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Falling In Love with Dan Harmon's 'Community' All Over Again

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | January 3, 2014 | Comments ()


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The fifth season of Community debuted last night, and though it doesn’t feel like the Internet juggernaut it once was — thanks to the lost year, the way it’s bounced around, and viewers’ irritation with the behind-the-scenes drama — the two episodes with Dan Harmon back in the showrunner chair felt every bit as good as Community at its best.

Harmon couldn’t not have handled the re-piloting of the series any better, acknowledging the gas fire season, working it in, and resetting the series a year after the events of the last year. The characters have graduated, and after coming to terms with the fact that they gained very little education from Greendale — but lots of emotional growth — they re-enrolled to actually learn something from their studies, in addition to gaining more character growth. Jeff Winger, meanwhile, has come back as a teacher in an effort to create a better school, and even there, Harmon perfectly subverted, mocked, and owned the student-returns-as-teacher trope.

We could not have asked for much more from the two-episode return of Community, and we can only hope that it’s not too late for the series, whose viewership has been eroding annually. There is so much to highlight about the re-pilot, but I thought it was particularly genius for Abed to acknowledge the redo, draw comparisons to the 9th season of Scrubs, make the hilarious parallel between Zach Braff’s role in that season and Donald Glover’s in this one (he’s only around for six episodes) and then end with Braff’s voice over narration, which never fails to make me feel wistful. It was all so smart, so funny, so heartfelt, and so perfectly Greendale that the urge to fall back in love with Community was almost impossible to resist. Having Chevy Chase return to tie a bow on the episode was just icing on the cake.

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This exchange, meanwhile, felt like a peek inside the aching soul of Dan Harmon last year.

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While this felt like a peek inside of Donald Glover’s. There was obviously something not right about Troy, or Glover; there was a bittersweet quality to his scant screentime.

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Elsewhere, in the second episode, the series quickly filled in the void left by Chevy Chase, and they could not have found a better substitute than Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks, who gets to play, perhaps, the character that Chevy Chase wanted to play all along: He’s every bit the irascible grouch, but there’s none of the doofy racism and homophobia that characterized Pierce’s character.

The Abed subplot, meanwhile, was so smart, and so perfect, it almost hurt, and in addition to providing the funniest moment on Community since season three, it posed one of the universe’s most unanswerable questions: Is Nic Cage a good or a bad actor? This very site, actually, had a small role in that plotline, as the episode’s writer, Andy Bobrow, acknowledged o Twitter that our own Harry Hanrhan’s Nic Cage Losing His Sh*t video had inspired it.

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Indeed, everything about the return of Community felt right, except the pall of sadness that seemed to follow Glover’s character around, and one other small ingredient: The enthusiasm for the show has waned over the last year, and the sort of communal vibe — the sense that I was watching the show with thousands of like-minded people, all at the same time — wasn’t quite there. Riding the ups-and-downs of this series has always felt like a shared experience, and I’m bummed that it doesn’t feel as shared as it once did. Hopefully, the return of Harmon, and the reinvigoration of the series, will bring back the excitement for the show again, and for half an hour on Thursday nights, a collection of like-minded misfits, nerds, geeks, and admirers of Alison Brie’s form can gather ‘round our old teevee sets again and transform episodes of Community into the communal events they once were again.

Random Quotes I Loved:

  • “That’s like me blaming owls for how much I suck at analogies.” — Britta

  • “I thought the meaning of people was somewhere in here. Then I looked inside Nicolas Cage and I found a secret—people are random and pointless.”

  • “I don’t know—if I was in 70 films over 30 years, and spent each one talking at random volumes, I might accidentally win an Oscar.” — Shirley

  • “Nice earring Leonard, you look like the road manager for the California raisins.” — Jeff

  • “Jeffrey do something! Distract them, take off your shirt!” — Dean

  • “No monologue for you! Give me your tie!” — Jeff



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  • Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


    • asherlev1

      God, you nailed it when you intimated that people (including me) have deserted the fandom. But I've come back and I'm just as in love and I hope, hope, hope that other fans come back as well. I don't want this fandom to be a ghost town. It's unavoidable but unfortunate that external factors can play such a key role in determining your enjoyment of a show.

    • Yocean

      Looooved the return to form. So as someone who stopped watching Sasson Four after second or third episode (can't be bothered to remember) were there any episodes I should watch to better the jokes? I heard Repilot pretty much got us up to date and some Brittany episodes were good but anything else I should check out?

    • Kjopo84

      I had four S4 episodes I actually liked. Advanced Documentary Filmmaking, Intro to felt surrogacy, Basic Human Anatomy were all okay. Not comparable to Harmon community, but pretty good. The best episode of S4 is definitely Herstory of Dance. So if you can only bring yourself to watch one, make it that one.

      In terms of plot, Jeff did reunite with his father in a lackluster but not awful episode. I believe it was episode 5. Just DON'T watch Intro to Knots or Advanced Introduction to Finality. All they will do is mightily piss you off.

    • Yocean

      Thanks! Cool, cool cool cool. I did hear about the Winger dad thing. I wonder if he come back. Unless he died?

    • Yocean

      Oh, and Greg, seeing as you are pretty much the only one arguing against how good and funny thee episodes were, maybe YOU should think about problem being yourself? Just a thought, you know. I would hate to be telling you how you should have thought of something as you being som ransoms stranger.

    • Greg

      one san sane guy against a bunch of assholes

    • googergieger

      I liked it!

    • Uriah_Creep

      Holy shit!

      LET THE BELLS RING OUT AND THE BANNERS FLY!

    • googergieger

      Just thought I'd put it out there before people started accusing Greg of being my fake account.

