Every Main Character On Community Ranked Worst To Best
In the second-season "Community" episode "Paradigms of Human Memory," Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) develops an obsession with the swiftly-canceled NBC show "The Cape." Abed is addicted to the series, and insists that his beloved superhero drama be given "six seasons and a movie." The catchphrase was adopted by fans of "Community," and repeated on social media each year as the sitcom struggled in the ratings. "Community" eventually limped its way to six seasons, one of which aired on the little-remembered streaming service "Yahoo! Screen." However, despite its dedicated fanbase, the show went dormant in 2015 after airing its final episode, "Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television."
But "Community" isn't dead yet. In 2022, NBC's streaming service, Peacock, announced on Twitter that a "Community" movie had finally received the greenlight. That feels very appropriate. The show's theme song includes the lyric "I can't count the reasons I should stay," but I definitely know the reason why I'm excited to return to the halls of Greendale Community College: the show's memorable characters. As "Community" went on, the Spanish class study group became the Greendale Seven, which gave way to the Save Greendale Committee, and then started to lose members; the show added more stars to make up the difference, but not every one of them was up to the task. Read on for a look back at every main character on "Community," ranked from worst to best.
Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase)
In the early episodes of "Community," Pierce (Chevy Chase) served as a father figure for Jeff (Joel McHale), mostly as a way to get closer to the charismatic group leader. The rest of the time, he was around primarily to make outdated racist, homophobic, sexist, and xenophobic remarks that the rest of the study group brushed off. The shtick got old fast, especially once it was revealed that Chase was miserable on set and had a habit of making everyone else miserable, too. Deadline reported that he used the N-word during a behind-the-scenes blowup, and he himself told The Huffington Post that he regretted ever signing on. "It was a big mistake!" he said. "I just sort of hung around because I have three daughters and a wife, and I figured out I might as well make some bread, every week, so I can take care of them in the way they want."
The best plots involving Pierce were things that happened around him, not because of him. Season 3, episode 6 ("Advanced Gay") is a particularly nice showcase for the character. Pierce's family business, Hawthorne Wipes, becomes an iconic product for the gay community; this leads to the first-ever "Gay Bash" being thrown on the Greendale campus, featuring a performance from "RuPaul's Drag Race" superstar Shangela. During the episode, Pierce makes a few fitful gestures at growth, but his omnipresent homophobic father makes it difficult for him to accept others. It's a shame that Chase never got out of Pierce's way.
Señor Chang (Ken Jeong)
In the "Community" pilot, the study group forms around the Spanish class the main characters are taking together. This course is taught by Señor Benjamin Franklin Chang (Ken Jeong), an eccentric teacher prone to making silly voices, exaggerated characters, and uncomfortably-prolonged eye contact. Still, though, in those early episodes, he's somewhat grounded. See, for example, his lecture in season 1, episode 2 ("Spanish 101"), during which he explains to the class that he often gets asked why he, an Asian man, teaches Spanish. The voices and wild hand gestures that follow are clearly an act, and he seems like a real person.
He didn't stay that way. After the study group leaves his class, Chang hangs around for the rest of the show. It felt like the "Community" creators knew they had a popular character and wanted to keep him involved, but his storylines became increasingly bizarre and over-the-top. By the end of the third season, Chang becomes a power-hungry security guard who orchestrates a coup at Greendale, kidnapping the Dean and expelling the study group. He suffers from amnesia, joins the study group, lives in the school's air vents, becomes a math professor, goes to jail, is an internet celebrity, and more. He also becomes a pun machine, sticking his own name into every sentence he can. The problem? "Community" already had one of those, and I'll take a "duali-dean of man" over a bout of "Changnesia" any day.
Professor Buzz Hickey (Jonathan Banks)
"Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul" star Jonathan Banks joined the cast of "Community" in season 5, playing a professor named Buzz Hickey. This is the season in which Jeff is hired as a law professor, and he shares an office with Buzz. The professor ultimately joins the study group, which has now become the Save Greendale Committee, and befriends Abed, who he bonds with over their shared love of storytelling. His field of study is criminology, which is what Annie wants to get into. However, the two don't initially get along because Annie is resentful of having received an A- in his class.
