There was no show that did meta better than NBC’s Community from 2009 to 2015. Some might even suggest they singularly pushed the meta concept forward, now used and abused on TV and in movies.
Whether true or not, the show had plenty of meta visuals ribbing pop culture right and left. The show also ribbed itself, of course, which made it unique. Those particular Easter eggs are still being scoped out by fans who continue to find them.
A lot of those Easter eggs are fairly well-known. Yet, a good number are worth discovering on one’s own. For those watching casually, a useful list like this one can be helpful in making Community a fun watch all over again.
What was ‘Community’ about?
As a refresher, Community was about a community college in Greendale, Colorado, based loosely on a similar college showrunner Dan Harmon once attended. The plot involved lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) lying about having a law degree, hence disbarment. To compensate, he attends Greendale Community College to attempt a real law degree.
While there, Winger tries to hook up with attractive co-ed Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) who turns out to be different from what he expects. Nevertheless, Winger is the personification of smarminess and manipulates people to get what he wants.
This plot likely would have been milked to death in any ordinary sitcom. Instead, it was only the base of the show, leaving it open to countless meta-parodies of pop culture.
After a while, nobody really cared about the stories from within and just tuned in to see what thing they would parody next. Then again, some personal stories of the characters did take focus, including Winger himself who eventually wised up and learned to appreciate his fellow student friends.
Why was ‘Community’ canceled?
Despite the creative nature of the show, production was constantly troubled. This was due to personal problems from Dan Harmon and odd behavior from Chevy Chase on the set.
After three seasons, NBC fired Harmon. This turned into a major mistake since the writing suffered through Season Four.
NBC relented and hired him back for the fifth season. The damage had already been done, though, and NBC gave the show a pink slip in 2014. It never had high ratings, to begin with, due to its cult status.
It was popular enough, though, to a point where Yahoo! decided to revive it for one season through their later doomed streaming service (Yahoo! Screen). Hardly anyone tuned in, making that lone streaming season one with a big asterisk.
‘Community’ Easter eggs no fan should miss
Take a look at this countdown of 13 Community Easter eggs fans still talk about today:
13. “You’re the Worst!” became a recurring catchphrase. While the show had various catchphrases, this one kept recurring in nearly every episode.
12. Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) teams up with LeVar Burton to go on a journey around the world. In the next episode, an on-screen news crawl shows Troy and LeVar were apparently captured by pirates on their travel quest.
11. Dan Harmon took an insulting tweet he received and turned it into comedy gold. The tweet he received said: “Both Modern Family and Glee are streets ahead of your meta bullsh*t”. Harmon took the phrase “Streets Ahead” and used it as a continuing catchphrase.
10. Members of Donald Glover’s old improv comic team (Derrick Group) appeared in cameos. They played wedding crew workers when Jeff and Britta get married.
9. A tribute was paid to Dan Harmon after he was initially fired. A reference to “Danielle Harmon” was more than noticeable during an episode about a beauty contest.
8. One of the most celebrated gags is Abed’s digital scans of the popular girls in the school. In his Robocop-like scans, it shows summaries of future plot points the show had yet to film. This was one of the best meta inside jokes the show ever played on viewers.
7. The logo “A Dan Harmon/Russo Production” shows up periodically through the show’s run as a sly rib at the MCU’s Russo Brothers.
6. Troy once suggested to Jeff he should take a class in pottery. Sure enough, later in the season, Jeff took that pottery class. Another example of how Community made an early reference to things happening later.
5. Troy is seen wearing Spider-Man pajamas when waking up one morning during Season Two. This was a nod to an online campaign to make Donald Glover the next Spider-Man at the time.
4. When NBC’s webpage for Community was up, they created fake bios made to look like real community college websites. On Pierce Hawthorne’s (Chevy Chase) page, it mentions Chase’s Fletch as Pierce’s favorite movie.
3. The show referenced other shows, including latter actors appearing in meta roles. Some examples include Mad Men and Cougar Town. The crossover references/casting had never been attempted on any prior sitcom.
2. The real Beetlejuice finally appears after the show had a recurring gag of the cast members saying his name three times.
1. Stories going on in the background of the current action were arguably the most creative meta exercises ever done on TV. One of the most memorable was seeing Abed helping a woman give birth to a baby, presumably his own.