Now that NBC’s Community is on Netflix, plenty of new and more seasoned fans are checking out the TV show that ran on NBC from 2009 to 2015. So we decided to put together an A-List of 10 of the most genius episodes the show has to offer.
In case you’re new to the show, Community isn’t like most other TV series. What started out as a typical sit-com, quickly became a show that constantly defied the genre and became every geckaphile‘s dream. The most memorable episodes are when they take a “high concept” or genre (i.e., wild west, ’80s action movies, detective) and run with it.
That’s exactly what we’re ranking here. Whether you’re looking for the best ten episodes to get into the show with, or simply want some to re-watch: Here are our list of the top 10 most genius episodes of NBC’s Community.
10. Basic Intergluteal Numismatics
This take on David Fincher’s classic detective movies like Seven and Zodiac revolves around the return of the “Ass Crack Bandit,” the mysterious person sliding coins in exposed butt cracks. The thing that makes this episode most interesting; however, is the set up by a throw-away line back in the season 2 episode, “Intro to Political Science.”
While this may seem like a dumb and childish idea, the writers find a way to turn it into an engaging mystery that never properly gets solved. It’s crafted in such a way that almost anybody could be the bandit. There is evidence for more than one suspect. In fact, many fans still theorize to this day who the bandit is (here’s the best one I’ve heard).
What’s your theory?
9. Digital Estate Planning
In this episode, which largely takes place inside an 8-bit video game, Pierce (Chevy Chase) and the study group are summoned to Hawthorne labs where they play a game to see who gets his father’s fortune.
I know it looks dumb, but you have to trust me. This episode is great.
It doesn’t have as many layers as some of the others on this list, but the video game motif is well worth it. Each avatar feels like the characters and it is surprisingly hilarious. The jokes that could’ve easily gotten old fast somehow find a way to keep being fresh and hilarious.
8. Geothermal Escapism
Greendale meets a campus-wide game of hot lava.
Like the paintball episodes that came before, this is the big episode of Season 5. While it’s fun to see everyone jump across tables or “centipede” with chairs, at the heart of this episode is Abed (Danny Pudi) dealing with the departure of Troy (Donald Glover).
Those two were the heart-and-soul of the study group, so this episode had a lot riding on it, and it delivered. It was a major loss and one the show never quite recovered from, but it was handled properly.
And of course, they sent him off in the most Troy and Abed fashion.
7. For a Few Paintballs More
Part two of the epic two-part season 2 finale abandons the western motif of its predecessor, “A Fist Full of Paintballs,” and takes on a Star Wars vibe. While not as powerful as the first part, this episode still delivers a well deserved finale to the season with a lot of satisfying character moments along the way.
6. Community (Pilot)
No, this episode doesn’t include any “high concepts” like the others on this list, but it’s easily among the most well-written pilots of modern TV history.
From the first minute, it is clear these writers know exactly who these characters are and how they need to change. They expertly interweave each of their arcs so that they don’t just feel like a random group, but one that truly needs each other.
While the characters aren’t close friends just yet, that’s precisely what hooks you. Their chemistry is immediately felt and you continue watching to see them grow together. It’s also one of the only episodes that stands completely on its own. Even though the show becomes something wildly different by season 2, the only reason those crazy stories work is because of how well the study group was introduced in this episode.
This is NBC’s Community.
5. Cooperative Polygraphy (S5 E4)
After Pierce’s funeral, the study group discovers that he planned a polygraph test to reveal everyone’s secrets after he died.
I feel like a broken record at this point, but the writing in this episode is top notch. Having a lie detector in this episode made for interesting character work, while providing for some great comedy. The episode did double duty by giving finality to Pierce’s absence, as well as setting up for Troy’s departure in the next episode, and does so very well.
This episode was also read by the cast at the virtual Community table read just recently. You can check that out here.
4. Modern Warfare
Taking on the style of action classics, such as Die Hard, this is one of the first “high concept” episodes that the show delivers.
When Greendale announces a campus wide game of paintball assassin with a coveted prize for the winner, the school turns into a war-zone. It’s a simple concept that quickly turned into one of the show’s most iconic episodes.
This was when the show finally figured out what it could be and where it finally seemed to find its true voice. From this episode on, the show was much more than just a sit-com.
3. A Fist Full of Paintballs
The brewing conflict between the study group and Pierce over the season finally comes to a head in the western inspired first part of the two part season finale.
This episode is perhaps the best example of how well this show can hop genres. It uses all of the tropes from popular western films, but they aren’t there just for the fun of it. Each of the tropes are used to better tell the story. As the season finale, this is the culmination of all the conflict set up throughout the season, and feels like the natural progression of its characters.
At times, it genuinely feels more along the lines of a movie than it does a TV series.
2. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
Who would’ve thought that a game that takes place in people’s imaginations would be so fun to watch?
With a Lord of the Rings twist, this episode sees the study group battle against Pierce in an epic game of Dungeons and Dragons they started to help a depressed student. Alongside some hilarious moments is the growing conflict between Pierce and the rest of the group. It works as a great episode on its own, but even better when watched in tandem with the rest of the season.
1. Remedial Chaos Theory
To anybody who’s seen NBC’s Community, it comes as no surprise that this takes our top position.
When the study group orders pizza for a dinner party, Jeff (Joel McHale) rolls dice to decide who goes down to get it, effectively creating six different timelines. However, what this episode really does is demonstrates how important each member is to the study group by seeing how things would change by taking each member out of the picture.
It’s amazingly creative and clever writing makes for the show’s most iconic episode, while showing off what the show was always about: the characters and their relationship with one another. Plus, we get both the darkest timeline, as well as the GIF above. If that’s not reason enough, I don’t know what is.
… And a Movie?
What do you think of our list?
With the growing popularity of Community on Netflix, it’s always fun to discuss the show with new fans and talk about what the movie would be like. Would it find its way onto this list?
Until then we can only hope… and re-watch the show a dozen times.