Directed by: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Written by: Dan Harmon
Original air date: September 17, 2009
Episode Guide
"Spanish 101"

The pilot episode of the NBC sitcom Community aired on Thursday, September 17, 2009. Written by Dan Harmon, the show's creator, the episode was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. The episode introduces Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), a debarred lawyer who is forced to take a community college degree to get his license back. He tries to exploit his friendship with one of the faculty members for easy credits, but fails, and is forced to join a Spanish study group. The members of this study group make up the main cast of the series, which includes Chevy Chase as retired entrepreneur Pierce Hawthorne.

The show takes place at the fictional Greendale Community College in Greendale, Colorado. Harmon based the show on his own experiences in community college, and partly modeled the character of Jeff Winger on himself. He emphasized the cast's importance to the show, and also credited some of the actors for their improvisational skills. The episode attracted generally favorable reviews from critics, who praised both the actors and the comedy writing. The show received good viewership, and stood out in NBC's Thursday lineup, where the network's other shows suffered declines in ratings.


Jeff Winger, a disbarred lawyer, has enrolled at Greendale Community College as a condition for getting his license back. His plan is to use his friendship with Dr. Ian Duncan to obtain test answers. In the cafeteria Jeff meets the attractive Britta, and convinces her to join his non-existent Spanish study group. As the study group convenes, Jeff pretends the other members simply did not show up. Britta, however, has invited Abed to join them. Jeff unsuccessfully tries to make him leave, and then gets called to the football field by Dr. Duncan. The professor makes a futile attempt to appeal to Jeff's conscience, and eventually agrees to provide the answers. Jeff returns to the study group, discovering that Abed has also invited Troy, Shirley, Pierce and Annie. Finding Britta smoking outside, he suggests the two study alone, but she persuades him to return.

Jeff, eager to get away, deliberately stirs a fight among the group, then leaves once more to get the test answers. Dr. Duncan hands him a sealed envelope, but only in return for Jeff's Lexus. When Jeff returns, the group is in turmoil, and Britta promises to go out with him if he can restore order. He does this through an inspirational speech, but Britta sees through his vacuous rhetoric and asks him to leave. Jeff then comes clean about everything, adding that since he now has the test answers he does not need the study group. As the group turns against him he takes off.

Leaving the building, Jeff finds all the pages in the envelope to be blank. He returns to the office of Dr. Duncan who tells him that he wanted to teach him a lesson. As he is about to leave campus, Jeff runs into Pierce and Troy, and shows his ability to make people feel better about themselves through advice and encouragement. The others join, and Jeff admits to being a fraud. He says that he does not have the test answers, and that he will probably flunk next day's test. The group has now taken a liking to him, and they invite him back in. The episode ends with a dedication to the recently deceased John Hughes, whose film The Breakfast Club has been repeatedly referenced throughout the episode.

Cast and charactersEdit

The pilot emphasizes character introduction, and a great deal of biographical information about the various main characters is revealed in the episode.

  • Joel McHale as Jeff Winger – Jeff is a smooth talking lawyer who was debarred once it was revealed that his college degree was "less than legitimate". The condition of his reinstatement is that he finishes a college degree.
  • Chevy Chase as Pierce Hawthorne – Pierce is implicitly described by the college dean as one of the school's "old people keeping their minds active as they circle the drains of eternity". He is a retired entrepreneur who made a fortune on moist towelettes. He has been married seven times, and has now decided to go back to college.
  • Gillian Jacobs as Britta Perry – Britta dropped out of high school because she thought it would impress Radiohead. She then joined a group of anarchists who vandalized billboards. She has been in the Peace Corps]], ad done foot modeling before she enrolled at Greendale. She is strongly concer with honesty, and does not take lightly on anyone lying to her.
  • Danny Pudi as Abed Nadir – Abed is a Palestinian/Polish boy who – according to Jeff – has Asperger syndrome]]. proves helpful to Jeff with his ability to obtain quick and detailed knowledge of everyone he meets.
  • Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley Bennett – Shirley is a "middle-aged divorcee" who "has made some bad life choices".
  • Alison Brie as Annie Edison – Annie got addicted to pills and had to drop out of high school.
  • Donald Glover as Troy Barnes – Troy was a high school football star who got injured and failed to get a scholarship.
  • John Oliver as Ian Duncan, psychology teacher at Greendale. – Dr. Duncan once faced a DUI charge, but was acquitted thanks to Jeff's help.
  • Jim Rash as Dean Pelton – Dean Pelton is first introduced while giving his introductory speech to the new students, a speech that ends up being unintentionally offensive.


Premiering in the 9:30pm spot on the evening of Thursday September 17, the pilot episode had a viewership of 7.680 million. In the 18–49 audience, it had a rating of 3.7. As such, it held 93% of this audience from The Office, which had been in the previous time slot.

The pilot episode of Community received generally favorable reviews from critics. The aggregate review website Metacritic gives the show a score of 69 out of 100, based on 23 reviews. Ken Tucker called it "One of the new season's best sitcoms", and gave it a grade B+. Heather Havrilesky, writing for, agreed with this assessment, and commended the "alarmingly smart writing". Alan Sepinwall at The Star-Ledger similarly called it "the best, and funniest, new show of the season", and said he laughed just as much after seeing the pilot four times. Others were less impressed; Variety's Brian Lowry found the satire wanting, and did not much appreciate McHale's performance. The Miami Herald's Glenn Garvin found that, though particularly McHale was capable of generating "sporadic laughter", the show was just not very amusing.

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