After what we can all agree as a lackluster season, the fifth season of Community was ready to reset itself. Season 5 sees the return of series creator and writer Dan Harmon many of whom know to be the heart and soul of the show. Without him season 4 suffered a spark, a sense of pizzazz, and somehow a sense of overarching reality to a show that travels dimensions and has claymation episodes. With this return to form we are given "Repilot", a chance for Harmon and the series to adjust to Jeff Winger graduating and Chevy Chase officially leaving.
"Repilot" gives the series new legs, a chance to find its footing within a new premise. The Greendale gang have all now graduated and attempted to venture out into the real world to begin their new lives. Jeff has gone to start his own law firm and, like the others in the study group, his attempts aren't fairing so well. At behest of his old law buddy Jeff returns to Greendale in hopes of suing his old school for the poor educations they're handing out. Soon his attempts are to also get support from his old pals in hopes of making this lawsuit even bigger. As Jeff continues to try and take down Greendale he soon finds instead he should be focusing on making it a better place. As the study group returns to their old school in hopes to reeducate themselves Jeff returns to start teaching the basics of law. The episode lacks a lot of the snap and crackle you could feel off of some of the original episodes. It feels like a cheap gimmick to come to terms with season 4's choices and set up the rest of season 5 as something worth watching.
Luckily there were two new episodes of Community on. "Introduction to Teaching" feels more like the Community I remember. With the pretense of seasons 1 through 4 completely gone and the new premise ready to go the jokes have their punch again. We see Abed diving deep into Nic Cage movies, with a wonderful Cage meltdown, Jeff trying desperately to pass himself as a real teacher, and a new criminology professor played by Jonathan Banks (Mike from Breaking Bad). The newness quickly fades and it all feels like familiar territory once again. I stopped judging the show and started just watching it again, something season 4 never completely accomplished.
I’m going to be a tad navel gazy rights here so maybe skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read it. Writing about film, TV, videogames, any media really, is kind of hard. Having to convey to readers this audio visual object is a little antithetical. Multiply all that intellectual angst by about 10 and you’ve got me and comedy. I might have a bit of a weird taste for film but my taste for comedy is weirder. That said Community has really stuck with me, I actually enjoy and care about these characters more than most TV shows.
This is going to be reductive, maybe even a bit facile, but Community feels “right” again. I made it through the Jeff meets his Dad episode of Community season 4 and none of what I saw felt right. It looked like Community had the surface level signifiers of Community but it lacked the heart and love for these totally messed up likely socio/psychopaths called the Greendale 7 (well 6 now). The one hour premier for season 5, “Repilot” and “Introduction to Teaching” had all that warmth and off beat sense of humor that I love and missed. Dan Harmon is back, and after a lot of table setting like an actual pilot Community gets back in the swing of things.
With how everything apparently ended in Season 4, Community Season 5 feels like an oddly natural continuation after the end. Greendale Community College is the Hotel California, House of the Rising Sun, the room in No Exit, purgatory. Even when you think you get out, inevitably the alumni are pulled back in because there is no other place that will except them for how and who they are.
Jeff is once again a failed lawyer at first attempting to be the terrible monster he was at the start of the series and con his former study mates into suing the school. Annie is now a pill pushing drug rep creating broken mini versions of herself. Britta is now a bartender. Abed is learning to program because his film degree is useless (o goody that bodes well for me). Troy, well Troy really had no identity beyond his relationship to Abed so he hasn’t done anything. Shirley is once again divorcing her husband and lost. Chang is tethered to a home arrest device.
The warm fuzzy reunion that is “Repilot”, it wasn’t very funny for me. Some nice gags but it was more of a setup episode than anything. Than the second episode began, “Intorduction to Teaching” and I laughed, more than once!. Abed’s meltdown as he failed to understand the unknowable quality that is Nicholas Cage and demount that follows; in which the almighty Nicholas Cage is deified, is your typicalCommunity style plot that is righly made into a ‘B’ plot this time around and not the ‘A’. Though imagine what Dan Harmon and Co. could’ve done if they had license to the entire Nick Cage filmography.
At the heart of the ‘A’ plot was Jeff discovering that he might actually like to teach and even more shocking, he might be good at it. His return to the school as a teacher does change some of the dynamics which are explored and lead to some new and interesting ones. Mainly the introduction of Jonathan Banks as Professor of Criminology, Buzz Hickey – who has plenty of shades of Mike from Breaking Bad. Hickey is the “new” Pierce in that Hickey is a cantankerous old white man but is his own beast and is fantastic in “Introduction to Teaching”, deadpanning and intimidating all who come before him.
Community feels like it’s back and that’s great. How the series reacts to the loss of Donald Glover will have to be seen but for now, I’m just going to enjoy watching a comedy again. Besides Parks and Rec which is piled on Netflix.