Arts & Life

Navigating Netflix: Community

Once again on an inexplicable hiatus, NBC’s Community is one of the most unique and provocative sitcoms on TV and on Netflix, which is now complete with every aired episode to date. Formerly part of the Thursday night line up with the likes of The Office, Parks & Recreation and 30 Rock, Community has aired three seasons of paint ball wars, Claymation, 8-bit game graphics and blanket forts. I said it was unique.

The crux of the story is Jeff Winger, a former lawyer who has been barred from practicing due to his fake degree. He decides to attend Greendale Community College to obtain the required education to go back to his old life, then creates a fake study group in an attempt to pick up a girl from his Spanish class and his little community is born.

The quality of the ensemble cast of brilliant primary and secondary characters is highly underrated as each member of the group is an original play on the traditional stereotypes one might picture attending a community college; failed jocks, the elderly, recovering addicts and the socially dysfunctional. Well, maybe not exactly who you would picture at a community college. While the whole cast is stellar, three performances stick out.

One of those performances is comedy legend Chevy Chase who portrays Pierce Hawthorne, the aging, incompetent and egotistical heir to a moist towelette empire, a part he plays brilliantly. Another is Ken Jeong, made famous as Mr. Chow in The Hangover, plays the insanely dangerous Señor Chang who teaches the study group Spanish, or at least a fair approximation of it. And Jim Rash, who recently won an Academy Award for his part in scripting The Descendants, steals every seen as Dean Pelton. Beyond the core cast, Community attracts a diverse array of guest stars, including John Oliver, Rob Corddry, John Hodgman, Betty White, Patton Oswalt, John Goodman, and LeVar Burton, who appeared as himself and sang the Reading Rainbow theme song.

But the true star of the story is the Greendale campus and the insanity it houses. When watching the show, you truly get the feeling that the level of weekly ridiculousness would be happening without this specific group of people present. And you really have to be on top of you pop culture game as there is a nonstop barrage of references coming at you, often hidden in plain sight.

Here, in no particular order, is my list of the top five episodes of Community you can watch on Netflix right now.

Season 1, Episode 13: Investigative Journalism: In an homage to M.A.S.H., Jeff becomes the Hawkeye-esque editor of the school paper while fending of someone trying to force his way into the study group, played by Jack Black.

Season 2, Episode 11: Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas: Abed, the group’s socially maladjusted, pop culture obsessed member, has an intense Christmas related breakdown that causes him to view the world as a Claymation Christmas special.

Season 2, Episode 14: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: In order to save the life of the unfortunately nicknamed Fat Neil, the study groups engages him in a game of Dungeons and Dragons to raise his spirits.

Season 2, Episodes 23 & 24: A Fist Full of Paintballs and For a Few Paintballs More: A follow up to the first season’s paintball throw down that destroys the campus, Season Two comes to a close with a two part episode that features a huge paintball chaos-fest that starts as an homage to Spaghetti Westerns, then becomes an homage to Star Wars. Josh Holloway, best known as Sawyer on Lost, guest stars in Episode 23 as the Black Rider.

Season 3, Episode 20: Digital Estate Planning: Pierce must fight his way through an 8-bit video game designed by his late racist father to receive his inheritance, with the help of his friends, of course. The bulk of the episode is inside the game and features the acting talents of Giancarlo Esposito, aka Gus from Breaking Bad.

New episodes of Community were scheduled to start airing on October 19th but NBC has once again put the show on some kind of hiatus with no real reason given and no date that the new episodes will air. When this happened in late 2011, fan outcries got the show back on the air for the second half of the season in 2012. Regardless of when Community is back on the air, you can make the best of this unfortunate hiatus by watching the first three seasons on Netflix and prepping yourself for one more year at Greendale Community College.


Ian Goodwillie is a columnist for the Spectator Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @ThePrairieGeek and on Tumblr at

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