Why 'Community' is the geekiest show on TV
Danny Pudi's character, Abed, shows off his Batman costume to first season costars Joel McHale and Gillian Jacobs.
March 22nd, 2012
03:54 PM ET

Why 'Community' is the geekiest show on TV

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?

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soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. TV fitters Leeds

    I just like the valuable information you supply to your articles. I will bookmark your weblog and take a look at once more right here regularly. I am moderately certain I'll learn many new stuff proper here! Good luck for the next!

    April 2, 2012 at 5:38 am |
  2. AmyDD

    How you can be a fan of Community AND The Big Bang Theory, I'll never know. Community is truly original – a comedy that you have to be quick to understand and find the hilarity in it. The Big Bang Theory is crap – without the laugh-track, no one watching that show would know that they had witnessed "comedy". For shame, America! For SHAME.

    March 26, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  3. Barry

    Best satire and pop culture slam was the over the top hilarious "Glee" episode. Love this show. Holding my breath that it won't be canceled soon. The best shows often are. Remember "Scrubs?"

    March 25, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  4. C-man

    A really great show. This and 30 Rock make NBC way ahead in the comedy game. And also as an extra added perk on CC is those 2 really hot women.

    March 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • bankherald

      I love this show. I would have thought Big Bang Theory would have been the geekiest show on TV.

      March 25, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  5. geekgirl for many years

    wow she has a "geek" website with virtually NO traffic. And she gets to write for CNN? How does that work?

    March 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  6. rubytu

    How to choose your favorite episode? I love all of them, all of them.
    Environmental Science was wonderful
    Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design – the blanket fort!
    The Psychology of Letting Go
    but all of them all of them

    March 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  7. ComeOnMan9

    I own and watch both Paintballs. This is my xanax. I laugh so hard I pee my pants. This show is the sh it!

    March 25, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  8. peachgeek

    Studies in Modern Movement is a great intro to all the characters for anyone wanting to jump in. And next week's blanket fort v. pillow fort episode has been billed "as epic as the paintball episodes." In preparation, choose your side, build a fort, and post pics here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/177416715710060/photos/ Because the only thing geekier than community's episodes are its fans (me included).

    March 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  9. spuds2600

    What is this terrible show? I'm certain that it's a conservative plot intended to show us how stupid schooling is.

    ::tongue in cheek::

    LOVE Community.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  10. Pat

    Love, love, love this show. I just read somewhere that this week's episode did better in the ratings than 30 Rock and The Office. I think we might be on our way, people! We have to band together study group to keep this ride going!

    March 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • AmyDD

      Oh man. The Office is one of the worst shows out there. It used to be great – but it really just needs to be finished. There is nothing compelling driving the story of the show anymore.

      March 26, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  11. maggotfist

    Why would you need more than 2 years in a CC anyway?

    March 24, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Joules

      There are plenty of reasons. My brother-in-law spent six years at a community college because he was working nearly full time while going to school part time, and switched his major entirely twice. Some people are stay-at-home parents and can only take an evening class or two a semester. It's not at all unrealistic, but even if it was, this is NOT meant to be a realistic show.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  12. maggotfist

    Why would there be a need to be in a community college for more than 2 years?

    March 24, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Kat Fud

      Not all goals are the same. Some people have to work for a living. And believe it or not, there are folks out there who just like to learn, without the pressure of a degree program bearing down. I wouldn't mind going back to take certain classes just for personal enjoyment; I was not able to take the fun classes in college because I needed to graduate ASAP and get a job. Community College has it all.

      March 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  13. Danko Ramone

    Remedial Chaos Theory would be my favorite, among many greats. It's the funniest episode of the Twilight Zone Rod Serling has ever written.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  14. hahahafunnyguy

    cancel it....no tv to see it...need Joel on Comedy Channel more...lame story....commenters are bored....what is this drabble

    March 23, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Daws

      You know there are ways to watch it from your computer right? O.o

      March 25, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  15. mds

    Paintball One. And then, within that one, Senor Chang filmed John Woo style. To this day, I still laugh when I recall it.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  16. Rodzoom

    Why the hate – you just need to change the channel to the Military Channel and just watch WW 2 reruns (boy those SS guys just cleaning up all those people who did not think like you).
    Community is just fun! It puts a mirror up to show us as we are.
    All the SF Stuff ! (Farscape, Star Trek, Batman, Doctor spacetime ("Who?" is that) and others).
    As James White (yup, hope you know who this is) – It's not what humans are, it what they can be.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  17. aspons1

    Both paintballs, Halloween with zombies, KFC spaceship, flashback episode where the group finds out about Jeff and Britta sleeping together. I wish it had the following of the BBT which I really like as well.

