There are just a few days left until the season 4 premiere of Community, so I am having an anticipation meltdown. I am so excited. I really can’t stress that enough. To mentally prepare for all the emotions that will come with Thursday’s episode, some other NWN members and I have compiled a list of the top 10 Community episodes, in no particular order. Except that they’re the top 10. But choosing the top 10 was such a hard task, because as any fan knows any given episode of Community is better than half of what’s on television right now. Because it’s such a smart show, I can honestly say that choosing this list was one of the most difficult things I have had to do. Like, it starts off with saying “Oh! That episode will be good!” to “Maybe I should just make it the top 11…or 12…” etc. Basically I’m trying to say if you’re ever anguished over making a top 10 list to this show, you are not alone. Without further adieu, here are NWN’s picks for the best episode of Community, the most unfairly under appreciated show to ever grace my television:
10. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”
Elizabeth: Undoubtedly my favorite Christmas episode of every Christmas episode to ever exist. Not only because it’s groundbreaking by being entirely in claymation (incidentally all my favorite Christmas movies are claymation too), but because it’s so different than every other Christmas/holiday episode you get. It shows us the side of the holidays that sad and lonely. It gives us a storyline in which Christmas isn’t what Abed wants it to be, which is how a lot of people feel about that time of year. Most of all, the episode is just sad, it’s filled with a kind of emotion that we don’t normally get in atypical happy Christmas episodes. Even that part of the episode is moving by itself. And then we have the study group coming back for Abed and reminding him that Christmas is whatever you want it to be. With help of Lost. Which makes the episode even better. Even Damon Lindelof agrees. And it has so much more! Ballerannie! Troy soldiers! “Somewhere Tim Burton just got a boner!” Willy Wonka songs! Letting Abed live out his claymation just a bit longer! Seeing the actor’s reflection in the television at the very end of the episode! Lost!
9. “Modern Warfare”
Monika: The very first paintball episode, “Modern Warfare” was such an unexpected treat. It was the first glimpse of the show stepping into the realm of absurdity it fully embraced in later seasons. This episode also contains one of the best Community scenes of all time: Chang stepping into the study room in his white suit and sunglasses, toothpick in mouth and tiger-striped paintgun in hand while dramatic Chinese music plays in the background. “Buenos dias, children!”
8. “Pillows and Blankets”
Elizabeth: Once again, Community takes a genre episode and invokes it with a serious arc in our characters, this time with Troy and Abed. And it takes something completely ridiculous — a battle between pillow forts and blanket forts — and turns it into a real struggle for Trobed’s evolving friendship. And you can’t say that the scene where Troy and Abed wouldn’t stop fighting because it’s be the last thing they do together didn’t make your heart break the least bit. And you have a bit on Jeff too, once again realizing what he continues to doubt – that he does care about these people, and he would do anything for them, even if it’s just to get invisible friendship hates. But also, it’s just a funny episode. Like, I genuinely think it’s one of the funniest episodes in the whole series. Britta is a hipster photographer, the North Cafeteria is not north on campus, and Leonard likes this post! (the greatest line to ever exist) Sigh, just thinking about this episode makes me want to watch it.
7. “Regional Holiday Music”
Calhoun: I’ve never been a huge fan of Glee, but I’ve always tolerated it, at least. This single episode brought together allof the issues I had with the series, but did so in a totally Greendale way. Most times when a series does a parody episode, it seems sort of out-of-place, but this episode perfectly encapsulates the insanity of the Greendale Community College experience. Plus, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t gotten one or two of these songs stuck in my head. Oh yeah, plus, any reason for Childish Gambino rapping about Santa is a good one.
6. “Advanced Gay”
Calhoun: Season 3 really hit it out of the park, with their holiday special, but even before that, “Advanced Gay” was such a great episode. Pierce has always gotten on my nerves, but I think with this episode they sort of figured out how to make that work for him. Chevy Chase is, well… about as enlightened as his racist, homophobic, and xenophobic television counterpart so when the show takes jabs at him, I can’t help but laugh. Still, this one has a bit of a tender side too, with Pierce’s craving to belong and his whole “daddy didn’t love me enough” issues. It definitely gave us plenty to laugh about, but there’s something to think about stuck in there too.