Hickey's best episode is "Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons," which serves as a sequel to the "Dungeons & Dragons" episode in the show's second season. The group concocts the game as a chance for Buzz to reconnect with his estranged son, Hank (David Cross), who loves the tabletop role-playing game. Unfortunately, they are not able to put aside their differences and work together, and the episode ends without much resolution for their relationship. This makes it hard to care too much about Hickey.
The character didn't return in Season 6. Instead, eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that, in episode 6 ("Basic Email Security"), one of the lunch lady's leaked emails bears the subject line, "Buzz Hickey Memorial Services." Killing the character off-screen feels like an acknowledgment by the writing staff that, despite Banks' pedigree, Hickey didn't really work.
Elroy Patashnik (Keith David)
After Pierce and Buzz leave the group, Elroy Patashnik (Keith David) becomes the final ornery older man to join the Save Greendale Committee. Subverting the trope, however, Elroy is actually a much smarter, less-offensive, and more modern take on this archetype. He was an inventor when he was younger — a pioneer in the field of virtual reality, specifically — and Greendale hires him to be the new head of the IT department. Elroy isn't even in the full final season, but thanks to David's performance, he makes an impression anyway. His complete inability to retain details about the group's complicated history make him a stand-in for the audience, happy to go along with things even if he can't quite remember when who met whom.
One of the most memorable episodes of season 6 is "Basic RV Repair & Palmistry," which sees the Save Greendale Committee pile into Elroy's RV for a road trip. Tensions run high when the RV runs out of gas, offering an excellent chance to learn more about Elroy. After all, just as we discovered more about the study group when they left campus in season 2's "Mixology Certification," getting to see where Elroy lives reveals new dimensions to the character. He's one of the first to apologize for losing his cool, and the rest of the group follows the example he sets, already looking to him as a leader.
Frankie Dart (Paget Brewster)
"This is the first I've heard that I'm a character on a show, but I'm excited to be one," Frankie Dart (Paget Brewster) tells Abed shortly after she is introduced in the premiere episode of season 6. Frankie has been brought in by Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) to whip the school into shape after a Frisbee-related roof collapse. She agrees with Abed's concern that she is going to be a boring addition to the show, and in doing so makes herself endearing; her willingness to play along with Abed's quirkiness is the first crack in an icy persona, and she soon becomes a welcome member of the group.
Though Frankie is only a main character on "Community" in its final season, she's a memorable one. By episode 6, "Basic Email Security," she feels like she fully fits in. When the group's emails are leaked by hackers, the committee members can see what everyone else has been saying about them. Frankie is furious to find out that there's a betting pool about whether or not she is a lesbian, and has a funny meltdown over the situation that veers into impressively emotional territory for a character who's only been around a handful of episodes. By the series finale — a reality-shattering look at what might be in each character's future — it's easy to wish that Frankie had been around longer.
Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown)
Shirley Bennett first arrives at Greendale Community College as a recently-divorced single mom who's going back to school to study business, hoping to open a sandwich shop. She's a devout Christian, and never misses an opportunity to tell one of the others when she finds their behavior to be distasteful. That could be a recipe for an annoying character, but Shirley's a lot more nuanced than that. Namely? She's a total hypocrite. Thanks to Yvette Nicole Brown's ability to deliver a withering, the moments when her pious mask slips result in some of the most fun scenes in the show.
Shirley is a mother figure, even though, as she likes to point out, she's the same age as Jeff. The other characters look to her for guidance, but she has problems of her own, including an on-again, off-again relationship with her ex-husband, Andre (Malcolm Jamal Warner).
