In just a few hours, the darkest timeline will finally come to an end, and "Community" will return to the airwaves, at 8 ET on NBC. In honor of the show's return on the 15th, I've decided to pick my 15 favorite episodes (out of the 59 that have aired so far). I'm sure many "Community" fans will have their own favorites in their own order, so feel free to yell at me for ranking your favorites too low or leaving them off my list entirely.
Some episodes it killed me to leave off: "Beginner Pottery", "Basic Rocket Science", "Mixology Certification", "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" and "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux". And all the other episodes that didn't make the list.
15. "Regional Holiday Music" (S3, ep. 10)
When I first watched this episode, I thought it was 2/3 great, 1/3 mediocre, but the entire thing has grown on me since it aired. Maybe because it was the last episode before the hiatus. We'll have to see how it holds up once new episodes start airing again.
14. "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" (S3, ep. 9)
Each season, "Community" has delivered something special with its ninth episode, and Season 3 was no exception. The anime foosball segment takes this episode up from just "really good" to "spectacular".
13. "Critical Film Studies" (S2, ep. 19)
This episode is phenomenal on its own, but is made so much better by Danny Pudi's actual cameo in the season finale of "Cougar Town", an event referenced by Abed within this episode. My favorite part of the actual episode has to be when Abed's plan unravels, and Jeff flips out, realizing Abed's "real conversation" was just another pop culture reference.
12. "Contemporary American Poultry" (S1, ep. 21)
Speaking of pop culture references, this episode is an homage to "Goodfellas", wrapped around a story about chicken fingers. The episode is fantastic from start to finish, plus it gave us "Annie's Boobs".
11. "Investigative Journalism" (S1, ep. 13)
Jack Black as the "Poochie" of the show, Jeff as "Hawkeye", the twist at the end with the "cool" group, everything about this episode worked.
10. "Anthropology 101" (S2, ep. 1)
This episode had so much going for it, even beyond the Betty White cameo. I loved Abed treating everyone's life like a sitcom episode, followed by his explanation of why he prefers TV to real life. Also, the George Clooney impersonater.
9. "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" (S2, ep. 11)
Everything is better in stop-motion animation, especially mental breakdowns. The "Lost" insult was pretty awesome, even for a "Lost" fan like myself. Besides being incredibly entertaining, the episode provided some great insight into Abed's character.
8. "Paradigms of Human Memory" (S2, ep. 21)
By rule, clip shows always suck. Unless they're clip shows with clips from episodes that didn't happen, meaning they're really all new footage. The ballsiness of "Community" to even try and do an episode like this was insane. The Jeff-Annie montage (followed by the Abed-Pierce one and the Chang-Annie's Boobs one) forever changed how I listen to the song "Gravity", and Jeff's mash-up speech might be the greatest of all his speeches. And this is the episode that gave us "six seasons and a movie".
7. "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design" (S2, ep. 9)
Two words: "Dean Dangerous".
6. "A Fistful of Paintballs"/"For a Few Paintballs More" (S2, eps. 23 and 24)
OK, I'm kind of cheating by combining this into one entry, especially since these are two very distinct episodes (the first is a Western homage, the second a Star Wars one), but you can't really have one without the other. I disagree with people who said the second paintball episodes topped the original (as you'll see shortly), but they didn't disappoint as a sequel, which is impressive in of itself.
5. "Epidemiology" (S2, ep. 6)
The first thing I ever saw from "Community" was the "flying cat" scene from this episode. Even out of context, I thought it was amazing, and to this day I have no idea why I didn't immediately start watching the show. It's so hard to pick a favorite moment from this episode, it's so full of them. But if forced to choose, I think I have to go with zombie Jeff still using his Blackberry. It was such a small moment that felt so right.
4. "Debate 109" (S1, ep. 9)
When I finally got into "Community", this was the episode where, for me, the show made the jump from "this is pretty cool" to "Oh Em Gee this is the greatest accomplishment in the history of mankind." Also, I've been on the Jeff/Annie ship ever since.
3. "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" (S2, ep. 14)
I've written about this episode before, but I'm still amazed that the writers were able to take a subject that shouldn't be funny at all (suicide) and craft an hilarious episode around it by not making it the subject of the jokes but the avenue for them instead. It was also great to see Jeff embrace his leadership role, rather than slouch into it, even if he had ulteriour motives behind it.
2. "Modern Warfare" (S1, ep. 23)
OH MY GOD HOW IS THE PAINTBALL EPISODE NOT NUMBER ONE ON YOUR LIST?! YOU TOTALLY BRITTA'D THIS WHOLE THING!
1. "Remedial Chaos Theory" (S3, ep. 4)
I can't watch this episode enough. It's an amazing look at the qualities that make up each of the characters and how the group -- which shouldn't work at all, based on the disparate personalities involved -- leans on each person to come together and form something amazing. And it's all done through an Abed-fueled sci-fi multiverse framing device. EVIL TROY AND EVIL ABED!
OK, so that's the list for now. Don't forget to watch "Community", Thursday, 8 ET on NBC.