09 June 2015

Community: My Top 10 Favorite Episodes

Community Season 6 promotional image by Yahoo

Last week, one of my favorite television shows, Community, aired what is likely to be its series finale. While there's still hope for (and I still hope for) #AndAMovie to become a real thing, I was prepared to say good-bye at the end of this last outing. After all, that's what season 6 of Community seemed to me to be building towards all along: it began by questioning what we were all still doing here, and slowly got both the show's fans and its characters ready for a future that didn't involve regular meetings in the study room.

In honor of Community's remarkable run, I thought I'd share a list of ten of my favorite episodes. As with my Gilmore Girls top ten episode post, I challenged myself to include at least one episode from each season and tended to be influenced by my favorite pairing (Jeff/Annie in this case) when choosing. Here, in order of original air date, are my picks:

Debate 109 (1.9)

As a Jeff/Annie fan, there's no better place to start this list than the episode where their story really kicks off--there are a couple of moments between them in "Football, Feminism, and You" and "Intro to Statistics," but nothing compared to "Debate 109." As a Community fan in general, I love this episode for its slightly-zanier-than-reality tone and its nice mix of storylines for the seven core characters.

Environmental Science (1.10)

In my opinion, the best episodes of Community are those that blend the show's unique brand of humor with its unique brand of heart. The "Somewhere Out There" duet by Troy and Abed in this episode--played with a vaguely Celtic sound that makes sense in the context of the story--is a moment that epitomizes what Community is all about, which is why "Environmental Science" makes my top 10 list.

Romantic Expressionism (1.15)

The plot of this episode is one of Community's simpler ones, but the quality of the writing and acting makes it work so well. It's got some truly hilarious lines ("I did eat all the macaroni. It's messed up that he knows."), a brilliantly-performed scene without dialogue, and is capped off by a musical number that manages to be both ridiculous and heartwarming at the same time.

Epidemiology (2.6)

Community has done many homage episodes, and in this Halloween installment they took on the zombie apocalypse genre. While I really dislike zombie stories in general, this episode was just so well done and contains some of my favorite jokes of the series. There's something about the ABBA soundtrack in particular that I find endlessly amusing.

Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design (2.9)

This episode holds a special place in my heart since it was the first "regular" episode of Community I ever saw--I watched Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas when looking for seasonal viewing on Hulu and was intrigued enough to pick this episode to watch from the other four available. It's another strong example of Community's homage episodes, and was perhaps a big influence on my liking for the Jeff/Annie pairing.

Remedial Chaos Theory (3.3)

"Remedial Chaos Theory" is one of Community's most-praised episodes, and rightly so--the alternate timelines structure allowed for some wonderfully creative stories. I think the fourth timeline might be my favorite--other than, of course, the seventh, prime timeline.

Basic Lupine Urology (3.17)

I've never seen Law & Order, the show to which this episode pays homage, but I've seen enough detective/police shows to appreciate all of the little nods to the genre contained in this installment. All of the main characters were terrific in their crime-solving personas, and the random minor characters like Starburns, Fat Neil, and Vicky were also used well. Overall, the concept was a great way to do an homage while still keeping the action centered around life at Greendale Community College.

Conventions of Space and Time (4.3)

Season 4, the infamous "gas leak year" at Greendale, was the only of Community's seasons not to be helmed by creator and head writer Dan Harmon. The quality suffered, but I genuinely enjoyed this episode for its many clever Doctor Who references and the sweet moment between Jeff and Annie at the end, which becomes especially touching when viewed in light of the Season 5 and Season 6 finale episodes.

Basic Sandwich (5.13)

I confess that I wasn't much fonder of Season 5, which saw the return of Dan Harmon, than I was of Season 4, but admittedly the writers had a lot of issues to deal with in bringing the show back on track. For me it took until the final episode of this season to really feel like Community had returned to form, with all of its weirdness and all of its charm. The Goonies-inspired plot was crazy but I think it worked, and there were some nice heartfelt moments between the characters.

Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television (6.13)

The writers weren't kidding when they put "emotional consequences" in the title of this episode--while I had been prepared to say good-bye to the show going in, I found I wasn't quite ready for the level of poignancy this episode reached. The episode structure is classic Community, as the group pitches their ideas for what "season 7" of the metaphorical television show of their lives could be like. But when Abed and Annie, two of the remaining four original study group members, announce plans that will take them away from Greendale, Jeff doesn't handle it too well. His moment with Annie was beautiful and unexpectedly honest, and left the door open for further development in their relationship should a movie materialize. I especially loved the final montage of scenes and the music which played over it, "The Ends of the Earth" by Lord Huron. I'll leave you with the music video:

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