Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.

Well my friend told me to start watching Community and, to her credit, the show was really, really good. Anyone that likes comedies that involve many winks to the audience and references to the world of fiction will love this show. But out of the ninety-seven episodes that were made, which do I think are the best?

10)App Development and Condiments (S5E08): If you like dystopian horror stories this is the story for you. Playing on all the tropes found within those types of stories, the community college is torn apart as people rank each other thanks to a brand new app. Soon all those that are getting 5s have their own elitist area, while all of those in the 1s and 2s are forced to act like the worker drones. Honestly it’s pretty much every dystopian story in a nutshell, so it’s fun to see them muck about with it.

9)Epidemiology (S2E06): Every good show needs a zombie episode every now and then, and this one is no different. Once again playing around with the tropes of the genre and showing them in a new light. The food they serve turns out to have a virus that turns those infected into brainless zombies that shuffle about. Naturally it becomes a race for survival as they try to keep alive in face of Armageddon. What’s interesting about this episode is that it stays in canon, following the established rules of the universe while also making fun of horror clichés. It’s a simple Halloween story, but a fun one nonetheless.

8)Advanced Dungeons And Dragons (S2E14): Believe it or not I don’t play Dungeons and Dragons, even though I’d probably enjoy it if I did. But this episode works well enough that you don’t need to know much about the history of the game to understand how it works. Most of the action takes place in one room, but they manage to keep it interesting thanks to good writing and great character development. While poking fun at just how silly Dungeons and Dragons can be, it also has a warmth to it that shows why people love it so much.

7)Geothermal Escapism (S5E05): You know that game you play where you imagine that the floor is lava and you have to jump about on furniture? Imagine playing that game across an entire school. And that’s just the start of it. On top of that you have a fortress fuelled by crazy people who somehow created an entire religion. But on top of all that is a rather sad story where the guy that started all this, Abed, doesn’t want his best friend Troy to leave. So while on the one hand you have a great story that involves taking a childhood concept to the extreme, while on the other you have a rather touching story about someone having to say goodbye to their friend. So top marks all round.

6)Conventions of Space and Time (S4E03): Okay perhaps this shouldn’t be so high up on the list, but I’m putting it here for one simple reason: The amount of energy the fans have put into giving the show “Inspector Spacetime” a legitimate fictional/real world backstory is somewhat staggering. The show was designed to be a shallow parody of Doctor Who, just making the odd joke at but ultimately being unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But in this episode we get to see the convention based around the show and it’s… well a Doctor Who nerd is going to get all the little references and laugh their arse off accordingly. They’re going to get even more references if they see how the fans have tied it altogether behind the scenes. Although in my case I got annoyed because a costume and character personality clearly based off the Sixth Doctor is misattributed to the Third Inspector, but that’s just me being a fan. Ultimately what makes this episode work is the amount of energy they put into something that’s completely background. And making more advances then the actual Doctor Who TV show.

5)Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking (S2E16)/Documentary Filmmaking: Redux (S3E08): I put these two together because they essentially have the same idea: film that week’s episode in the style of a documentary and making fun of the tropes and clichés associated with it. So while you’re going to see a running theme in this blog as ‘it’s like X but pokes fun at it’, these are two great episodes making fun of documentaries. The third one however… yeah not so much.

4)/Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas (S2E11)/Digital Estate Planning (S3E20)/Intro to Felt Surrogacy (S4E9)/G. I. Jeff (S5E11): These four episodes are great because they take the show and present it in a new art form, that being of stop-motion, an old-school video game, a bunch of puppets and a G.I. Joe cartoon. So all four are surprising breaks away from the standard show formula to do something new and interesting. But not only that, all four episodes feature a surprisingly good story about either the group of an individual having to come to terms with a problem and accepting it in a unique way. But if nothing else the change of pace is very refreshing.

3)Pillows and Blankets (S3E14): Say it with me now: “It takes X and makes fun of it”. In this case Civil War documentaries. However there are two reasons why this is higher on the list. The first is the subject matter, since it deals with a school-wide pillow fight. If nothing else Community always succeeds in taking something cool as a kid and exploding it into a higher level of awesomeness. But more than that, it cleverly shows how each character reacts to the falling out between friends and what their part to play in all of it is. By jumping about in this faux documentary style they end up with a clever little story that gives all the characters a chance to shine. Plus it’s funny seeing how over-the-top the end up going.

2)Modern Warfare (S1E23)/A Fistful of Paintballs (S2E23)/For A Few Paintballs More(S2E24): Speaking of over-the-top, all three paintball episodes deal with the concept beautifully. A school-wide paintball game would sound repetitive, but each one brings a special little dash of parody to the episodes. The first is a parody of action films like Die Hard, the second a parody of Westerns and the third a parody of Rebel vs Alliance films. So not only is it great seeing a bunch of characters shoot at each other and treat it as if it’s some big deal, but it’s also great seeing how far they take it and how much they just trash the set. Add to that that the second season finale does a nice wrap up of the characters storylines and you’ve got episodes so good the directors were hired to direct Captain America: The Winter Soldier because of them.

1)Remedial Chaos Theory (S3E03): This is TV episode writing in a nutshell. The premise is simple: A few of the characters are having a house-warming party and invite the others over. When the pizza comes they roll a dice to see who goes, at which point we get seven separate stories. So far, so normal, right? Well here’s where the genius lies: Each story cleverly builds off each other and reveals more and more to the audience.

Story One sets up a few key plot points: One character has a gun, another is smoking in the bathroom, a third is cooking pies.

Story Two sets up a few more key plot points: Two characters start to fall for each other and one character antagonizes another with a horrible gift.

Stories Three and Four continue this trend by building up on those latter points, showing the outcome for some of those things while leaving others hidden. But as it goes on we learn more about the characters and their situation.

Story Five shows the worst outcome possible of everything the characters do, include the gun making a surprise comeback to shoot one and the horrible gift causing the near-death of another. It’s the shortest section, but exists mostly to callback what happened earlier in the episode.

Story Six resolves all the problems brought up in the first four stories, shows them coming to a head and the negative consequence of them all. Basically it’s a resolution to the plot.

Story Seven then subverts all this by negating the actions of the episode. None of these plot points end up happening and the story is essentially a no go. It becomes a what-if in the show itself, something that could have happened but didn’t.

But what really works about this episode is how each story builds off the last. More stuff is revealed to the audience as time goes on, before all coming to a head at the end. And considering these segments are a few minutes long at best and continue a lot of repeating footage, it actually works really well at telling the audience quickly and succinctly what the main conflict is. So if you’re going to watch only one episode of the show, this is the one I’d recommend.

So there you have it. My look at Community and why it’s such a great show. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.

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