In news you’re bound to find cool (cool cool cool), Season 6 of Community is out now on Digital HD and arrives on DVD on Monday 21 March. Or as Dean Pelton would probably put it, ‘DV-Dean!’.
Now all we need’s a movie, and the hashtag, and our lives, will be complete. #sixseasonsandamovie.
To celebrate the Season 6 release, we’ve looked back over six years of the study group’s shenanigans, in an attempt to find the all-time greatest episodes.
It wasn’t easy. This is a show that spent three years setting up a brilliant ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ Beetlejuice joke, went incredibly meta by having Cougar Town fan Abed turn up in the background of Cougar Town, and nailed Michael Haggin’s jazz tune ‘Daybreak’ into our heads. And though we ‘Chang’-ed our minds plenty of times, we’ve finally settled on our Top 10.
If your favourite episode isn’t in here, then you may just be reading this list in the darkest timeline…
The first taste of how insane – and insanely high-concept – Community could be and would be comes right at the end of Season 1, as the Greendale campus is turned into an apocalyptic but pretty darn colourful paintball war zone. Friendships are tested, bonds are formed, pop-culture references are fired off like paint pellets. All for the grand prize: early registration.
Season 2’s paintball double bill ‘A Fistful of Paintballs’ / ‘For a Few Paintballs More’ would be even more ambitious, seamlessly moving from Spaghetti Western pastiche to Star Wars homage, but ‘Modern Warfare’ is where it all begins.
‘Advanced Dungeons and Dragons’
When CultBox interviewed Jeff Winger himself, Joel McHale, several years ago he was quick to list ‘Advanced Dungeons and Dragons’ as one of his favourite episodes. And who are we to disagree with one of the stars of the show?
Especially as it’s a great episode; one which quite rightly doesn’t mock the game but takes enjoyment in playing it, for both comic and dramatic effect.
Considering it’s all done with just dialogue and the odd sound effect, it’s surprisingly engrossing. Just like a real game of D&D. You almost feel like you’re playing along with Bing-Bong the Archer and ‘ahem’, Hector the Well-Endowed.
‘Digital Estate Planning’
It’s usually the case that TV shows never quite get computer games, whether it’s understanding how they work (Frasier fans may remember Freddie ‘playing’ a game on a Game Boy that didn’t have a cartridge in it), or the people who play them, but trust Community to nail the joy and frustrations of button-mashing, as they take part in an 8-bit battle of Pierce’s inheritance.
It’s an episode that looks gorgeous, but also has a rare emotional beat for the otherwise cartoonish Pierce. That, and the bit where Annie and Shirley accidentally kill the blacksmith is pure gold.
Community has had episodes of multiple media, including stop-motion (‘Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas’), 8-bit animation (see above), anime (‘Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism’), and even Muppetry (‘Intro to Felt Surrogacy’), but the all-animated ‘GI Jeff’ beats them all by plugging directly into your 1980s nostalgia centres.
A GI Joe cartoon homage, right down to the ‘Knowing is half the battle!’ public service announcement at the end, it’s an episode which plays on a generation’s Saturday morning memories. And if it makes you long for your childhood then good, that’s exactly what it’s meant to, given that it’s all Jeff’s near-death mid-life crisis dream.
‘Studies in Modern Movement’
It’s a great episode about friends coming to terms with living together and the friction that occurs before the boxes are unpacked. It’s also a useful public service announcement on the dangers of painting in an unventilated area.
And it marks the first ever appearance of The Dreamatorium. But honestly, this episode is here simply because it features The Dean and Jeff giving it their all in a karaoke rendition of Seal’s ‘Kiss From a Rose’. That, and there’s a shadow puppet show.
Keeping the British end up, just like John Oliver did, the UK-aaaay’s very own fruity-voiced Matt Berry guest stars in Season 6’s ‘Grifting 101’ as the grifting professor Roger DeSalvo, whose very class is itself a grift.
What follows involves deception, double deception, The Sting, and a lot – a heck of a lot – of briefcases being passed around between people. It’s an episode which pays great homage to The Sting, but don’t do a Britta and expect Sting to be in it.
‘Regional Holiday Music’
Glee meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers (including a literally ‘pitch-perfect’ take on Donald Sutherland’s famous point and shout) in a festively tart take-down of the show that’s obsessed with ‘getting to regionals’.
Enforced merriment through melody is at every turn, and while none of the songs can match Abed and Troy’s rendition of ‘Somewhere Out There’ from Season 1’s ‘Environmental Science’, Abed and Troy’s ‘Baby Boomer Santa’ and Annie’s increasingly awkward ‘Teach Me How to Understand Christmas’ ensure that this episode’s going all the way to semi-national regionals.
‘Pillows and Blankets’
The vital matter of fort design has done the unthinkable and turned best friends Tory and Abed against one another. In the corridors of Greendale, war breaks out between Troy’s Blanketsburg and Abed’s Pillowtown.
It’s the fluffiest, snuggliest civil war you’ve ever seen, right down to Pierce’s WMD ‘Pillow Suit’. Rigorously told in the style of Ken Burns’ famous Civil War documentary, ‘Pillows and Blankets’ demonstrates how flexible and experimental Community‘s format had become in chronicling the madness of Greendale and its students. It’s the kind of thing you couldn’t imagine happening in Season 1, but which seemed entirely natural by Season 3.
‘Remedial Chaos Theory’
‘Remedial Chaos Theory’ explores six alternate timelines that are created from the most mundane of acts: someone going to get pizza. It’s also where we’re introduced to the ‘Darkest Timeline’ that would reappear in later seasons.
There isn’t even really a story here, it’s pure situation comedy between six people in a room, and in each timeline a character’s absence defines what happens next. It’s a beautifully structured concept, but never so obsessed with the idea of alternate timelines that it forgets to be funny or true to the characters. Hey speaking of characters, did I ever tell you guys about that time with Eartha Kitt in the airplane bathroom…?
‘Basic Rocket Science’
What happens when you take a succulent piece of Apollo 13, a dusting of The Right Stuff, a sprinkling of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and then deep fry it and serve it in a twelve piece family bucket? You get Season 2’s Basic Rocket Science, which sees the group (minus Abed) trapped in the 1980s space simulation ride, the ‘KFC 11 Herbs & Space Experience’.
Yes, it’s blatant product placement, but it completely gets away with it by making it funny; embracing the nonsense of being trapped in a children’s ride with ‘biscuit thrusters’ and ‘gravy throttles’. And it’s worth it just to see Pierce vent his daddy issues at the computerised Colonel SANDERS.
Season 6 is out now on Digital HD and is released on DVD on Monday 21 March.
What’s your favourite ever Community episode? Let us know below…