Oh, “Community,” how we’ve missed you! After a far-too-long hiatus that had fans thinking “cancellation,” the brilliant, criminally underrated comedy about a motley crew of community college students returns. Count V. and I among the faithful who will be ignoring telephone calls and loved ones from 8 to 8:30 p.m.
I could rattle off many reasons to watch this show, from the stellar cast to Dean Pelton’s penchant for drag and extreme political correctness (The school mascot is the Human Being). But “Community” is more than a great comedy in the general sense. It may be the geekiest show on television. This is not a knock against “The Big Bang Theory,” a show that I watch and enjoy. However, where “BBT” takes a much broader approach in serving up nerd culture, “Community” is more sly and, in my opinion, sharper with its comedic delivery. And boy, does it deliver. We’re talking zombies, dead-on action movie sendups, the “Doctor Who” knockoff “Inspector Spacetime,” an “Earth-2” United Nations and much more. This is a show that expects the viewer to be on his or her pop culture game, and that may be one reason it’s not a ratings juggernaut. Hell, there are probably dozens of geeky asides that have flown over my head, but that just gives me an excuse to re-watch. No wonder this show has inspired several comic book-style tributes.
Still on the fence? Check out some of the Greendale’s geekiest highlights and then go watch this show. Tonight. Seriously.
“Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” (Season Two)
Along with the classic paintball episode, this comedically rich installment is one of my favorites. When a long-suffering student cruelly nicknamed “Fat Neil” falls into despair, the normally self-absorbed Jeff (dubbed Jeff the Liar, son of William the Barely Known) intervenes by pretending to be interested in Dungeons & Dragons, one of Neil’s passions. Before long, almost the entire gang is drawn into the game: Annie the Day Planner, Troy the Obtuse, Shirley the Cloying, Abed the Undiagnosable and Britta the Needlessly Defiant. When the chronically racist/sexist senior citizen Pierce is left out (He’s not called Pierce the Dickish for nothing), things get really ugly and equally hilarious. The narrator calls it “the most important game of Dungeons and Dragons ever,” and I’m inclined to agree. Abed’s turn as an elf maiden is worth the price of admission alone.
“Introduction to Statistics” (Season One)
There’s a lot to like about this Halloween party episode, but the shining star is Danny Pudi as Abed as Batman. Even though Abed is rocking a Party City costume, he is fully committed to the character, employing a gravelly Christian Bale growl and ominous monologues: “Wherever there are masks, wherever there’s tomfoolery and joy, I’m there. But sometimes I’m not cause I’m out in the night, staying vigilant. Watching. Lurking. Running. Jumping. Hurtling.” Pierce, dressed as the Beastmaster, pops some mysterious pills to stave off feeling old and winds up freaking the hell out. Despite Shirley’s Harry Potter costume, everyone assumes she’s dressed as Steve Urkel. Lots of funny hijinks, but it’s all about the Batman. And his Chapstick.
“Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” (Season Three)
Bested by a gang of asshole foosball players from Germany, Jeff is on a mission to master the game and defeat them. (Best line, from one of the Germans: “You are now so on that things have become very much like Donkey Kong.”) Since the saintly Shirley’s got foosball skills, she offers to train Jeff — and then it’s revealed that they have some very unpleasant history. This culminates in an epic foosball battle between them that is depicted “Dragon Ball Z” style. My jaw dropped when I saw this because it was so wonderfully WTF, even by “Community” standards. Remember, this is a show that did a whole Christmas episode in stop-motion. Even better, Abed returns as Batman as he investigates the loss of his collectible $299 “Dark Knight” DVD signed by Christian Bale.
“Remedial Chaos Theory” (Season Three)
Bromantic duo Troy and Abed invite the gang to their new apartment for pizza and Yahtzee, but once the die is rolled, the timeline fragments into seven separate realities. This is a beautifully executed episode that exemplifies the kind of mundane/absurd mashup that “Community” does so well. While some things remain the same in each timeline, such as Pierce’s crass anecdote about having carnal knowledge of Eartha Kitt, others go into wild and unexpected directions. Then there’s The Darkest Timeline, which ties up with an ending that must have made Star Trek fans everywhere smile. It’s trippy and innovative, and it had me singing “Roxanne” for days.
To those of you already on board, what’s your favorite episode?