so the prophecy is 100% fulfilled. It’s written in the stars, Dan Harmon. Make it so!
This article was originally published on June 18, 2018.