Best Episodes Of Community: Top 5 Fan Favorites, According To Experts

In 2009, NBC aired the first episode of “Community.” On its face, “Community” is a show about a study group at a fictional Colorado community college called Greendale. A quick look at the episode titles on a streaming menu will show that each is named for a fictional college course. Fans will attest that “Community” is an ensemble satire with humor that parodies famous film and television tropes. The heavy use of meta-humor alludes to pop culture and makes the show feel like a series of inside jokes. We turned to our sources to take a peek into this beloved cast as well as the overall top five best episodes of “Community.”

Dan Harmon, the show’s creator, is well known for dark humor as seen in his other famous work, “Rick and Morty.” Although played for absurdist laughs, each of the principle cast members is a deeply flawed and richly detailed character going into the first episode. Using Greendale offers an almost high school-like setting for the cast to inhabit. College is supposed to be the best time in many students’ lives. From making lifelong friends to creating new experiences, college is the time to explore and find yourself before going out into the “real world.”

Part of the charm is that the core ensemble is present for nearly all episodes, attending class regularly, which may not have been possible for many people during the pandemic. That being said, this remote college environment was harmful to many people’s mental health and performance in school. Borrowing a classmate’s notes or relying on recordings just won’t cut it, according to researchers from the University of Bath. Study authors say that college students who actually attend interactive seminars in person tend to score higher on exams than their classmates who only listen to recordings of the lessons later on. The difference is equivalent to almost a full grade. Luckily, in the fictional world in “Community,” the viewer is not worried about grades too much.

With the endless amount of hilarious moments, there are too many scenes to pick from to choose a favorite. The core ensemble of the first four seasons is especially funny with a lot of that humor coming from Donald Glover’s over-the-top portrayal of Troy Barnes or Ken Jeong’s bombastic performance as Ben Chang. To narrow down the greats, StudyFinds rounded up expert sources to determine the top five best episodes of “Community”. Let us know your favorite episodes in the comments below!

Alison Brie 2018
Alison Brie 2018 (Photo by DFree on Shutterstock)

The List: Best “Community” Episodes, According to Fans

1. “Remedial Chaos Theory” Season 3, episode 3

Considered the greatest episode of the series by nearly all our sources, “Remedial Chaos Theory” almost plays out like the Bill Murray classic “Groundhog Day.” A series of vignettes play out, “The episode revolves around the study group attending a party thrown by Troy and Abed at their new apartment, and Jeff suggests rolling a die to decide who goes to get the recently delivered pizza. The episode then showcases six different versions of the events which depend on who goes to get the pizza. Each version is wildly different, ranging from heartwarming exchanges between study group members to downright chaos as Annie’s gun misfires and hits Pierce and the room erupts into flames,” details ScreenRant.

Another source also writes a glowing review, “Was there really any question? ‘Remedial Chaos Theory’ was full of everything that made ‘Community’ great in one 22-minute package. It’s smart, narratively inventive, constantly funny, and somehow still couched in character relationships. This is the gold standard of ‘Community’ episodes, and of contemporary sitcom storytelling,” raves Yahoo!News.

“Arguably the best episode of the entire series, the Season 3 fan-favorite ‘Remedial Chaos Theory’ received Emmy Award and Hugo Award nominations for its critical acclaim, unforgettably combining pizza, dice, a fire, and the song ‘Roxanne’ by The Police,” posits Collider.

 2. “Modern Warfare” Season 1, episode 23

The 23rd episode of the first season is when “Community” first really finds its stride. “While not the first Community ‘theme’ episode (that honor goes to ‘Contemporary American Poultry’), ‘Modern Warfare’ is the show’s first paintball episode and the first to go all-in on a massive change. It almost abandons the idea of the show taking place in a community college entirely, choosing to cover the campus in paint as the students battle it out for Priority Registration in a parody of action films. It’s not as well-written as ‘Remedial Chaos Theory,’ but ‘Modern Warfare’ is celebrated more for the ground it broke than for the episode itself. It’s the first step down a path that gave the show so many entries on this list,” describes CBR.

The episode marks the first time that “Community” seemingly leaves conventional reality. “When the Dean dangles ‘priority registration’ as a prize for a paintball competition, Greendale’s campus devolves into an all-out war. Action films and apocalyptic fiction are heavily invoked; when Jeff first wakes up from his car nap in the midst of the game, he walks alone through the deserted, detritus-strewn campus like Cillian Murphy in ’28 Days Later.’ But each of these spoofs and goofs had a purpose, rooted in character and plot. Sure, Señor Chang enrolling as a student at Greendale so he could enter the game provided the perfect opening for an indelible homage to the films of John Woo, but it also fueled Chang’s character arc for the whole next season,” expounds Entertainment Weekly.

Some would call it a fully immersive parody. “Shot like an action movie in a way that’s beautiful to behold, ‘Modern Warfare’ helped push the limits of what ‘Community’ could be. The most in-depth and transformative parody to date, it shook up the series’ style and proved how formally ambitious it could be,” according to Looper.

