From the mastermind behind Rick and Morty and a televised Dungeons & Dragons game, Community was a sitcom revelation that became famous for its quick, witty writing, high concept storylines, and lovable characters. While the series initially tried to be about the challenges of a really quirky community college, it didn’t take long before Dan Harmon‘s taste in media and special brand of narrative began to seep into the stories.
When he wasn’t creating stories about college life or the various, emotional entanglements of the group, he was reveling in a variety of deconstructive, high concept genre parodies that both mocked and celebrated their source material. Though the people of Greendale Community College may try to focus on their studies, every now and then, they find themselves in an entirely new show.
10 Heist Films – Grifting 101
Before Rick and Morty showcased its elongated rant on the recycled, heist film formula, Community dipped into the genre’s roots in films like The Lady Eve or The Sting. When heists were simply known as “grifting” and didn’t rely on a Marvel-esque team, these films mostly focused on a handful of con artists who’d try to sweet talk their way into some fortune.
In “Grifting 101,” the study group decides to enlist in a class that would teach them about grifting, not realizing that such a premise is ripped straight out of a middle school handbook. When they realize that they have become grifted, they turn to Jeff, the best liar they know, to get their revenge.
9 Conspiracy Films – Conspiracy Theories And Interior Design
When Annie finds out that Jeff is taking a fake class called Conspiracy Theories in U.S. History run by Professor Professorson, she feels that he’s cheating and disrespecting the school.
However, when she confronts Jeff about it, she’s surprised to meet a man claiming to be Professor Professorson who is running the class. This comes to even Jeff’s astonishment as even he admits that he was just making up the class. Presented with an even stranger mystery, the two fall into a deep pit of lies, confusion, and a surprising number of prop guns.
8 Action Films – Modern Warfare
The word “paintball” has become a calling card for anyone within the Community fandom. One of the series’ most beloved and referenced tropes, the paintball episodes are Community at its slapstick/conceptual peak, and it all started with “Modern Warfare.” When the Dean arranges an on-campus paintball game, he offers a prize a little too valuable to joke around with: priority enrollment for the next semester’s classes.
With every student wanting that prime opportunity to control their entire, class schedule, they all assume their best, action movie personas and begin fighting one another as if they’re in an actual war.
7 Courtroom Dramas – Basic Lupine Urology
Law & Order shaped entire generations of people to believe that the streets are constantly filled with criminal scum and that the lives of lawyers are every bit as tense and exciting as actual detective work. That courtroom drama influence is clear in each and every member of the study group when they suspect that someone’s sabotaged their biology experiment.
Troy, Abed, and Shirley take the role of the no-nonsense detectives who try to collect information while Jeff and Annie act as the group’s legal representation trying to make their case to their biology teacher. Here, the study group escalates what was initially just a mild, classroom mishap into an entire, conspiratorial drama.
6 Post-Apocalyptic Movies – Geothermal Escapism
As Community reached its final couple of seasons, the last lines of its intro theme become increasingly haunting as backstage disputes and new opportunities literally cause different cast members to “fade away.” At least in Donald Glover’s case, his character, Troy, got one impressive send-off. In “Geothermal Escapism,” Community does its best take on both disaster and post-apocalyptic movies when Abed decides to host a schoolwide game of The Floor is Lava.
When he puts up a $50,000 comic on the line, the people of Greendale immediately leap to their chairs, gather weapons, and begin forming alliances. As fun as seeing all of this play out may seem, this episode also doubled as an emotional breakthrough for Abed as he learns to let Troy go before he leaves Greendale for good.
5 Dystopian Science Fiction – App Development And Condiments
Calling smartphones and apps a dystopian nightmare has become a little heavy-handed within recent media, but Community at least had the foresight to really give its take on the subject some pageantry. In this episode, a team of app developers create a program that lets anyone registered rate one another on a scale from 1-5 and asks Greendale to test it out, not knowing that it would cause the school to sink into chaos.
Utilizing the ratings for a pseudo-class system, everyone begins dressing and acting differently to appease the student body and, even more importantly, those with the highest ratings. People begin dressing in sci-fi garb that reflects their respective class, and the school is brought into destructive turmoil as resources get diverted to the Fives.
4 Documentaries – Documentary Filmmaking: Redux
Community has a handful of mockumentaries within its lineup, but the best one of all has to be “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux.” Filmed as an exposé on a madman in the making, this episode focuses on Dean Craig Pelton as he tries to direct a new commercial to promote the school.
Things start out simply enough; but when The Dean gets a call saying that alumni Luis Guzman wants to be in the commercial, he immediately gets an inflated ego and tries to elevate the commercial to a standard befitting Luis Guzman. This takes him on a dark, Kubrickian path as he makes a variety of wild, surreal changes to the script, begins emotionally abusing his students, and goes way over budget.
3 Westerns – A Fistful Of Paintballs
While “Modern Warfare” may have introduced the concept in Season 1, later seasons would evolve the paintball games/mass school conflicts to even higher concept showings. One of the best has to be the first part of Season 2’s two-part finale, in which, The Dean hosts a Western-themed paintball game with $100,000 on the line.
The high stakes intermingle with some recent infighting within the study group, creating a true to form Western tale about betrayal and honor. As the study group struggles to keep their alliances in check, they slowly discover an outside force trying to mess with the game.
2 Crime Dramas – Basic Intergluteal Numismatics
Where “Basic Lupine Urology” tries to focus on the debate aspect of crime dramas, “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” takes the genre to its seedy, mysterious core. Modeled after serial killer thrillers like Zodiac or Se7en, this episode has the study group race around the school to catch a prankster trying to slip quarters down people’s exposed butts.
It’s certainly an uncomfortable prank, and the group treats it with the utmost gravity. And, after a couple of minutes, they take it too seriously as their chase leads them to wrongfully blame other students and cause extensive amounts of collateral damage on the school.
1 Educational History Shows – Pillows And Blankets
When it comes to the series’ iconic, schoolwide battles, “Pillows and Blankets” may very well be the best of the bunch. When Troy and Abed start having creative differences as to how to build a massive fort, they begin enlisting armies in an effort to sabotage the other’s territories.
In typical Greendale fashion, the student body takes the battle of fluff and cotton too seriously, and every other member of the study group takes advantage of the situation to either exact a war fantasy or, in Jeff’s case, just get out of class. All of this is wonderfully framed in a History Channel style documentary complete with graphics, first-person retellings, and an old-timey narrator.