My conclusion is that they are both good, but if thoroughly broken down, I come to the inescapable conclusion that despite season 5 having markedly better standout episodes, season 4 is better as a whole. Season 5 has only three episodes I react to with definite positivity, and 4 to which I react negatively, whereas season 4 has at least 8 episodes I love and only 3, at most, that I dislike.
Note: the zero I mentioned above is being represented by a minus sign in this list. A + mark is a 1 and a ++ is a 2.
++ 4x01, History 101: Maybe it's because we rebonded through that table read, or maybe it's because I have a soft spot for Broken Abed and a passion for single-camera comedies that do multi-camera comedy parodies of themselves, but I love everything about both that and Jeff's Survivor-immunity-challenge-run-style triumph in The Hunger Deans.
++ 4x02, Paranormal Parentage: By far my favorite of all this show's Halloween episodes. Hawthorne's Haunted House of Horrors has no equal. Faces coming through walls, surprise Gilbert, Troy whining about Pierce's special room with the indoor swing (and Shirley's "forget that you saw that and forget that I knew what it was"), Jeff complaining that he knows exactly what Pierce is doing and they're all morons for going ot help him...ALL OF IT.
++ 4x03, Conventions of Space and Time: Anything Inspector Spacetime is an automatic win for me, so.
++ 4x04, Alternative History of the German Invasion: GERMAN NONSENSE!! Is what I said I about this episode the first time around, and is still basically what I consider the title of this episode to be. As we saw in Pitch Perfect 2, exaggerated German accents + swagger = a surefire way to delight.
- 4x05, Cooperative Escapism in Familial something: And then there's that boring episode where Jeff meets his dad, Britta tries to therapize him the whole way, the rest of the gang tries to hide out from Shirley's Thanksgiving dinner, and the only even slightly interesting part is Jeff's whiny sponge of a half brother.
++ 4x06, Advanced Documentary Filmmaking: I love Changnesia, so a whole episode devoted to Jeff trying to expose it as a lie while the Dean tries to use it to get funding for the school is great. Plus: never forget about Partner & Hoolihan, THE GREATEST INVESTIGATIVE DUO OF ALL.
++ 4x07, Economics of Marine Biology: Again, I just have quote my past self to explain why this episode is basically flawless: "The Whale, Gym Class Heroes (and Failures), Del-ta Cube, and Barbershop Duet."
[the rest of the original episode review, in one paragraph, is here because it's SO ACCURATE AND CONCISE]
"Abed randomly running through the background with his fake frat's chant was confusing and delightful. I loved the Dean bending over backwards to cater to the spoiled kid, whose every line and facial expression I loved. I liked Shirley kicking butt at P.E.E. and getting super competitive, excelling particularly well at the control and discipline aspect. I loved Magnitude being stripped of his catch phrase and filling 2 chalkboards with inferior attempts. BONUS HILARITY: "Get your damn hand off my Let's" + Britta's loyalty to Splingles."
+ 4x08, Herstory of Dance: one of the more middle-ground episodes, but Britta so rarely gets to star and even more rarely gets to succeed that I can't help having a soft spot for this one. Plus, Sophie B. Hawkins, live and in the flesh!
++ 4x09, Intro to Felt Surrogacy: You will pry my love for the puppet episode out of my cold, dead hands. We can go anywhere in a balloon! (as long as we have a balloon...guide)
+ 4x10, Intro to Knots: the Christmas ep in which they tie up Professor Cornwallis and try to blackmail him into giving them a better grade while he tries to divide and conquer with sass. It's fairly enjoyable, if not in the top half of this season. (My interest in it has faded since I originally saw it.)
- 4x11, Basic Human Anatomy: I honestly don't even remember this one. Apparently it's the one with the competing-valedictorians plot and the body-switching. I vaguely recall them happening, but not anything fun about them.
- 4x12, Heroic Origins: the 2009-backstory one that I've pretty much tried to repress from memory, despite several funny scenes, because I don't like accepting all of it as canon.
++ 4x13, Advanced Introduction to Finality: um, it's THE DARKEST TIMELINE. Evil Jeff/Evil Annie, the way the rest of the gang found a way to make paintball cool again, and everything tied together with a sweeping Winger speech.
- 5x01, Repilot: NO GROSS GET THAT AWFUL SAD POST-GRADUATION CANON AWAY FROM ME.
+ 5x02, Introduction to Teaching: "Nicholas Cage: Good or Bad?" is the clear winning storyline, but the other plot features a lot of Jeff/Annie conversations + Jeff learning how to be a proper teacher (lesson #1: you have to be subtle in demeaning Leonard), and ain't half bad.
++ 5x03, Basic Intergluteal Numismatics: a.k.a. Ass Crack Bandit, a.k.a. utterly flawless episode and one of the five best of all time.
- 5x04, Cooperative Polygraphy: That boring one where Pierce manages to be gross from beyond the grave.
++ 5x05, Geothermal Escapism: a.k.a. Community: Lava World, a.ka. utterfly flawless episode with extra emotion, and also one of the five best of all time.
- 5x06: Analysis of Cork-Based Networking: I barely remember this. Nathan Fillion was entertaining? But it seemed like a lot of repetition and weirdness. The bear dance was funny, I guess.
+ 5x07, Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality: I have grown more fond of the Hickey vs. Abed war, mostly because Hickey pretty much wins it, and I do enjoy Britta meeting her former friends and awkwardly realizing they've accomplished way more than her at the same age, (oh! almost forgot about Chang's ghost dilemma, also fun), but the part with Jeff and Duncan is like an extra awful version of The Pickup Artist.
++ 5x08, App Development and Condiments: a.k.a. MEOWMEOW BEENZ DYSTOPIA OF GLORIOUSNESS that I'm pretty sure is in at least my top ten.
+ 5x09, VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing: I have grown somewhat more tolerant of the storyline with Annie's gross brother over time because GOSH that's a fun game/competitive war, though I still always feel a pang of despair when I think about watching it, but I really love the counterfeit textbooks storyline.
+ 5x10, Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: It's really not that bad, once you get over your initial disappointment about the comparisons to the previous D&D episode. D&D is always good, especially for a person like me, who often listens to comedies to fall asleep.
+ 5x11, G.I. Jeff: The cartoon one was really fun the first time around, and I'm glad they made it, but now that the novelty has worn off it's gone forever. I don't hate it, though.
+ 5x12-13, Basic Story/Basic Sandwich: one of these is way better than the other (I think it's the second half), but they're both relatively entertaining as a whole. Jeff and the Robot Head/Annie Heart bit wouldn't have been a bad series finale for me.
P.S. I have now watched all but the final episode of season 6, which I really need to post about, but let's just say that if I did this for season 6 there would only be 3 great episodes (4 if I like the finale), and a metric ton more in the "bad" column.
Dear Community-watching friends: it would make me so, so happy if you guys did this too. Pretend it's a meme. Or something. I'm desperate enough to offer an option where you don't even have to explicate, just give the episodes a 0-2 ranking and tell me your conclusions!
I will probably end up taking this to Tumblr, after I add in a little more detail for an audience that will largely not even be aware I've seen Community, where I predict it will get the same amount of non-reaction. I must be the only person in fandom who's less successful at Tumblr than LJ.