This week I’m running down a list of 21 defining Community moments, leading up to the Season 5 premiere. Tonight’s moments feature four great episodes, several different genres, and a fair bit of insanity. They’re at once subversive and heartfelt. Moments 15 through 13 after the jump.
15. Season 3 Opening Song
Ratings have never been on Community side, and after the show just barely got renewed for a 3rd season there was a growing fear that NBC would force the show to broaden its appeal. The show’s core fanbase, to this day, think of the more experimental second season as the touchstone year of the series. Now that it was seriously in trouble, would the powers that be mess with that playfulness? The opening of the show’s 3rd season (my personal favorite, since I’m such a rebel) sends a subversive yet not-too-subtle “fuck off” to anyone who wants Community to be different from the show it spent two years establishing itself as being. Fine, the characters announce clearly that the show will be less weird, more bright, and more appealing than it’s ever been. But they’ll do it in a massive, off-the-wall song and dance number that’s got to be alienating to 90% of new viewers who know nothing of the show. The most delicious thing about this brightly colored moment is that it’s a prelude to the darkest season the show has done yet.
14. Course Listing Unavailable/Curriculum Unavailable
Yeah, about that dark season…by the 19th episode the gang had been kicked out of Greendale and the Dean was kidnapped and replaced by a Moby-impersonating impostor. I’m going to go ahead and combine all of Curriculum Unavailable with the final scene in Course Listing Unavailable, where after they’re kicked out of school. Troy saves the group from entering into a version of their darkest timeline by insisting that though things are murky and uncertain they’re still together and can get through anything. While Abed is in large part the puppet master of the entire study group, Troy had been maturing into a leader for the better part of two seasons. It’s appropriate that his sweetness and childlike optimism are what’s needed to pull them out of a sinkhole, inspiring them to believe that they don’t need to stay in Greendale to keep their study group intact. In the next episode, then, we’re reminded that while they may not need Greendale, it is where they should be. The concept of them all being insane was played with earlier in the season’s Halloween episode, but I love that the episode gradually ramps up the idea that they’re sharing a massive psychosis, even while the audience knows that’s not the case. But what I love most about Curriculum Unavailable (outside of how funny and quick it is) is the strong determination the Greendale Seven feel about saving their school. After airing out their frustration and literally inciting a riot in the previous episode, the group reminisces about how weird the school is but soon realizes how many times Dean Pelton has gone out of his way to help them. Greendale has given more to them than they credited it for – and it’s time to give back.
Much like Modern Warfare, this is a conceptual episode that combines genre parody with real-life stakes for the characters. It’s signature Community to combine an AU-esque zombie outbreak episode with moments that significantly affect the canon of the show. Bonding over their zombie trauma and ambiguous costumes, Shirley and Chang have sex – a plot point that remains significant for the remainder of the season while Shirley worries over the true father of her child. Troy and Abed’s story, too, is significant to the development of their friendship, even while the lasting stakes are more abstract than Shirley’s. Troy’s stomp through the zombie horde with his cardboard Power Loader, believing he could fight them off with “the power of imagination” is a watershed moment for Troy’s character. Outside of Jeff, Troy started the series as the character with the most detachment from the group. A former quarterback he was self-centered and uninvolved. It’s wonderful to see the character who once told Abed, “real friends help me with stuff, not the other way around” sacrifice himself to save his entire school. Other than wonderful character moments like this, Epidemiology might simple be the most energetic episode the show has ever done, combining a lot of laughs with some great action and my favorite soundtrack for any episode.
You’re welcome Kevins.