Community was a show that I loved when it was on the air (mental illness is a helluva thing). Looking back on it as a wiser adult, I have not written the show off completely, but it is no longer a show I hold in such high esteem. It was fun enough though. Here is how I rank the seasons.
6. Season 4: Gas-Leak
To be honest, I will never re-watch this season of television. Whatever else you can say about Community, it always felt like the very specific vision of one Dan Harmon. The idea that the show was worth doing at all without Harmon is frankly bizarre, and it is so weird that this season exists at all. Some failed seasons of television are fascinating, but this one was just depressing.
I am of two minds when it comes to comparing season 6 and season 5. On one hand, season 6 is more cohesive and a bit more committed to just working with what they had left. On the other hand, having NO Chevy Chase, Donald Glover, and Yvette Nicole Brown (in any real way) for the whole season was just too much for the show to endure. Keith David and Paget Brewster offered something new, but not enough to overcome what the show as deeply missing. The magic was simply gone by this point and the show was but an imitation of our memory of it.
4. Season 5: Goodbye, Troy & Pierce
In a real twist of the knife, NBC/Sony/Whatever brought Dan Harmon back after season 4 only for Chevy Chase to no longer be on the show and for Donald Glover to follow him out the door a few episodes into season 5. It led to a chaotic and disconnected season of television. Unlike the final season, this penultimate season did have a bit more left in the tank for the actual comedy part of the sitcom format. It was a shell of itself compared to the first three seasons, but it’s fine enough overall.
3. Season 2: Pierce Becomes Cartman
Seasons 2 & 3 really leaned into the “high concept episodes.” I always found this to be a feast or famine approach as the concepts that missed missed big. The biggest difference between these two seasons is the characterization of Pierce. He is just TOO cruel in season 2, and it makes the show too unpleasant at times. I can see others really latching onto this characterization, but I see it as a detriment to the show overall. As such, I always held season 2 in slightly lower esteem.
2. Season 3: #SixSeasonsAndAMovie
When season 3 ends and the “#sixseasonsandamovie” graphic flashed across the screen, it felt like A Moment. A call to arms almost. Community was great (or so we thought) and deserved to keep going (or so we thought we wanted) for as long as possible. In retrospect, we now know it was the last great moment of being a fan of the show. Everything that came after this moment was so compromised that it almost felt like it was not the same show anymore. Season 3 was not just the last good season of the show, it was what should have been the end of the show.
1. Season 1: Welcome to Greendale
One of my favorite parts of getting invested in a sitcom is watching the show explore its strength and weaknesses. More often than not, a show’s exploration phase is never the best time for the show. Community was an odd duck though where the exploration was the highlight. The gradual progression to the show exploring high concept gimmicks for episodes was extremely rewarding as the “normal” episodes got you invested before the general ratcheting up of the goofier stuff. The feeling of discovering the brilliance of Donald Glover. Joel McHale growing into the role of a lifetime. Chevy Chase getting one last day in the sun. The whole cast (okay, they never truly figured out what to do with Dr. Ken) slowly being developed and settling into strengths. It was just a textbook example of how to develop your voice as a showrunner and how to make the best use of your cast. I will always take the most joy from watching back season 1 in comparison to the others.