TV Review: The Return of Community

January 8, 2014
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After over six months since it was announced, Community has finally returned to the boob tube. It was reported last May 2013 that the zany Greendale Community College folks would make a comeback, and since then, expectations have grown and grown, especially after the flop that was season four. Now, though, with Dan Harmon at the wheel once more, season five looks to be kinda awesome, with the first two episodes hinting at a winning season.

At the onset of this, the fifth season, the whole gang is trying to live their lives post Greendale, each of them failing in their own specific way. Jeff Winger, for instance, is failing (again) at being a lawyer, having tried to continue his streak as the good guy. After a visit from his nemesis Alan Connor, he returns to Greendale and reunites with his old crew, his plan to file a lawsuit against the college for ruining his and their lives. This of course does not go as planned and the episode (we’re talking about the re-pilot here) becomes a wacky but ultimately undecided mess. There’s a lot of Jeff flip-flopping, with subsequent groans and sighs from the rest of the group (and the viewer), Abed meta-reminding us it’s a re-pilot along the way.

Dean Pelton is still the most disturbing, amazing man…

The second episode is much more solid, with two main arcs, one following Jeff’s initiation as a teacher at Greendale, and another chronicling Abed almost losing his mind to the question “Nicolas Cage: Good or Bad” (taught by Professor Garrity, who’s one of my favorite minor characters). This episode almost feels like the first season, with lots of antics all over the school, and a deeper look into the depraved world of the Greendale staff (the minus on grades turns out to be an evil-spirited tool to drive students up the wall).

I am pleased to report that, although that first episode is a bit inferior to the second, the writing, directing, and performances of main cast and cameos alike, are all sharper, quicker, and more fun than season four, harkening back to some of the magic of the first three. Dan Harmon makes sure to pack the episodes with charming meta humor (without oversaturating us with it like in the season previous) and sets up some really promising character arcs for future episodes (a new curmudgeonly criminology professor, Annie doing forensics finally, and Jeff as a teacher, etc.). Basically, all of the characters are starting over in some respects, wiping the slate clean for Harmon to work his magic.

A few highlights I already want to point out are a nod to Zach Braff leaving Scrubs (Donald Glover is only contracted for six episodes, but as Troy he admonishes himself: “After everything Scrubs did for him!”), Abed furiously portraying Nicolas Cage in the throes of being… well, Nicolas Cage, and Chevy Chase appearing as a memorial hologram in the re-pilot (he’s left the show, but made sure his character is remembered at Greendale). Also, Dean Pelton is still the most disturbing, amazing man.

So yeah, Internet friends, it’s been a wait, but a worthwhile one, as Community season five promises sincere comedy, heartfelt but still tongue-in-cheek drama, and a return to the pacing and punch that made the first couple of seasons so awesome. It’s not going to be easy though, without Troy and Pierce come seven episodes, but I have a feeling Harmon has some tricks up his sleeve. At least, he’d better, because those are some hilarious shoes to fill.

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