    March 23, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  18. rpurkers

    Love the paintball with Josh Holloway (Jeff Winger was hilariously insecure), the blanket fort, the fake credit class that ended in the study hall with the Dean, but one of my favorites was Edimology (?) the Halloween episode when they all became zombies set to ABBA. Smart clever and funny; my favorite show on tv!

    March 23, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  19. Community Fan

    Remedial Chaos Theory was the BEST one.

    March 23, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  20. Jack

    I loved Studies in Modern Movement with the dean and jeff singing seal !!

    March 23, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  21. bonsaso

    You got the best ones as well as the paintball finale. The only one not mentiioned was the blanket fort episode. The Dungeons and Dragons episode was so good because just with dialog and characterization they brought you in to the story.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  22. Gravy Boat

    Thank you, Erika D. Peterman, for posting this! This show is the best show on TV. It's such a disgrace that a show as witty and smart like this (and Arrested Development from a few years ago) can't find an audience while utter crap like The Karadashians and Real Housewives (Snorlax's favorite shows) continue to have an audience. Please tell me America isn't this stupid..

    March 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  23. theories

    My favorite was definitely Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design. It was the perfect mix of dialogue, intrigue and pure funny. I've watched it several times.

    Although I literally could not be happier it's back on the air, I was disappointed in the newest episode. It was like they were trying to hard. Something was off. But I know the writers will find their groove again and we'll get our awesome show back on track.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Homer

      Professor Professorson...

      March 24, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  24. Loren

    I missed the first season in real time, but once enlightened, have become addicted. Community is one of the best, cleverest shows on TV ever, and that is why it has failed to find an audience, intelligence and mass acceptance are not easy bedfellows. Here's hoping NBC continues to subsidize intelligence, after all, it's only a half an hour a week for the best.

    March 23, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  25. Homer

    Besides Remedial Chaos Theory, my favorite was A Fistful of Paintballs. I loved all of the Spaghetti Western references, and the visual design on all the player cards was brilliant. Ken Jeong was classic in this episode jumping sides. Plus, Allison Brie looked amazing.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  26. Sue

    Kayoss theory is a classic. I enjoyed last nights episode too.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  27. Snorlax

    "Community" is liberal garbage. Why does NBC even televise this stuff? They must not care about ratings.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • J.C.

      Liberal how?

      March 23, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Sara

      I can see how you wouldn't like it. It must be incredibly time-consuming to think of new random things to which you can ascribe a liberal bias for no apparent reason. I would suggest that your crankiness (a brave, time-honored conservative trait!) could be alleviated with a nice nap, but we both know that naps are tools of liberal oppression intended to keep us lazy! One can only hope that your dislike is so fiery and strong that it causes NBC, Universal, and the stock market to collapse into themselves, because you certainly know who to blame for it!

      There are many advantages to traveling by yourself. You can drive faster, change direction, and you don't have to see people roll their eyes at you for bringing politics into a non-political discussion.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:47 am |
      • theories

        +like

        March 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
      • Joules

        Amen!

        March 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
      • Namedujour

        Go Sara, go!

        March 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Ken

      Snorlax, I don't usually do this, but you're a moron! "Community" has nothing to do with politics. You're merely a troll. Please go away and die slowly.

      March 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  28. Sara

    Last night's episode was great too, and I'm not just saying that because Joel McHale took his shirt off again. The Dean and I both think quite highly of him.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  29. Cadillacjoe

    The Godfather/chicken fingers episode is great, as well as My dinner with Andre with Abed, and the night school episode. I have thought of 6 others while sitting here, but those are great.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:19 am |