A lot of things have changed since my freshman orientation week, but my go-to “fun fact” has not: My favorite TV show is still Community.
I could tell you why it’s my favorite show, or I could talk about its unique history, or I could just try to convey how this show, with its jokes and its wacky characters and its pop (pop!) culture references, is one of the most real shows on
television Yahoo! Screen and how it’s gotten me through all the big moments of my life.
I won’t talk about most of those things because, let’s be real, you don’t care. Still, before anything else, Community is a show about people–people who go to college. Because of that, it touches on a lot of college experiences, and during my first semester, I found myself thinking “This is just like that Community episode when…” more times than I could possibly count. If you’re not quite sure what to expect in college, take a look at the episodes in this list (and allow me to introduce you to the best show in the universe).
1. Meeting Different People and How to Deal
It’s embedded right in the premise: Community is about a group of people from different backgrounds who come together to form a family (and to study sometimes). While these differences are often a source of conflict–as in the first season Christmas episode, when they reveal that they all believe in different religions–later episodes focus on the humanity that brings them all together. My favorite episode is still season one’s Science of Illusion, in which April Fool’s Day ends with a tear-filled group hug and confessions of their insecurities: Britta wants to be more fun, Annie wants to be more mature, Shirley wants to seem younger, Pierce wants to be respected, and Troy wants Jeff to think that he totally understood the Cookie Crisp Wizard reference when he doesn’t.
What does any of that have to do with college? I’m not going to guarantee that you’ll find a family to whom you can confess all your insecurities in college, but no matter where you go, you’ll come across people from different backgrounds and with different experiences and perspectives. A lot of my friends are international students or from the East Coast (which, to an Arizona girl, may as well be international). Some come from private boarding schools. Some spent a year or a semester traveling abroad. Some have had a rough life, and some have lived inside of a bubble for eighteen years. All of them have hearts and feel insecure sometimes.
Relevant episodes: basically all of them, but these in particular highlight the differences between characters, how they act as a source of conflict, and how that conflict is resolved: Pilot, Comparative Religion, Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples.
2. Trying New Things
In their journeys of self-exploration, Community’s characters are constantly trying new things. Jeff enrolls in community college, forcing him to learn how to study and adapt to an environment where success isn’t measured by the shade of silver of your tongue. Troy, who plays football, takes a dance class. Annie and Jeff run for student government. The entire study group fills in for glee club. While these extracurricular activities usually serve as a source of conflict for the week, rather than as a recurring aspect of the show, they present valuable lessons for the Community characters: Troy figures out how to reconcile his masculinity with his dance classes, Annie and Jeff discover the dark side of politics, and the study group realizes that glee club is inherently evil.
These lessons aren’t restricted to character situations, either. Can anybody say “paintball war”? Animated Christmas? Musical episode? Puppet episode (even if it was season four)? Community, more than any other show I’ve seen in my vast eighteen years of experience procrastinating homework by sitting in front of a colorful screen, is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of the show’s reality. Although it was eventually cancelled, it pulled off amazing feats in its time on air (and will continue to pull off amazing feats in March online).
Community teaches us that trying new things is valuable, and college is the perfect place to apply this lesson. At club and activities fair, I took flyers for at least twenty clubs, and though I didn’t attend every meeting and dropped down to a few clubs, I tried out activities that I would have never considered in high school.
Relevant Episodes: Interpretive Dance, Virtual Systems Analysis, Regional Holiday Music
3. There’s Always Somebody Better
Among Community’s recurring characters are Rich, Jeff’s talented, smart, and all-around-nice-guy nemesis, and Annie Kim, Annie’s evil personality twin. Jeff hates Rich for being more likable and a better person than he is. Annie hates Annie Kim because she beat her to starting a Model UN at the school. Although Rich and Annie Kim don’t join the study group, they pop up every so often as a reminder to Jeff and Annie that they aren’t the best. A reverse example occurs in a season four episode, when Jeff meets his younger and pathetic half-brother. (Actually, season four itself is a reverse example: Dan Harmon’s first three seasons set a high benchmark, and under new leadership, season four just couldn’t match up.)
No matter how charming or intelligent you believe you are, there is always somebody better. Luckily, there is usually somebody worse, too, but we don’t get quite as jealous about that. This is especially true in college. You’re probably not the best anymore, and it’s okay. I’ve met people who are significantly smarter than I am or who have accomplished more in one semester than I could in a lifetime. Rather than letting the jealousy eat me alive, I try to learn from them–as Jeff decides at the end of Asian Population Studies–and use their experiences to make myself better.
Relevant Episodes: Geography of Global Conflict, Basic Pottery, Asian Population Studies
4. Drugs, Alcohol, and Other Big Deals In College
A ton of episodes deal with drugs and alcohol. Way back in the first season, Pierce trades pills (tip: don’t do that) with Starburns and threatens to crush himself under a fort constructed out of chairs and tables. Jeff and Abed get extremely drunk so that Jeff will drunk-dial Britta. Pierce fights (or, well, gladly embraces) a painkiller addiction in the second season, and Troy’s 21st birthday involves the entire study group drinking at a bar. Unsurprisingly, drugs play a huge role in the puppet episode. Addiction is a real concern, if you or someone has a drug or alchol addiction check out this guide to select a new rehab center. I was shocked by the amount of drugs and alcohol I saw in college, but thanks to Community, my sheltered self knew how to deal with it. That is, I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs because they do terrible things to good people. And who needs alcohol or drugs when you’re addicted to television?
Relevant episodes: Introduction to Statistics, Mixology Certification, Celebrity Pharmacology, Intro to Felt Surrogacy
One of Community’s running jokes is that it used to be a show about college, and now it’s not. I mean, how can it be when characters get into paintball wars (and, really, a lot of different type of make-believe wars) and parody films and television every other episode? Still, Community is surprisingly applicable to the college experience, and for you high schoolers out there, it wouldn’t hurt to watch all five seasons before going off to college. You might learn something (or fall in love with it).
*Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored by NBC, Sony, or Yahoo! Screen. I just love Community.