5. “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”
Monika: This is an episode that allows Jeff to showcase his more conscientious side without any of his usual I-care-but-I’m-going-to-pretend-I-don’t-care attitude. A brilliant choice was made in not acting or animating the D&D portions, and instead simply using sound effects that were nevertheless effective in creating a sense of suspense. The episode was both serious and funny, without ever being mean-spirited about D&D, obesity, or depression. It managed to convey the importance of friendship in the most genuine matter. However, perhaps most amazingly, it managed to make us emotionally invested in the journey of fictional characters being portrayed by fictional characters.
Elizabeth: Nothing I can add that hasn’t been said about this episode. It’s so full of everything that makes Community so great. What Monika said is completely spot on, Communitymakes us care!!!
4. “Critical Film Studies”
Elizabeth: Another great specialty episode, as Communityspoofs two movies: “Pulp Fiction”, and the lesser known “My Dinner with Andre”. It’s such a good episode because it gives us layers to characters and layers to a friendship that, as Abed points out, has been latent as of late. It’s an episode about friendship, and how even though Abed and Jeff are completely different in some way, Jeff’s fears include people not liking him if he were fat and Abed’s fears include people moving on and changing, they’re friends/a community (depending on how sappy you want to get). The conversation between Jeff and Abed towards the end of the episode is stellar, I suggest you all rewatch that, especially since we’re approaching the last year at college, when the characters will indefinitely have to move on whether Abed likes it or not. Also, you have Pierce as the gimp and the multiple shout outs to Cougar Town: “He watched Cougar Town. It was as if he didn’t want people to like him.”
3. “Mixology Certification”
Calhoun: It’s another classic example of how Community has heart to it. Shirley’s breakdown gave some much needed depth to the “so sweet, I’m risking diabetes by being in the same room with her” woman. Britta and Jeff keeps trying to tease that “will they or won’t they?” that we all… well, just kinda stopped caring about. Abed’s clueless flirtation over arcade games was like a scene from my own personal memoir so, I couldn’t help but love it. Still, Annie stole the show with her identity crisis over a fake ID. Really, when you type it out, it’s impossible to imagine how they managed to fit all of those storylines and those conflicting emotions into one episode and make it seem so natural, but that’s kinda the genius of the show.
2. “Remedial Chaos Theory”
Monika: No list of best Community episodes could be complete without “Remedial Chaos Theory”. It’s a deceptive episode on the surface. Not much really happens, just seven different variations of one situation depending on who goes to get the pizza. Yet, upon rewatching, these small variations reveal fascinating aspects of the show and characters’ dynamics. This episode is a groundbreaking piece of television that makes it all the more heartbreaking that this show has always had to teeter on the verge of cancellation.
Elizabeth: If you’re reading this, then chances are that you already know how Community is unlike any other television show on air, “Remedial Chaos Theory” is a prime example for this. Not only are there 7 different timelines in 22 minutes, something I can’t even figure out how they did, it’ also a study on how the group functions without one of it’s members. When Abed’s gone, everyone ends up arguing. The group needs Abed. When Troy’s gone, everything turns to hell. And when Jeff’s gone, everyone ends up having fun. It’s episodes like these that make me so happy to be a fan of Community, a show that’s not afraid to wonder if the group would have more fun, or just be a better group, without Jeff. And you have Toby. The cherry on top of the episode. “There are other timelines?”
1. “Introduction to Finality”
Elizabeth: When I first watched this episode, I went into this episode genuinely thinking it would be the series finale. And by the end of the episode, I was fine with that. Well, not fine, but you know, accepting. And that was because it would have finished on such a high note. It’s undoubtedly my favorite season finale, and you can tell that because even thinking about it makes me happy. The repeating of the phrase “cellular mitosis”, in which cells break apart from each other, the fact that they weave all these different storylines into a fantastic 22 minutes, and even the end tag, because Leonard effing rocks. You can’t tell me your heart didn’t swell up with pride/you didn’t go rushing to your Twitter when they had #sixseasonsandamovie. But let’s talk about the end sequence for a little. Shirley letting Jeff throw the case because she wants him to have what he wants. This all being told while Troy “changes the system”. The show recognizing this is the best timeline. The theme song playing while it gives all the characters a proper sendoff, reminding us what a community this show has been (There I said it!!!!) If this was the series finale, it’d be the best way to send these characters that we’ve spent the last three years caring about. #sixseasonsandamovie, y’all.