NBC's Community Returns and It's Freaking Awesome
Fans of NBC's irreverent situational comedy Community finally have reason to rejoice. Last night, the show returned for a mid-season start with its original show runner, Dan Harmon, back at the helm. Anticipation was high (for me), but critics and lovers of the show alike all agreed that regardless of the result, there was no way in high hell the show could be worse than last year's Season Four. They were right.
Not to waste your time rehashing the entire back-story of Harmon's departure from the show, let's just say he got fired because he did. But NBC, with little left in its arsenal these days and seemingly a whole pillbox of humility, realized the lack of Harmon's vision and wit, and tail between legs, asked him back. What was he going to say? No?
In addition to Harmon's return this season, the show lost one of its major characters, Pierce Hawthorne of Hawthorne Wipes, played by Chevy Chase. The rumor mill cranked out stories of Chase being incredibly difficult to work with, especially where Harmon was concerned. It was not surprising that Harmon's return didn't make him want to come back. It was also announced early last year that Troy, played by Donald Glover, would be exiting the show because of personal reasons, a rap career, maybe his own show and some disturbing Tweets about his self-esteem. But Glover promised to be in a few episodes of Season Five, luckily. Suffice it to say, Season Five is going to have its challenges.
So how was last night's two-episode premiere? Freaking awesome. (That's official critic-speak.)
One of the issues that Harmon will have is not just making the show funny again, it's finding a way to worm the characters out of the mess of a plot they were written into last season. There are a few ways to go about this: pretend it never happened, spend a lot of time focusing on last season's plot elements as a set-up for Season Six, or do a little of both. Based on last night's episodes, the latter will be the way Harmon handles this.
The first episode finds that Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), who last we heard graduated earlier than his classmates, has opened his own legal practice with earnest intentions, only to find that being a "good lawyer" gets you nowhere but a meeting with the repo man. His old partner (Rob Corddry) presents Jeff with a case of an architect whose bridge recently collapsed and he is now suing Greendale Community College. The architect's defense being that Greendale was such a piss-poor college, he was unfit to do anything as a graduate. (If this is a solid lawsuit, sign me up.) But Jeff is a good guy now right? And he would never do anything to hurt Greendale. Wrong.
In an attempt to get the alumni's files, Jeff treks back to old Greendale and pretends to be starting a Save Greendale group; the study group catches wind and we get the gang back together.
The device used is both a cop-out and an amazing exercise in how to get everyone back into this four-year community college - which already never made sense - when the last we heard of them, they were on their way out. The only answer: make them either teachers a' la Saved By the Bell: The New Class or just screw it and make them go back to school. Or how about doing both.
Rather than going into much explanation as to why the characters graduated with different degrees than they were gunning for or how going back to a community college would really help them at all (Brita wants an advanced psychology degree... from a community college?), we're just going to go with it. The study group is going back to school with the exception of Jeff, who has agreed to teach law.