Years ago one of my friends told me about a show on network tv. And by telling me, I mean that he ranted and raved about it nearly every time we talked. He used terms like “the greatest show of all time” and “no really, it’s the greatest show of all time” and “seriously, what is it going to take for you to watch it?”
Now, my tv habits are both helped and hindered by the greatness which is a DVR. And no matter what we do, our DVR normally teeters on the brink of disaster at any given time. That not so glorious feeling when you look at all the wonderful shows you’ve recorded and realize that unless you watch tv non-stop for the next month, you’ll lose 5.7 seasons worth of shows as new recordings do away with stored ones. It’s so bad that I often wonder how the hell all my friends are able to watch all the shows they do watch.
Hey, have you started watching this new show The Witcher? Hey, what about Ozark? Or What We Do In the Shadows?
Or a thousand other shows. Don’t they realize the DVR is full? I have shows I can’t even begin to get through and you’re offering me more shows?
So when, all those years ago, my buddy brings me the first season of Community on DVD out of the blue (I mean, I guess I could have expected it from all the clues, but I never requested it)… I did what you do. You thank them, bring it home, and then place it on the stand beside the tv… and forget about it. Probably 3 weeks later, when I still hadn’t watched it, he requested I bring it back (apparently he needed to rewatch it another time?).
So our tale might have ended, were it not for the randomness of Hulu actually having the show a couple of years ago. And for whatever reason, I decided that then was the exact time to begin watching this show that somehow didn’t last but my friend loved.
And he was right.
I devoured the show with multiple nights worth of episodes burning into the odd hours of the night. You know that lie you tell yourself “one more episode” and then suddenly the sun is coming up outside… that’s what we were dealing with. In fact, I might have been better served to take my time with the show, but much like that desert, you’ll just have one more bite until the whole damn thing is gone.
Which brings us to Netflix and their decision to begin showing Community. And how I now see articles and videos and posts about this great show as more and more people discover it (or rediscover it). It came to Netflix on April 1 of this year, and I allowed myself 2+ months to try and really enjoy it… appreciate it for the amazing piece of work it is. And because I love lists, here are my five favorite episodes of the show.
5 – Geothermal Escapism (Season 5, Episode 4)
If one episode showed how weird the show could get, this might be the one. A game of Hot Lava (you remember playing that as a kid, right?) goes the only way that it could… to the point where a whole new society straight out of Mad Max appears. Yes, it is beyond over the top, but the fact that everyone is treating things soooo seriously throughout the episode makes me wonder if they shouldn’t have done even more episodes like this (they did may of them through the 6 seasons to be fair).
Just the idea that within only a few hours a whole new society complete with sayings about their mythology appears within hours of beginning the game is absurd and wonderful.
4 – Cooperative Calligraphy (Season 2, Episode 8)
How well do we know our friends? How much do you trust your friends? And what happens when that trust is broken?
This episode is all started by Annie’s missing pen and her demands to know who took it, and really devolves into what do you know about other people. Are you willing to forgive your friends their mistakes? Is the power of having your circle more important than anything else or is it something that without trust there can not be anything else? It’s not one of the flashier episodes, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful.
3 – Remedial Chaos Theory (Season 3, Episode 4)
Multiple timelines… I really shouldn’t have to say anything more.
The show takes such a simple idea of a bottle episode where the gang are at Abed and Troy’s new apartment and uses it to show us how the group works only when they all allow each other to be themselves. So many times around people in our lives, whether they are friends or co-workers or family, it feels like you can’t always let them all the way in. You must keep your secrets because otherwise you’ll be judged for them. But this episode is about seeing where things go when those truths are exposed and then learning (at least the audience learns, having seen all the timelines) that the group really is best when they are together and not worried about all the other stuff.
2 – A Fistfull of Paintballs/A Few More Paintballs (Season 2, Episodes 23 & 24)
At the end of season 1, the school descended into madness in the form of a paintball game. It was something so crazy and outrageous, I’m honestly surprised that the following season they went back to the well. You’d think there was no way they could possibly top it… but they instead lean into the format by making it both a Western and then a Star Wars parody in the second episode. And here’s the thing, whenever Community goes off into these odd tangents where the world kind of morphs into something else, you realize that yes, it is a tv show, but who cares because it is too much fun.
1 – Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Season 2, Episode 14)
If all that happened was the main characters played D&D for twenty minutes that might have been enough for me. Even the idea of showing some form of D&D on TV seems strange to someone who grew up during the whole Satanic fear that went on in the early 80s. To have it on network TV… just boggles the mind.
Yet, that’s not all it does. They play a game but there is so much heart contained within because the student they add to the table “Fat” Neil is clearly suicidal at the beginning of the show. He begins giving away his stuff and the game is a last-ditch effort to try and show him that there are people who care about him.
And again, if that’s all it was, it would be a good episode… but what pushes it to my number 1 is Chevy Chase as Pierce who plays the role of villain in the episode. His own selfishness and ego push the group to their own limits the whole while allowing the viewers to get a glimpse into his own reasons for doing what he’s doing.
Just amazing stuff.
John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!
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His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.
He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com