The writing’s on the wall.
Community has been cancelled by NBC. No longer will the mantra of “Six Seasons and a Movie” be resounded through the hallowed halls of Greendale Community College, where Jeff Winger and friends partook in high-concept idiosyncratic adventures that the rest of humanity can only dream about. Or will it? Perhaps Community will go the way of Arrested Development and find a home at Netflix. One can only roll the dice with hopes that the darkest timeline can be avoided.
For those who have not tuned in, Community can only be described as a surreal traversal in the realms of pop culture, with the cast tearing down film and movie tropes, and reconstructing them with snarky commentaries and inane imagination. Community is the freaking story of seven community students: Jeff – the narcissistic ex-lawyer, Britta – the reformed anarchist, Abed – pop culture trivia extraordinaire, Troy – jock – turned –geek, Annie – competitive over-achiever, Shirley – passive aggressive mother hen figure and Pierce – tactless bigot.
In many ways, Community was always too clever for its own good. With its layered references to a multitude of geek culture trivia and sly putdown of mainstream TV (Hi, Glee!), Community was never much of a crowd-pleaser. Being a darling with critics and fans can only take you so far sometimes. With the darkest timeline looming ahead, let’s all take a moment to remember all the good times Community has brought us. In no particular order of merit, here are five of the best episodes of Community.
Contemporary American Poultry (S01E21)
In the earlier part of the first season, Community had a very “How I Met Your Mother” vibe to the whole proceeding. The show seemed to be nurturing a budding romance between Jeff and Britta, while the rest of the seven played goofy support cast to the two. Thankfully, things got zanier as the season progressed and Contemporary American Poultry could very well be the episode that pushed Community over the thin red line into the glorious mess it became. Poultry was a parody of the mafia movies, with Abed in the center of the maelstrom. Jeff’s plan to use Abed to get Greendale’s chicken fingers supply inadvertently put Abed in the pole position, with Jeff being ousted in a power play complemented by a scene of slow closing door in his face (a la Godfather). The episode was relentlessly funny and surprisingly sensitive as it illustrated how Abed tried to connect with his peers by the becoming the man everybody needed. This was season 1 at its best.
Modern Warfare (S01E23)
If Contemporary American Poultry is a take on mafia movies, then Modern Warfare is the ultimate teardown of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi genre. Dean Pelton organized a paintball competition on campus, with Priority Registration as the prize of winning the competition. Jeff woke up in his car only to realize that the campus has become a desolate wasteland (28 Days Later, anyone?) and the remaining “survivors” are warring it out for a shot at that ultimate prize. Every action movie cliché is roasted, from the adrenalin-fueled romance between Jeff and Britta to Shirley’s melodramatic “death” to Chang’s cackling villain. The episode had some of the funniest lines (“Wait?! It’s blood. I though it was paint, but I am just bleeding. Talk about luck.”) and also marked the beginning of the end of Jeff and Britta’s romance. Even Abed complained that their lack of chemistry is preventing the group from becoming Friends.
Documentary Filmmaking: Redux (S03E08)
In this dean-centric episode, Dean Pelton was tasked to make a commercial about Greendale and inevitably dean-scended into madness when Luis Guzman’s involvement triggered an overhaul of the original low-rent version. The episode was a unique dean-covery of the dean’s dean-securities. Ok, I will stop now.
Regional Holiday Music (S03E10)
Regional Holiday Music is the kind of episode you get when you cross-breed Glee with Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This high-concept episode was probably one of the most leftfield things you will see on any sitcoms, simultaneously denouncing the modern day Glee musical and highlighting the cast’s musical talents. While it may not come as a surprise that Donald Glover (who is also recording artist Childish Gambino) and Yvette Nicole Brown have rich vocal pipes, the scene-stealer was really Alison Brie’s cute yet seductive rendition of “Teach Me How to Understand Christmas”. And if you are old like me and can get that Body Snatcher reference towards the end, more power to you!
Digital Exploration of Interior Design (S03E13)
In retrospect, season 3 of Community had the most number of great episodes of any seasons. Digital Exploration is particularly interesting and bold in its subversion of corporate product placement. Subway, the sandwich franchise, gamely lent its brand name to an episode that had strange Orwellian undertones. In a maneuver to set up a Subway outlet in Greendale, Subway (the Corporation) created Subway (the human student) to bypass Greendale’s bylaws that require any business to be 51% owned by Greendale students. Predictably, Britta is outraged by this development, but fell in love with Subway (the human) after learning his goals and aspirations. The pair’s love affairs are uncovered by Pierce, and in a twist worthy of 1984, the two are torn apart and Subway (the human) is subsequently reprogrammed. The depth of imagination on display here is really something to behold.
With the exception of season 4, there are actually way too many great episodes than any other sitcoms can boast of. Beginner Pottery, Remedial Chaos Theory (which introduced the darkest timeline), Pillows and Blankets and Basic Intergluteal Numismatics are all worthy episodes that any fans of comedy should invest their time in. Here’s hoping that Community will eventually find new life on Netflix or something similar.