Top Five “Community” Episodes

Folks, I am a huge fan of the television series Community. If you come to my house, I will make you watch a marathon. If you are on my Christmas list, odds are you get something with Joel McHale’s face on it. And if you call me with an emergency during a certain Thursday timeslot, you’d better hope a commercial is on.

So, given NBC’s recent soulcrushing, devastating, slap-in-the-face-ing midseason announcement, it seemed like the perfect time to revisit some of my favorite, endlessly watchable Community episodes.

5. Epidemiology (Season 2, Episode 6)

Everything about this episode is awesome. It is silly and fun and zombie-filled, so, of course, it’s already become a Halloween staple. Since there isn’t much of a story, more an amalgamation of hilarious bits set inside a zombie attack, here are a few quick highlights:

– Tro-bed’s Aliens costume, designed to impress the ladies; Star Trek Pierce; Dragonturtle; Chiquita MD! And double points from this soccer fan for Jeff’s “David Beckham” costume, complete with Jabulani ball.

– The dean’s iTunes playlist, an addictive mix of Abba’s greatest hits and personal voice memos. (“Add Eat, Pray, Love soundtrack to workout mix.”)

– Abed to Troy: “Make me proud. Be the first black man to make it to the end.”

– Shirley and her unwittingly ambiguous costume “bonding” in the bathroom with Chang, dressed as Peggy Fleming. (“Just been proven racist by the racist-prover”)

– And, my name might not be Kevin, but I still loved the voiceover from George Takei.

4. Critical Film Studies (Season 2, Episode 19)

The study group’s spoof (“I prefer the term ‘homage’!”) of Pulp Fiction and the lesser-known My Dinner With Andre is an instant classic, if only to see Shirley’s kick-ass sideburns and Pierce in a gimp costume (“Am I the hero or the love-interest?”).

Danny Pudi gives one of the most memorable performances of the series. As Abed decides to start a new non-meta life, Pudi slips in-and-out of the character with ease and charisma. His lengthy Cougar Town monologue never feels forced or sluggish, though I’m with Jeff on this one – if you want me to take it seriously, stop saying its name.

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3. Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples (Season 2, Episode 5)

After Shirley asks Abed to help her create a viral video with a Christian message, he decides instead to make a high-concept Jesus movie for the post post-modern world because, of course, Jesus “was like ET, Edward Scissorhands and Marty McFly combined!”

Meanwhile, in a terrific side plot, Pierce starts hanging out with a dangerous crowd of hipsters (“The pack of old people that hang out in the cafeteria. People call them hipsters because they’ve all had hip replacements.”), and reluctant ‘dad’ of the group Jeff has to put his foot down.

I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for religious satire, especially when it doesn’t end in vicious trench warfare. This episode has a rollicking plot that doesn’t pull punches, whether pointing out the contradictions of excessive religiosity or mocking self-indulgent artists, in a wink at the show’s own “meta” intensity. It also contains some of the sharpest dialog of the entire series, and showcases Yvette Nicole Brown’s impeccable delivery. (“Did you just scripture me, Muslim!?”)

2. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Season 2, Episode 14)

It bothered me when Community established Pierce as the ‘villain’ of Season 2. The study group should be off-limits from that kind of thing; I don’t want my idiosyncratic oddballs to be villains – or busy making googly-eyes with each other. However, it was all completely worth it for this wonderful episode.

RELATED: Chevy Chase talks about his first sitcom, NBC’s Community

The study group stages an informal intervention for a depressed fellow classmate, Fat Neil, over a game of D&D. The gang quickly gets caught up in the imaginary world, especially after Pierce barges in and demands to be included.

Chang’s introduction and swift exit is a thing of beauty, of Jolson-inspired dark beauty. (“So we’re just going to ignore that hate crime?”) And the silent lovemaking montage between Annie and Abed’s characters — Hector the Well-Endowed and an Elf Maiden, respectively — is a feat in comic timing. Annie’s Disney-eyed seduction hints at her not-so-innocent dark side, and the reactions around the table are priceless.

1. Remedial Chaos Theory (Season 3, Episode 4)

Since we’re obviously trapped in the darkest, most terrible timeline – you know, the one in which NBC chooses to air desperate, laugh-track enhanced drivel <coughs, “Whitney”> instead of comedic brilliance – “Remedial Chaos Theory” tops my list.

Alternate timelines, flaming Norwegian troll dolls, airplane bathrooms, Yahtzee, a scale model of the rolling-boulder scene from Raiders! This episode is everything that fans adore, and full of the self-contained “elitism” that apparently puts off the rest of the tv-viewing population. Like that brief moment when Abed pauses to adjust the tiny, fallen Indiana Jones doll before rushing to Pierce’s aid.

Each story reveals some new understanding about the characters, gradually layering insights until arriving at its wonderfully accepting conclusion – a feel-good dance party to The Police’s “Roxanne.” Because, really, what could be better than enjoying life with the people you love. After all, that’s what community (and Community) is all about.

So, please, fellow fans, don your felt goatees and help the NBC programming executives find their way back to the prime timeline, where they will immediately announce that they’ve renewed Community for a fourth season.


Photo: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC