The List: 10 Best Genre Episodes of “Community”

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From the May 31, 2012 edition

With Dan Harmon being forced out as showrunner of “Community,” the NBC comedy just won’t be the same. Harmon’s vision is what made “Community” utterly brilliant, but also made it a series that traded on inside pop-culture jokes that didn’t appeal to mass audiences. The best example of this is the genre spoof episodes — and their incredibly meta humor. Here are the 10 best genre episodes over the last three seasons (and they’ll most assuredly be the best ever) of “Community.”

10. “Epidemiology”

This was Season 2’s zombie episode. After the students at Greendale become infected by tainted food at the Halloween party, it escalates into a full-on spoof/homage to zombie flicks.

Best moment: Troy (in his hilarious “vampire” costume) being the first black guy to make it to the end in a horror story. Troy’s “I love you” and Abed’s “I know” response is a nicely weird shout-out to Han Solo and Leia in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

9. “Critical Film Studies”

What seemed like a “Pulp Fiction” episode — the gang throws Abed a Tarantino-themed birthday party with everyone decked out as Jules, Honey Bunny, Ringo and even the Gimp — turns out to be a sly homage to the lesser-known film “My Dinner with Andre.”

Best moment: Seeing Pierce dressed as the Gimp is fantastic, but Abed’s (fake) tale of pooping his pants on the “Cougar Town” set is priceless.

8. “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking”/“Documentary Filmmaking: Redux”

In Season 2 and Season 3, “Community” tackled the documentary format with unbelievable success. In the first one Pierce fakes dying so he can bequeath mean-spirited gifts to the study group, and the second is a “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” homage with Dean Pelton updating Greendale’s TV commercial and it spiraling out of control.

Best moment: Watching the Dean breakdown is fun, but it doesn’t even compare to Troy’s “Reading Rainbow” crying fits after meeting LeVar Burton.

7. “Contemporary American Poultry”

As the first true genre episode “Community” ever did, this one kicked off what would become one of the show’s staples over the next two seasons. Abed becomes a mafia kingpin by taking control of the chicken fingers in the cafeteria in this wonderful “Goodfellas” story.

Best moment: Abed getting revenge on the study group for their ungratefulness in a montage set to Derek and The Dominoes’ “Layla.”

6. “Basic Lupine Urology”

Season 3’s epic “Law & Order” spoof would have anyone who has ever caught a TNT marathon of the long-running crime/courtroom drama rolling on the floor with its pitch-perfect re-creation. Everything from the good cop/bad cop trope to the camera work was spot on.

Best moment: Tie between the “Law & Order” theme and Troy and Abed both wanting to give the Lenny one-liners.

5. “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”

The study group reluctantly plays the ultimate nerd RPG to help Fat Neil out of his depression. I’ve never played D & D, but if the Greendale Seven were involved, it might be too much fun to resist.

Best moment: This is easy. Annie, aka Hector the Well-Endowed, seducing Abed’s elf maiden.

4. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”

In Season 2, “Community” took on a Christmas episode as the group become claymation figments from Abed’s warped imagination.

Best moment: The heartfelt climax involving Abed’s holiday tradition with his mom was one of the show’s most emotional moments.

3. “Paradigms of Human Memory”/“Curriculum Unavailable”

If “Community” is going to do a clip episode, you know it’s not going to be the same old, same old. Toward the ends of Seasons 2 and 3, we got “clip episodes” that showed us things the audience had never seen before. These episodes were filled with rapid-fire jokes, but they also gave us insight and revelations about the characters.

Best moment: Tie. The montage of Jeff Winger’s inspirational speeches in “Paradigms of Human Memory” and Britta’s “How long does peyote last? I’m asking for a friend” in “Curriculum Unavailable”

2. “Cooperative Calligraphy”

In Season 2, the study group holes up in the library to figure out who stole Annie’s purple pen. This is super insider as a bottle episode — a TV term for when a show cuts costs by filming in only one location with only the main cast — but is one of the funniest things to ever air on TV.

Best moment: Abed constantly insists the group is “doing a bottle episode” much to Jeff’s chagrin. Then Jeff finally gives in and calls to cancel his date with Gwenifer with, “Tell your disappointment to suck it. I’m doing a bottle episode!”

1. “Modern Warfare”

When “Community” spoofed action flicks — everything from “Die Hard” and “Boondock Saints” to “The Killer” and “The Warriors” — it signaled the greatness Harmon and Co. were capable of. Watching Greendale descend into an apocalyptic wasteland during a game of paintball was ambitious, subversive and uproariously funny.

Best moment: This is a hard choice, but the culmination of Jeff and Britta’s season-long sexual tensions — the sarcastic make-out turning into a cliche TV sex scene was masterful.