For the Love of Greendale – The Very Best of ‘Community’

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If you are not yet familiar with Dan Harmon’s Community, now’s as good a time as any. The NBC series (which airs on Thursday nights at 8:00 PM) ranks as one of the three best comedies currently still airing; which is saying a lot given this is now being hailed as the “Golden Age” of television. While it might not be as laugh-out-loud-funny as It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, in my opinion it is still the best. Heavy on meta-humour and pop culture references (albeit minus a laugh track), Community often parodies film and television clichés and tropes but in such unique and creative ways, that the creators boast the most imagination of any other crew working on the small screen today. Over the course of its two seasons, Community has become increasingly bizarre, bolder, braver and funnier. With a capable cast, a quick pace, and a simple premise, the hit TV series found the perfect balance as a first-rate situational group comedy, and also as a satire of sitcoms in general. Its deconstruction of the nature of sitcoms allows it to avoid the trappings of an already over-saturated market while still communicating a message week to week. Here’s a show that’s not afraid to take chances and one that maintains a playful edge that allows it to seep into the non-mainstream and mainstream crowds alike. In two seasons and in less than 50 episodes, Community has a highlight reel longer than any current show still airing.

Choosing my favorite moments is nearly impossible so I’ve decided to simply narrow it down to my favourite episodes instead. One of the things that works so well about Community is its gimmick episodes. In fact, I would say the show really began to build its cult following after season one’s Halloween/Zombie episode aired. This was the episode that really made a statement: that Community was going to find engaging ways to change on a weekly basis without ever losing focus on the characters on a personal level. Here is a show walking a tight line between traditional, character-driven comedy and unconventional, spoof-laden madness and it is brilliant, as is its perfect cast. Dan Harmon apparently spent a long time looking for the right actors with the perfect chemistry. Everyone in the gang is distinct; an eclectic, neurotic, unlikeable and unlikely group of strangers whom we slowly get to see grow, and eventually love. As we begin to know them better, we begin to appreciate them despite all their faults. Harmon knows how talented his cast is, and allows them to improvise in unpredictable ways mostly seen with the characters Troy and Abed, who give the show its genuine geek appeal. Coupled with a great supporting cast and various guest appearances, Community’s community is worth visiting every week. Restricting all of the action to a small set makes it difficult to keep the show feeling fresh. With television, especially sitcoms, it isn’t so much a risky move as a necessity to keep the budget low.

Yet Community has the advantage of a school campus creating various new settings on a weekly basis which have helped tremendously in crafting some of the best episodes. A prime example is Contemporary American Poultry, the Goodfellas-esque Mafia tale that turns the school cafeteria into the set of a Scorsese picture. Modern Warfare is perhaps the best episode of the series, helmed by director Justin Lin (Fast And The Furious), who turns the school upside down in an non-stop John Woo action shoot-out, except hysterically funny and crammed with references to iconic films.

Below are my ten favourite episodes listed in order of preference. Included are the space opus/Apollo 3 homage Basic Rocket Science, complete with Michael Bay-esqe slo-motion walking (only actual slow walking and not any camera trick). Also on the list is Abed;s Uncontrollable Christmas, the perfect festive episode done entirely in stop motion animation, not to mention original songs, including new lyrics for the title theme. Of course you will also see the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons episode which in many ways was the most ambitious. Here is an episode about a group of people who sit around a table and lose themselves enough in a collective story they build together. One of a few “bottle” episodes featured in the series, Advanced dungeons & Dragons is all dialogue, and still manages to be more entertaining than Rob Coen’s DragonHeart. Here is the list. Enjoy!

Ricky

#10

Season 2, Episode 24: For a Few Paintballs More

In a “spaghetti western” parody, Pierce tries to get revenge on the rest of the study group during this year’s paintball tournament.

Original Air Date—12 May 2011

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#9

Season 2, Episode 5: Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples

Original Air Date—21 October 2010
Shirley asks Abed to make a film about Jesus, but he quickly angers Shirley by turning it into a self-indulgent mess. Meanwhile, Pierce begins blowing off the study group to hang out with the “hipsters.”

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#8

Season 2, Episode 11: Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas

Original Air Date—9 December 2010
When Abed wakes up to discover that everything is in stop motion animation, Professor Duncan and the study group help him try to discover the true meaning of Christmas.

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#7

Season 2, Episode 4: Basic Rocket Science

Original Air Date—14 October 2010
Everyone in the study group except Abed is stuck in a crude 1980s space simulator as it is towed off campus, and Abed leads the team given the difficult assignment of bringing them home.

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#6

Season 2, Episode 19: Critical Film Studies

Original Air Date—24 March 2011
Jeff’s “Pulp Fiction”-themed surprise party for Abed is spoiled when Abed tells him over dinner that he’s done with pop culture. But is this confession actually just part of another movie homage?

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#5

Season 2, Episode 6: Epidemiology

Original Air Date—28 October 2010
The study group is left to fend for themselves by Dean Pelton during a rabies outbreak due to tainted food at Greendale’s Halloween party.

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#4

Season 2, Episode 14: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Original Air Date—3 February 2011
The study group plays Dungeons & Dragons with another classmate to improve his spirits, but Pierce’s jealousies cause their good intentions to backfire.

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#3

Season 2,Episode 23: A Fistful of Paintballs

Original Air Date—5 May 2011
In a “spaghetti western” parody, Pierce tries to get revenge on the rest of the study group during this year’s paintball tournament.

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#2

Season 1, Episode 21: Contemporary American Poultry

Original Air Date—22 April 2010
Jeff’s plan to get chicken fingers from the school cafeteria for the study group quickly evolves into a mafia movie-style endeavor with Abed calling all the shots.

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#1

Season 1, Episode 23: Modern Warfare

Original Air Date—6 May 2010
Greendale Community College is transformed into an apocalyptic war zone when the dean promises the winner of a paintball competition priority registration, and it could fan the flames of sexual tension between Jeff and Britta.

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