Shirley eventually opens the sandwich shop — fittingly called Shirley's Sandwiches — but it feels like the character gets trapped in a cycle of having the business open, then shut down, then open again. Finally, Shirley moves to Atlanta at the beginning of season 6. Though Yvette Nicole Brown does appear in the "Community" series finale, it feels like the character's time on the show got cut short, moving her down in this ranking.
Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs)
I know what you're thinking about this ranking: Famously, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) is "the worst." In the early seasons, though, Britta was a lot of fun to watch precisely because her social justice antics annoyed everyone around her. She is a woman who's unafraid to stand up for any (and every) cause, and that leads her to put her foot in her mouth more often than not. For example, in the sixth episode of season 3 ("Advanced Gay") she utters the now-infamous and endlessly memeable quip, "I can excuse racism, but I draw the line at animal cruelty." Even funnier than the line is the look of absolute terror on Jacobs' face when Shirley deadpans, "You can excuse racism?"
But something has shifted a couple episodes later. When the group performs in a holiday-themed concert ("Regional Holiday Music"), Dean Pelton reads the program and gripes, "Oh, Britta's in this?" Soon enough, the character's main function seems to be giving everyone else an opportunity to complain about her. Her relationship with Troy is a bright spot, humanizing two characters who can both be pretty infantile, but by the first episode of season 5, the "Community" writers seem to realize that they have some reworking to do. "Britta, when we met, you were an eclectic anarchist," Jeff tells her. "How did you become the group's airhead?" Things are mostly better from then on, successfully steering the character out of her nosedive.
Jeff Winger (Joel McHale)
All of the characters on "Community" underwent some growth over the course of the series, but aside from Britta being stripped of her intelligence, perhaps the biggest shift belongs to Jeff Winger. At first, Jeff is a handsome guy who thinks he's too good for Greendale. He's the eye-rolling, grounding force for the show's more fantastical flights of fancy. He's also involved in numerous love triangles, none of which are worthwhile, but which suck up a lot of time in the first few seasons regardless.
Thankfully, not long into the show's run, Jeff buys into the zany escapades of the people around him. His infamous "Winger speeches" wrap up episodes with inspirational fervor, delivering advice and support to a group of friends that he quickly grows to love. The too-cool-for-school posturing can be fun, and Joel McHale is great at it — see, for example, season 2's "Epidemiology," the zombie Halloween episode, where zombie-Jeff lounges against a wall, still mindlessly texting Even more fun, however, are the moments when Jeff lets go and joins in the nonsense, like any given paintball episode. Playing the straight man in a comedy as wacky as "Community" can be a thankless job, but McHale does it well.
Annie Edison (Alison Brie)
Annie Edison (Alison Brie) starts the series as a goody-two-shoes, there to learn and keep everyone on track. However, like most of the group, Annie's revealed to be more multi-dimensional than her introduction suggests. Annie and Troy went to high school together, and he announces to the group that she's at Greendale because she had an Adderall addiction that led to a mental breakdown.
"Community" spends the rest of the series finding those little cracks in Annie's persona, and Brie is fantastic at playing the moments when she just explodes. See, for example, the eighth episode of season 2, "Cooperative Calligraphy," the bottle episode in which Annie forces the study group to stay behind so she can figure out who took her purple pen. Her anguished howl when her friends are about to leave shocks everyone into submission. She has a similar moment in season 5, telling an IT lady (also played by Paget Brewster) that she wants her to unblock "everyyythingggggggg."
In the first season, Jeff tells Buddy (Jack Black), "Annie's pretty young. We try not to sexualize her." The characters might not, but the show mines some wonderful absurdity out of Annie's sexuality. In "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons," she mimes what appears to be a quite graphic description of her character, Hector the Well-Endowed. The following season, she makes her performance of a seductive baby-voiced Christmas song laugh-out-loud funny. By the end of it, she's straight-up babbling, ending with the ditty with "boopy-doopy-doop-boop ... sex."
