Editor’s note: Erika D. Peterman is a Florida-based writer and editor, and the co-creator of the comics blog Girls-Gone-Geek.com.
Oh, “Community,” how I’d missed you!
After a far-too-long hiatus that had fans thinking “cancellation,” the brilliant, criminally underrated NBC comedy about a motley crew of community college students returned last week. Count me among the faithful who will be ignoring telephone calls and loved ones from 8 to 8:30 Thursday nights.
There are so many reasons fans enjoy this show, from the stellar cast to Greendale Community College’s Dean Pelton (Jim Rash), who has 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’s 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 sharper in its comedic delivery. And boy, does it deliver.
We’re talking zombies, dead-on action movie sendups, the “Doctor Who” knockoff “Inspector Spacetime” and an “Earth-2” United Nations. The first season DVD included a “Kickpuncher” comic book based on a fictional, cheesy “Robocop”-style film beloved by characters Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi). “Community” is a show that expects viewers to be on their pop culture game, and that may be one reason it’s not a ratings juggernaut.
Bonus: Glover even campaigned for an audition to play the lead in this summer’s “Amazing Spider-Man” movie. In one episode, he appears in a pair of Spidey pajamas. Is it any wonder this show has inspired several comic book-style tributes?
Need further proof? Check out just a few of “Community’s” geekiest highlights, and then go watch this show. Today. Seriously.
“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” (Season two)
Along with the classic paintball episode, this comedy-rich installment is one of the best. When a long-suffering student cruelly nicknamed “Fat Neil” falls into deep despair, the normally self-absorbed Jeff (Joel McHale) — 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 (Chevy Chase) is left out, things get really ugly and equally hilarious. The narrator calls it “the most important game of Dungeons & 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 Abed as Batman. Even though he’s rocking a Party City costume, Greendale’s resident pop culture savant 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 because I’m out in the night, staying vigilant. Watching. Lurking. Running. Jumping. Hurtling.” Pierce, dressed as the Beastmaster, pops some mysterious pills and freaks out. Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) dresses as Harry Potter, but because she’s black, everyone assumes she’s in a Steve Urkel costume. Funny hijinks abound, but it’s all about the Batman — and his Chapstick.
“Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” (Season three)
Bested by a gang of obnoxious foosball players presumably from Germany, Jeff is on a mission to master the game and defeat them. (Best line, from one of the heavily accented foosballers: “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 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. This is wonderfully wacky, 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 dice are rolled, the timeline fragments into 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’ll have you singing “Roxanne” for days.
To those of you already on board, what’s your favorite episode?