There may be no form of comedy more delightful than a perfectly executed parody. It’d a rare thing, especially these days when the standards for what “parodies” are have been stretched to the point of breaking by Family Guy and Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer of Date Movie infamy. The ones that work, though, from the early Python movies to Shaun of the Dead have become cult classics for a reason. Community’s “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” got every note of its parody so correct that it managed to outdo even “Modern Warfare” or “Epidemiology.” It just clicked in a certain way that every plot point and joke went off—it’s no hyperbole to say that this is one of my favorite episodes of television, period.
Unsurprisingly “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” is an episode about the titular game, but it goes beyond just the game and into fantasy geek-dom in general. It kicks off with an introduction parodying the one from The Fellowship of the Ring (the movie), giving us backstory for how everyone came to be playing the game in the first place. Jeff saw that Fat Neil was feeling depressed and wanted to do something to help him out, so he brought the group together to play D&D, since so far as he knew that was Neil’s only interest. It should be noted here that the Jeff we saw at the beginning of season one wouldn’t have thought of this; it’s a tribute to how much he’s grown as a person since the show began that this doesn’t feel out of character.
This begins well, with the group’s well-meaning plans going off well enough until Pierce enters the room. Since he’s an abrasive jerk, no one invited Pierce to play, so he goes ahead and invites himself. He then, through an unlikely series of dice roles, insults Fat Neil and steals his sword before running off. This forces the rest of the group to really band together against Pierce, at which point they really get into the game they’re playing. It’s not just humoring Neil, they’re truly enjoying themselves. They eventually track Pierce down and slay him, which makes everyone happy, especially, it turns out, Fat Neil—not for the reason you’d expect though, but because Pierce made the game much more enjoyable.
“Dungeons & Dragons” is a lot like the show’s previous bottle episode, “Collaborative Calligraphy,” and not just because it almost entirely takes place in the study room. It’s also because the episode’s primarily interested in putting all of the characters together and seeing how they interact. By now it’s clear that this almost always leads to the best episodes of the show, it’s when the characters split up and explore multiple plotlines that Community falters. This focus really leads every character, with perhaps the exception of Shirley, into some great moments during the episode.
Then there’s the element of parody, about which I can say as only a person who grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons can that Community captured the essence of the game perfectly. With the exception of Freaks and Geeks, this was only the second time I’ve seen media of any sort portray the game correctly, and the show’s jokes about the subject weren’t cheap. It was a perfect depiction of both what’s stupid and what’s great about the game, and the way the characters gradually became engrossed in something they had such doubts about was perfect. Combined with the Lord of the Rings narration, the parody couldn’t have worked better.
It’s easy to complain about how Community had to really stretch in order to make an episode about DnD (Fat Neil was barely a character before now), or the way it kind of existed outside of the show’s continuity. But who cares—as far as I’m concerned it was one of the most purely enjoyable episodes of television ever made.
•The narration was just as well-done as the rest of the episode, right down to the way it was spoken by the janitor.
•Fat Neil was “born stout of heart but large of bone.”
•As far as cast nicknames go, we had Jeff the Liar, Troy the Obtuse, Shirley the Cloying, Abed the Undiagnosable, Britta the Needlessly Defiant, Annie the Day-Planner, and Pierce the Insensitive. Also a couple other Pierce names, which I’m sure they could go all day on. Old people jokes are never too difficult.
•”They realized that Chang had been there and felt too awkward to mention it.”
•”The balance between good and Pierce.” Yeah, that sounds about right.
•I loooved the episode’s special intro.
•”We’re just going to ignore that hate crime, eh?” – What do you guys think about Chang’s dark elf? I was fine with it, especially since it was acknowledging the black face aspect… but maybe someone found it offensive?
•Troy’s right, every game could use something to Jenga.
•Jeff’s character: Marrrrr
•”I attack them using my … additional notes.”
•”You’re the AT&T of people.”
•Jeff: “What am I not good at?” Britta: “Sex.”
•Interesting choice not to have Chang be the evil one. I guess it’s because no one would have issues with just straight-up punching him, whereas they choose to humor Pierce.
•”Shirley doing the sign of the cross when Chang dies is a great detail.
•”You have … successfully rubbed your balls on his sword.”
•”If that’s sarcasm I can’t tell, because everything in this game is… silly.”
•”And so it was that the group began to describe themselves walking.” – DnD at its finest.
•Abed is the perfect dungeonmaster. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking it’d be great to play a game with him.
•Annie at great length describing her sexual fantasies is an amazing little set-piece. And my crush on Alison Brie just became deeper.
•Shirley on Pierce being injured: “I can’t tell you how long I dreamed of this moment! … in the game.”
•”I can make it up to you, I can find a fatter Neil.”
•”I won dungeons and dragons, and it was advanced.”
•Also happy that Abed ending things with Excelsior—Stan Lee would be proud.