Dean Craig Pelton (Jim Rash)
Craig Pelton (Jim Rash), the hapless dean of Greendale, is a nonstop joke machine. Unlike Señor Chang, the show knows how to use Dean Pelton sparingly, which is his greatest strength. For the most part, he pops in and out of the study room once or twice an episode, usually wearing an absurd costume and often delivering puns so groan-worthy that you can't help but laugh at their audacity. From his feud with the equally-effete dean of City College to his long-running, glass-closeted crush on Jeff Winger, the Dean is a pitiful, hysterical man you just have to root for.
It's tempting to fill this section with a list of his best puns or a rundown of his best costumes — his Lady Gaga outfit, maybe, or when he dressed as a chainsaw-wielding devil who screeches "Gay marriage!" The obvious winner, though, comes in season 5, episode 9, "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing." In it, the Dean dresses like a giant Payday candy bar to warn the group that Greendale's payroll has been delayed. He delivers an intense rap as the treat, shocking even himself by growling bars like "Barack Obama is scared of me!"
The best Dean Pelton moment, though, is more understated. In season 1's "Environmental Science," the Dean finds himself watching a video of a muscular man in a Dalmatian suit. "Hmm," he ponders. "This better not awaken anything in me." Boy, does it; throughout the rest of the series, his office becomes progressively overstuffed with Dalmatian memorabilia. It's rarely remarked upon, but ever-present. For a character who's anything but subtle, it's a grace note on an already enjoyable role.
Troy Barnes (Donald Glover)
Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) might have topped this list were it not for Glover's early departure from the show. Troy enters Greendale as a stereotypical football player, but he quickly becomes an integral member of the group thanks to his friendship with Abed. He reveals himself to be as deeply nerdy as his friend, but he's multi-dimensional; he can also be the group's male sex symbol when needed — he spends most of "Epidemiology" dressed as "a sexy Dracula." Naturally, Glover's comedic timing is impeccable. The early-series interaction where he and Jeff volley accusations back and forth is an all-timer.
Troy could make us laugh and cry, and he could especially make us laugh when he cried. His best showing might be the season 2 episode "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking," in which Pierce is hospitalized and decides to give everyone gifts. Troy receives a visit from his childhood idol LeVar Burton, which horrifies him. "I never wanted to meet LeVar in person! I just wanted a picture! You can't disappoint a picture!" he screams. The episode ends with Troy rocking back and forth, sing-sobbing the "Reading Rainbow" theme song.
As season 5 opens, Abed references season 9 of "Scrubs," which saw Zach Braff depart after six episodes. "That son of a b****!" Troy explodes. "After everything 'Scrubs' did for him?!" Five episodes later, Donald Glover boards a boat driven by none other than LeVar Burton and departs "Community," seemingly (but not necessarily) for good.
Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi)
When I think of "Community," I think of Abed. Danny Pudi's character is a lovable weirdo whose incredible imagination powers some of the show's best, most inventive episodes. Sometimes, he knows the characters are in a sitcom, breaking the fourth wall. At others, though, his obsession with pop culture is a coping mechanism, a way for Abed to escape real life and sink into a world of familiar beats, understandable dialogue, and friendly characters.
The best of these is "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas," a stop-motion Christmas special in which the group tries to help Abed, who now sees the world in claymation. During a fantastical journey to Santa's workshop, Abed's friends learn that he's struggling with the knowledge that his mother won't be visiting him for Christmas. It's a genuinely heartbreaking revelation, echoing a scene in the season 1 episode "Introduction to Filmmaking." There, Jeff tells him, "I don't want to be your father!" Abed replies, "That's perfect! You already know your lines."
Mostly, though, Abed is a ton of fun, and his friendship with Troy is the most reliable relationship on the show. Their "La Biblioteca" rap from the second-ever episode still gets stuck in my head; at the time, it was an exciting indication of what was to come from the characters. Despite his complicated relationship with reality, Abed is pure of heart. In the third season, Abed admits, "I guess I just like liking things." Me too, Abed. Me too.
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