All five seasons of Community have been added to Netflix in the UK!
Before we start it should be made clear that with any list such as this the selections must be to some extent arbitrary, and one could easily make a list with five different, equally deserving episodes (feel free to leave any such suggestions below).
Also, although Community is sufficiently continuity-free for any of the episodes below to be enjoyed on their own, a lot of the real joy comes from seeing the characters gradually develop and noticing small details and plot threads tied up or referred back to.
With those caveats out of the way, here are our five favourite episodes of Community…
‘Modern Warfare’ (Season 1 Episode 23)
A glorious big spectacle of an episode, and a relatively early one that illustrates just what the show is capable of in terms of scope and originality.
It was perhaps a bit of a risk taking the familiar environment of Greendale Community College and imposing an unlikely and frankly ridiculous situation on it, but it really paid off and paved the way for future ‘big’ episodes.
Although the paintball trick was repeated on a possibly even grander scale in Season 2’s two-part finale – ‘A Fistful of Paintballs’ and ‘For a Few Paintballs More’ – the original is still the best, for its completely joyous send up of just about every action film cliché you could possibly conceive of.
It’s also a good episode for the consistently great Dean Pelton, as his utter bewilderment at the carnage going on around him further heightens the hilarity.
‘Cooperative Calligraphy’ (Season 2 Episode 8)
Although the higher-concept episodes tend to get most of the attention (and this list is guilty of exactly that), sometimes the best, and funniest episodes of Community are just those in which the study group goes about what counts as their normal business.
Although there is some characteristic meta-humour from Abed – this is the bottle episode that knows it’s a bottle episode – ‘Cooperative Calligraphy’ shows that if you have a sufficiently well-rounded and well-written cast of main characters you can just fill a whole episode of them interacting with each other.
There’s a lot of good character development and you even get to see a little bit of the oft-promised Puppy Parade at the end. Who says you need a big ideas or big budget for a great episode?
‘Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ (Season 2 Episode 14)
It’s fair to say that in the history of TV comedy Dungeons & Dragons has often been the source of many a joke at the expense of nerds.
However, Community refreshingly raises itself above the obvious gags in much the same way that Futurama did: by approaching the subject from the inside, as it were, by actually trying to portray the enjoyable aspects of the game, and thus exploring why people play it.
The decision to represent the in-game world through audio and sound effects rather than visuals was an inspired choice, and in amidst the expected humour there’s quite a serious subplot that’s handled relatively sensitively. Not just for nerds, then.
‘Remedial Chaos Theory’ (Season 3 Episode 4)
Yes, ‘Remedial Chaos Theory’ has a clever central concept with a fresh and intriguing take on that old sci-fi staple of alternate timelines, but it succeeds mainly because it’s so well written.
The setup is really very simple: all the action takes place in one room, over one night between (mostly) the main seven cast members, but it’s the different permutations and attention to detail that really makes this episode one of the best.
Every timeline brings something new to the story and adds fresh revelations and by the end the viewer can get ahead of the story and try to predict what might happen in each new incarnation, which makes it an unusually engaging episode. Plus, there remains the exciting possibility that we’ve not quite seen the last of the evil mirror universe version of the gang.
‘Regional Holiday Music’ (Season 3 Episode 10)
Community had already taken a swipe at Glee in the also superb Season 2 episode ‘Paradigms of Human Memory’, but in ‘Regional Holiday Music’ the claws really come out.
Even if you’ve never seen Glee the running joke about ‘regionals’ is still hilarious but the real joy here comes from the original songs: in particular Annie’s uncomfortably sexy Christmas song provides a lot of laughs, and it’s always nice to hear Donald Glover exercise his rap skills.
This was the last episode shown before the mid-season hiatus and for a while it looked like Community might not be coming back from it. While this would have made for a perfectly fine last ever episode it is of course great that the show is back – and still going strong.
Which episode of Community is your favourite? Let us know below…