Ranking the Seasons – Community, Part 2

Photo from "Comparative Religion"

Over six seasons, the wacky misadventures of community college students in Colorado struggled to find its place in a tough TV world. COMMUNITY alternated between being one of the smartest comedies on TV and one of the silliest. But which season was its best?

In PART 1, I looked at the three lesser seasons of Dan Harmon’s cult classic (including the one season Dan Harmon had nothing to do with). You should check that out, too, of course. But now we’re on to what I consider to be the better half of the series.

3 – A New Direction: Season 5

After being fired before Season 4 (the show’s worst) began, Harmon was brought back on to give the show some better direction just one season later. Chevy Chase was gone, having been upset with the direction of his character, Pierce Hawthorne, for quite some time. To replace Pierce, Jonathan Banks was brought in as Professor Buzz Hickey. And Donald Glover decided he would leave to pursue new opportunities halfway through. The loss of Troy left his usual partner in fantasy crime Abed (Danny Pudi) a bit directionless and paired more with Annie (Allison Brie) for wacky misadventures that just weren’t the same. Compounding the changes, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) graduated at the end of Season 4 and ends up teaching Intro to Law at Greendale as the study group becomes The Committee to Save Greendale.

Despite the changes, Harmon’s return reinvigorated the show and brought the former study group closer to the lovable gang of misfits we grew to appreciate in the first couple of seasons.

Notable Episodes

Basic Intergluteal Numismatics – The episode is an homage to serial killer movies like Se7en, Zodiac and Red Dragon, as the gang has to deal with the return of the “Ass Crack Bandit,” a sick bastard who drops quarters down the ass crack of students when they bend over. The ending leaves it vague as to who the actual bandit is, though Annie hints that it was her in the series finale in season 6.

G.I. Jeff – Another homage episode. This time, Jeff has a health scare as he panics when he turns 40. Unconscious in a hospital bed, he imagines himself and the study group as members of the 1980s cartoon GI Joe team. When Jeff (codename: Wingman) shoots down and kills Destro of the Cobra team, it causes a panic so large that the Joe and Cobra teams join forces to ensure that Wingman doesn’t kill anyone else. It’s a fun episode for anyone who grew up with the “daring, highly trained, special mission force.”

2 – Meet The Study Group – Season 1

The first season of COMMUNITY was one of the most entertaining first seasons of a comedy I can remember watching. Almost every episode can be considered a classic as disgraced former lawyer Jeff Winger inadvertently creates the study group, tries to tear it apart and finally accepts it as a surrogate family. The members of the study group – and extraneous members of the school staff like Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) and Señor Chang (Ken Jeong)- aren’t fully-formed characters just yet, but watching them evolve into the characters we all know and love was an absolute blast.

Notable Episodes

Comparative Religion – As winter break approaches, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) wants to spend Christmas with her new friends, but gets upset when Jeff plans to fight a bully (Anthony Michael Hall) who was messing with Abed. The fight scene, set to Florence + The Machine’s “Kiss With A Fist,” is so much fun. I love Pierce’s reaction when he realizes it’s time to throw down.

Contemporary American Poultry – The Community take on mobster movies like Goodfellas, as the study group takes over the chicken fingers operation at the school cafeteria when they get frustrated that they never get any. Pierce gets an entourage and we get introduced to the monkey named Annie’s Boobs as Jeff loses control over the group to Abed.

Modern Warfare – The first of many paintball episodes. The Dean holds a game of paintball assassin at the school and students go a little crazy when the prize – priority registration for the next semester – is announced. The relationship between Jeff and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) is tested and a lot of paint is spilled.

1 – Streets Ahead – Season 2

Community definitely didn’t suffer from a sophomore slump, as the show’s second season continued the momentum from the end of the previous season. As the second season kicked off, the characters had all become fully-formed and the relationships between the members of the study group continued to evolve. While Jeff spent the first season in a “will they-won’t they” with Britta, the second season added in some sexual tension with Annie. Pierce became more of a villain. And Shirley reunited with her husband (Malcolm Jamal Warner) and got pregnant, though there was some question as to the identity of the father.

The study group also moved on from taking Spanish to Anthropology, which was first taught by Betty White before Professor Duncan (John Oliver) took over… because Betty White attacked Jeff with in class with a weapon.

Notable Episodes

Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design – When Jeff gets caught trying to con a fake night school credit out of the school, it leads to a web of lies and deceit as Jeff tries to outwit the Dean while Annie tries to catch him in the lie. It’s a ridiculous episode that works because of how much fun the actors seem to be having over the course of 22 minutes.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons – The study group decides to play a game of D&D to help a depressed classmate feel better. But they exclude Pierce, who doesn’t take kindly to it. He horns in on the game and wreaks havoc, annoying the rest of the group and making the depressed Fat Neil (Charley Koontz) even more depressed. Another great episode that focuses completely on the main characters and what they mean to each other.

Critical Film Studies – Jeff plans a Pulp Fiction-themed birthday party for Abed, but Abed wants to go out to a nice dinner with Jeff instead, convincing him that he’s renounced the pop culture references and frivolity after he visited the set of his favorite show, Cougar Town. But it all turns out to be a ruse, as Abed set up the dinner as a reference to the Wallace Shawn movie My Dinner With Andre.

That’s a wrap for this edition of RANKING THE SEASONS! What are your favorite COMMUNITY episodes and seasons? Let us know in the comments!