The Best Banned ‘Community’ Episode Is Back on Streaming

Peacock still streams ‘Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ despite its removal from all other platforms
The Best Banned ‘Community’ Episode Is Back on Streaming

Fat Neil fans, rejoice — D&D is back on the menu.

For reasons known only to those who worked in sitcom writers’ rooms in the late-2000s-to-early-2010s, just about every beloved comedy series from that period that has stood the test of time featured at least one blackface gag that hasn’t. 30 Rock had multiple episodes featuring white actors in Black makeup, all of which were pulled from streaming services at the request of Tina Fey, among others. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia tackled the touchy subject of blackface with their signature over-the-top tastelessness in a few episodes and specials, all of which faced similar removals. And, for years, the classic Community episode “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” was unavailable for streaming due to a couple of scenes that feature a certain Chang’s decision to cosplay as a “drow,” a pitch-black dark elf from the D&D universe, with all the misguided makeup choices that accompany it.

However, as one user in the Community subreddit recently pointed out, there is one platform that still allows Community fans to enjoy the Season Two episode that many consider to be one of the show’s best, blackface and all — NBC’s streaming service Peacock offers completely uncensored access to “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” to their subscribers. Well, all of them except Pierce, presumably.

The plot of the episode is straightforward. After noticing that Greendale student “Fat” Neil has grown increasingly depressed due to his unfortunate moniker, the study group decides to not-so-subtly support him by inviting him to play a game of Dungeons & Dragons, his favorite pastime. They exclude Pierce from the plan for obvious reasons, inspiring him to crash the game and steer it toward Neil’s demise while revealing that group leader Jeff was the first person at Greendale to use the hurtful nickname. The group bands together to defeat Pierce in an epic clash, which Neil calls the “the best game I ever played in my life” before inviting Pierce to play again the next week.

“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” is consistently ranked among the best episodes in Community history, but it does contain one of the show’s more unnecessarily controversial jokes — the inclusion of Ken Jeong’s character Chang in the game at all is mostly auxiliary, seeing as Chang’s D&D character is killed off and he leaves the episode before the first commercial break. When Netflix and Hulu decided to remove the episode from their libraries in 2020, Community creator Dan Harmon didn’t protest the decision, later saying of the move, “Justifiably, they’re stripping it from the streaming archives because it’s got a joke about blackface.” However, Harmon did lament that “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” is “probably the best episode of Community” despite the unnecessary makeup.

Yvette Nicole Brown, whose character Shirley Bennett delivers the line, “So we’re gonna ignore that hate crime?” when Chang’s appearance is first revealed, defended the joke and the episode against critics whom she says didn’t understand it in the first place. “I’m really sad that that episode is no longer in rotation,” Brown said in an interview from last May. “I think the reason that it was pulled, and this is a Black person speaking, was an overcorrection, and I think they should fix that. Ken Jeong’s character played a drow, and they have black skin. It was not Ken Jeong in blackface, and I think that anyone that understood Dungeons & Dragons would have understood the distinction.”

Thanks to Peacock, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” is back in the rotation — as are Brown and the rest of the Community cast. We’re still waiting on a Community movie update, NBC.


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