Community's Five Best "Tricks" From Season 2

A common misconception about watching television is that it's a passive, brain-mushing endeavor: You settle your butt into the same cushion indentation you've been carving out for years, crack open a Budweiser and some spicy Cheetos, and do your best impression of a coma victim.

That may be true for certain types of TV, but just try to remain mentally inactive while marathoning The Wire or Breaking Bad. And while watching a comedy might seem like a more acquiescent task, that's not always the case. It's easy to sponge up all the sexual innuendo of Two and a Half Men without a single synapse firing in your comedy cortex, but there's one sitcom out there that offers a fantastic workout for whatever part of your brain controls focus and attention and still manages to be the funniest show on TV.

NBC's Community features sight gags, one-liners, and zingers galore, but it's made its mark by also including Easter Eggs, twists, and inside jokes for viewers willing to really pay attention. Here are five examples of Community's knack for earning comedic extra credit.

My Dinner With Abed

Community is probably most well known for providing the internet with amazing animated GIFs of Annie bouncing about, but it's also well-known for writing love letters to pop culture in the form of homages and spoofs. Film geeks everywhere wet themselves when news broke that the show would skewer dorm fave Pulp Fiction in "Critical Film Studies," but the joke was on them. Though 87 percent of the cast members were dressed as characters from the Tarantino flick, the episode became a parody of another film, one that sits at the exact opposite end of the spectrum: the 110-minute dinner conversation that is My Dinner With Andre. I remember seeing Abed in that sweater and thinking to myself, "This looks a lot like My Dinner With Andre," and then experiencing the slow, brain-exploding realization that Community was spoofing My Dinner With Andre instead of Pulp Fiction as the episode progressed. It takes huge cajones to write an essential joke that relies on a movie that's only popular among people who wear patches on the elbows of their blazers. Pure brilliance.

To Cougar Town and Back

Community's love of doing things differently is so great that it's started spreading to other shows. In the aforementioned "Critical Film Studies," Abed talks about his transformative experience as an extra on the set of ABC's Cougar Town, a sitcom he mentions with a fair degree of frequency. A few months after the My Dinner With Andre episode aired, Danny Pudi appeared as an extra in an actual episode of Cougar Town. Community then returned the favor by including Cougar Town's Dan Byrd and Busy Phillips in Community's finale. Synergy!

Season 2's Two-Part Finale Psych-Out

This one's a bit of a stretch, but it fooled me. Paintball returned to Greendale in what was promoted as a two-part finale for the ages. Though "A Fistful of Paintballs" and "For a Few Paintballs More" shared a lot of—you guessed it—paintballs, they were way different stylistically. "Fistful" was an elaborate ode to Spaghetti Westerns, and what might have been the show-that's-known-for-its-homages' greatest homage of all. The second half of the two-parter was very much in line with Community's normal tone (or as "normal" as its tone can be called). And it was a good thing, too. Keeping the Western flavor for an hour might have been a bit much, and the second half proved more rewarding than the first. This example may not shine like the others on this list, but for those of us who expected an hour's worth of Clint Eastwood allusions, it was a shock.

Annie's Boobs Steals the Pen

In Season 2's famous bottle episode "Cooperative Calligraphy," the gang locks itself in the study room with the intention to stay until Annie's missing pen is found—then, and only then, will they be able to attend the Puppy Parade. Friends become enemies as everyone accuses each other of stealing the pen or setting up the whole thing to serve their own evil interests (anti-puppy agenda?). In the end, the audience learns that the real culprit is Troy's escaped monkey, Annie's Boobs, who lives in the ventilation ducts and collects trinkets when no one is looking. But sharp-eyed viewers saw a tiny monkey arm grab the pen early in the episode. That's attention to detail, folks, both by the producers of the show and its loyal viewers. I didn't notice it the first or second time around, but that's what the internet is for.

Abed Delivers a Baby

One of Community's finest moments, and the series' first major Easter Egg. In "The Psychology of Letting Go," fan-favorite Abed is barely featured... in the foreground. Instead, he spends several scenes out of earshot and in the background, counseling a pregnant woman and her baby daddy. Ultimately, he delivers the baby in the back of an SUV. The icing on the cake comes at the end of the episode, when Shirley asks Abed, "I barely saw you this week Abed, what have you been up to?" and Abed responds, "Not much." I thought that was hilarious before I even realized what had really been going on.

Which Community "trick" is your favorite? What did I miss?

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom