The short answer is: watch seasons 1, 2, and then season 3 up to and including 3×17 Basic Lupine Urology. And then stop. Consider 3×17 the series finale.
Later, you can watch 3×20 Digital Estate Planning and consider it a bonus episode.
That’s it. It’s a truncated show arc, but it is the heart of the show.
An appreciation of Community
Community is basically about watching television itself. Both the strange solitary-yet-social aspect and the tropes associated with TV shows.
Watching television is not like watching a movie. A movie in a theatre is a collective, public experience. Television is much more intimate, personal. It’s in your home, it’s part of your life. We extend our social sphere to encompass the people on the screen – somehow when watching Friends you are in New York, a silent friend in the gang, when you’re watching Stargate SG-1 you’re part of an SG team in a way. Community recognizes the ad hoc nature of how we construct social groups from strangers, but the table has a key message – it’s Jeff, Britta, Abed, Troy, Pierce, Shirley, Annie… and an empty seat, which is to say, and you.
The show is weird, and funny, and clever.
The natural arc of the show would have been for them to progress through four years (four seasons) and then graduate, slightly changed, slightly better. The Starburns Decision towards the end of season 3 disrupted that arc, and then the loss of Dan Harmon as showrunner for season 4 shattered it completely.
For a further (and spoiler-filled) analysis of the show in seasons 5 and 6, see my next posting.