3. “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” Season 2, episode 14

This episode aired before D&D fully reentered the national zeitgeist as it has now. With that in mind, “A truly great episode that spotlights the heart of ‘Community,’ ‘Advanced Dungeons and Dragons’ follows the study group as they try to make their friend Neil (who gets bullied for his weight) happy again, as they are concerned he may hurt himself. Though it takes place entirely in one room, the episode is full of excitement and stakes, as Pierce (who went uninvited) chooses to go scorched Earth on his schoolmates,” notes Movieweb.

This episode was also removed from streaming platforms for a racially insensitive joke. “One of the most popular and controversial episodes during the series’ run. In an attempt to make a downtrodden ‘Fat Neil’ (Charley Koontz) feel better, Jeff and the group play a game of ‘Dungeons & Dragons (a boyhood favorite of show creator Dan Harmon). They don’t invite Pierce, which naturally infuriates him and causes the group’s elder statesman to sabotage the game. Netflix and Hulu removed it from their streaming services in 2020 because Jeong’s Chang is in blackface while dressed up as a dark elf,” specifies Yardbarker.

Despite the controversy, this episode tackles the serious issue of self-harm in a disarmingly wholesome way. One source notes, “‘Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ is a great episode because it doesn’t take the easy way out. ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ is a game of fascinating fights, swords, sorcery and storytelling — all of which takes place entirely in the imagination. ‘Community’s’ writers could easily have gone to a visual representation akin to ‘Digital Estate Planning,’ but let the episode be about the game as it’s played instead. Its appeal is entirely in seeing the study group play the game to cheer up Neil, who had been having suicidal thoughts after being bullied about his weight. But those wanting to see the episode will have a hard time,” voices CBR.

4. “Cooperative Calligraphy” Season 2, episode 8

“One of the more unique episodes in ‘Community’s’ run is ‘Cooperative Calligraphy,’ which plays on the tropes of TV bottle episodes where all the episode’s plot is contained to one location with few main cast members. After a study session, Annie’s purple pen goes missing, and demands to know which of the other six study group members took it,” according to GameRant.

An explanation of what meta-humor is and how “Community” uses it follows, “Bottle episodes are typically a way for shows to save money by not shooting on multiple sets, which ‘Community’ leveraged by acknowledging it within the plot of the episode. While the rest of the study group is desperate to go to Greendale’s puppy parade, Annie’s fixation on finding her pen keeps them confined to the study room, which Abed openly acknowledges as the group ‘doing a bottle episode.’ The structure is once again a starting point for more to take place, as the interrogation and investigation explore character dynamics and reveal hidden truths in the group. Annie’s passive-aggressive innocence and morality are a juxtaposition of the rest of the characters’ ethoses. The glimpse of the puppy parade in the episode’s tag, the only scene outside of the study room, is also well worth the wait, even if the study group never makes it there,” remarks /Film.

Of this very meta episode one source explains, “Not only does the episode cement the ability of ‘Community’ to subvert sitcom tropes by having Abed acknowledge that they are doing a bottle episode, but it fascinates the viewer by tearing the group apart only to build them back up stronger. The series excels when its main characters are stuck in the study room for a lengthy period of time, and this episode is perhaps the best example of their individual personalities shining through the mania,” adds ScreenRant.

5. “Paradigms of Human Memory” Season 2, episode 21

This premise-heavy episode is a clip episode with a twist, ‘”Paradigms of Human Memory’ is a monumentally significant episode of television. The majority of clip-show episodes in sitcoms present old clips from the show that relate to the plot of the current episode, but ‘Community,’ as is tradition, does it differently… ‘Paradigms of Human Memory’ tells its story through unseen clips of the study group in several zany, bizarre situations. Perhaps the most impressive part of the episode is the heartwarming ending, in which Jeff suggests that their constant bickering is unimportant, as the group is closer than ever,” explains ScreenRant.

#sixseasonsandamovie is a social media hashtag that helped open up the possibility for a “Community” feature length film. “The ship that launched ‘six seasons and a movie,’ ‘Paradigms of Human Memory’ feels like one of the most ‘Community’ ‘Community’ episodes ever because it encapsulates almost every great thing about the show. First, it’s a send-up of clip shows, except in this case, all of the flashbacks are from never-before-seen misadventures (a haunted house! The racist prospector!). It’s also extremely self-aware, from the romantic montages scored by Sara Bareilles’ ‘Gravity,’ to the fact that it climaxes with a classic Jeff Winger speech cobbled together from assorted moments,” comments Entertainment Weekly.

This classic episode, “takes on the stale concept of a clip show and does it with a hilarious twist: All the flashbacks to past adventures are actually new material. The episode also proves that as much as we love the study group’s rapport, the show is sometimes funniest when they’re at each other’s throats… This is also the episode that gave ‘Community’ fans their rallying cry of, ‘Six seasons and a movie!'” exclaims Looper.

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