After a rocky Season 5, Community went out on a high note with its final run, although many fans didn't get to witness it due to Yahoo's exclusive rights and their short-lived streaming service. Luckily, Hulu has picked up the entirety of the show, including the bitter-sweet Season 6. Despite having a reduced budget and cast, the redemptive final season explores new, wistful territory while staying true to its hyperactive meta-comedy and manages to wrap up the story of Glendale in typical Harmon fashion. The microcosm of Greendale is home to many characters but Dan Harmon has a knack for creating original roles for guest stars to occupy that allow them to fold into and add something extra to the Community universe.
1. Jack Black - Buddy Austin In “Investigative Journalism” (Season 1, Episode 13)
More divisive than American politics or Marmite, Jack Black is either dearly loved or considered the catalyst of nausea by audiences. Community creator Dan Harmon carved the perfect role for the hyperactive ball of energy as the first big guest star on the show. Buddy appears out of nowhere (despite the montage of clips that show him poorly edited into memorable moments with the group) and desperately tries to slip into the group but is rejected because of his karate kicks, his lovable-stoner image and the fact that he turns everything into an annoying song or innuendo; you know, basically everything that made Jack Black famous? It's always great to see a guest star who is self-aware and not afraid to make fun of himself, and Jack Black takes the cake.
2. Tony Hale - Professor Marion Holly In “Beginner Pottery” (Season 1, Episode 19)
In this episode, Jeff is desperately trying to find the easiest class to score some quick credits in without doing work, so he joins Beginner's Pottery thinking it will be a cakewalk. At first he is right, the class is taught by the free-spirited Marion Holly who sports a Dashiki shirt and calls his students his "little blueberries." Holly shows his dark side once he begins talking about Ghost and the hoards of imitators he has seen come through his class. Most famous for his roles on Veep and Arrested Development, where he plays weak-willed mamma's boys, Tony Hale has never seemed more ferocious than when he lays down his Zero Ghost Tolerance Policy, threatening to cut anyone who so much as hums the first three notes of the soundtrack. It's yet another example of Community's strong reference catalogue, in addition to pushing guest stars to act out of their usual comfort zone.
3. Josh Holloway - The Black Rider In “A Fistfull Of Paintballs” (Season 2, Episode 23)
The original paintball episode from Season 1 ("Modern Warfare") stands out as easily one of the best episodes in TV comedy in recent years, but they had to find a way to raise the stakes and make it better in Season 2. This time around we witnessed a Western-themed clash of titans; Winger and excellent guest star Josh Holloway battled for supremacy and male pride in one of the show's most explosive episodes. It's always fun to watch an equally handsome character get under Jeff's skin and challenge his place at the alpha male podium, as this is when we get his best insults and his most insecure freak outs (i.e. we see the real Jeff).
4. Betty White - June Bauer In Several Episodes Of Season 2
Community found novel ways of using former comedy icons by writing characters that played off of their strengths but also made fun of their current states as half-forgotten legends. The obvious example is Chevvy Chase, but there was also Fred Willard, Jason Alexander and of course the incomparable Betty White. She played an Anthropology professor throughout Season 2 and was constantly surprising Greendale by hiding her crazier side under the appearance of an elegant and well respected, mature woman. Here we see Jeff showing the class that he's learned the true moral lesson of Betty White's class, only to find that the only truth in Anthropology is that all humans are violent and only the strong survive.
5. LeVar Burton - As Himself In Several Episodes
Most guest stars have had well-written roles to slip into, but Community also had a knack of dropping famous faces just playing themselves. In most comedy shows, there would be a poorly plotted event and the featured star would make a cameo to boost ratings, but in this episode we see Troy meeting one of his idols and his reaction is arguably one of the best Donald Glover moments in the series. As a twisted joke, Pierce arranges for LeVar Burton (star of Roots, Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation) to stop by to meet Troy, one of his biggest worshippers, knowing that Troy will totally spoil the meeting. Troy completely shuts down and is incapable of speaking, reacting, even blinking, and misses out on asking his idol the hundreds of questions he has been waiting to ask. Burton reappears numerous times, which shows he's not a cheap cameo but a bonafide part of the Greendale universe.
Greendale, much like Springfield, expands with every episode, with new characters popping up once or several times and adding new layers to the fictional world. Each guest star (there have been many) on Community plays with their celebrity persona in smart and funny ways. Whether it's a mega star such as Jack Black or lesser known stars of the past, Harmon knows the audience will recognize and appreciate them. Maybe that's why the final season was so poignant and bittersweet; we were used to Greendale being a bustling world with fresh faces every week, but the cast was whittled down to the core and was left to do some soul-searching instead.
Who were your favorite guest stars on Community?