    • dizzylucy

      The second episode was by far my favorite. The riot was fantastic, and Banks is such a great addition to the show.
      I don't know how anyone kept a straight face during the Nicholas Cage stuff. It was so weirdly funny that it bordered uncomfortable, which is strangely perfect for an analysis of Nicholas Cage.

    • Kjopo84

      Totally agree. Give Danny Pudi an Emmy, please! I'm a sexy cat!

    • John W

      What a welcome return.

    • Steve Ward

      Jim the cartoon duck with a too beak-like bill was my favourite thing in recent memory. Not from Community, from anything.

      "It's one duck! His name is Jim and publishers are interested!"

      "There are two things I'm not good at - apologies, and drawing duck bills."

      Banks sold the shit out of all Jim-related lines, to the point that I absolutely must see more Jim. I'm already hoping Jim makes an appearance in the animated episode.

      The Banks giggle at the notion of Jeff only being temporarily a teacher almost reached Offerman levels. Jonathan Banks is going to be a brilliant addition to the show, no question.

    • LaineyBobainey

      Always
      Be
      Cageing

    • Robert

      It was like the old Community again, so I'm happy. Season 4 tried really hard but it felt random just to be random. These two episodes were just as off the wall, but actually had an internal logic that connected various threads without having to constantly reinvent the characters just to tell that story. It felt right.

      Please let this Shirley/Abed connection over Hellraiser turn into a wonderful, meaningful, horror-driven friendship on the new season. Is it so much to ask?

    • greg

      no it didn't

    • Rebecca Hachmyer

      So, if I didn't make it through the last season is there anything I need to know to pick back up with this one? Also, has anyone checked in with Donald Glover (I imagine that his close personal friends are all readers of Pajiba)? Has anyone given him a copy of Hyperbole and a Half??

    • Robert

      The Repilot pretty much caught you up. I doubt Harmon wants to dig into the other things that happened.

    • Wrestling Fan

      I tried, dammit. I tried to like Season 4. But week after week, the show ended without so much as a chuckle from me. Less than halfway through the season, I wrote it off. Said goodbye to a friend, and moved on.

      Last night, that friend came home, and it felt just like old times. He was funny, he was poignant, he made me remember why I had liked him so much in the first place.

      I was very happy to have my friend back!

    • greg

      maybe you are the problem you ever think of that

    • Wrestling Fan

      I thought long and hard about what you said.

      And I came to the conclusion that since I am not a writer on Community, no, I am not the problem.

      And you seem to be a real Negative Nancy today. What happened? Are you one of the rightfully maligned Community Season Four writers, trying desperately to make it seem like we're all wrong and you're right? Or are you just a random jackass troll, being negative just to try and get a rise out of people because in your sad little world, doing so is considered an actual accomplishment?

    • greg

      if I am a troll
      what are you

      a man
      a sheep
      a jackass

    • Greg

      After tonight if I see Dan Harmon I am going to punch him in the face.
      That repilot episode was the worst piece of television I ever seen in the last two years. The reason for bringing the characters back to school was idiotic.

    • LostInDisgust

      I just don't know how you can hear the line, “That’s like me blaming owls for how much I suck at analogies," and not laugh. Maybe comedy just isn't for you, or maybe, you're more of a Chuck Lorre-kind of guy. No shame in that. Some people like filet mignon some people like Big Macs. I'm sorry god blessed you with the McDonalds of sitcoms taste.

    • Jezzer

      I'm sorry you had to be a condescending jerk to someone who doesn't like your stupid show.

    • Greg

      I don't find that line funny because its earlier similar to my own joke about sarcastic people being more mature than other people and saying it sarcastically I have this problem where I can't enjoy shows made by people who act like self-entitled egotistical jerks and people who not only excuse their bad behavior but constantly put down and threaten other people who have done nothing wrong
      I have seen every episode of community and enjoyed them for the most part. I liked the characters, the jokes and the good stories
      The repilot was not a good story, it was mean spirited, retreaded old ground, and wasted potentially good stories

      Community is not filet mignon
      Dan Harmon is not a genius
      Geniuses strive to better humanity
      Dan Harmon brought out the worst in people

    • I agree with Greg. Sorry all! I've watched Community from the beginning, LOVE the cast, love the show. But it felt like navel-gazing. Maybe the second episode was better (more Abed is always better for me - I fell in love with Danny Pudi the second he asked if he was going deaf in the first episode), but the Repilot was achingly bad to me. :( Do I have to hand in my Pajiba card for disagreeing?

    • Kjopo84

      I disagree. The BEST episodes of community are darker ones. That's what was missing from S4, that darkness.

    • LostInDisgust

      Did you start watching the show in season 4? Because you're wrong, you see. It's been universally loved by those of us who fell in love with show way back in 2009.
      It was perfect.

    • Jezzer

      How about you quit being such an asshole and telling people they're wrong because they have a difference of opinion from you?

    • greg

      No it wasn't

      it broke suspension of disbelief
      it undid all the happiness and character development accumulated over the years and the show is now spinning in circles

    • LostInDisgust

      Also, you're wrong by saying "it undid the happiness and character development." The Repilot grounded the show again. It addressed your complaint as well. Jeff has still been changed into a better person. And the rest of the characters haven't devolved in the slightest. The whole point of the Repilot was to show that the last four years haven't made all of the characters better off (ie, Britta was turned into bimbo, Troy became a sidekick, Abed's repeating breakdowns, Annie continuing her obsessive compulsive behavior). The show is grounding its characters again, it's trying to be more real. But if you didn't understand that, "Community" really isn't for you. It's not a show that cuts up your meat for you, it's a show that asks that you know how to use a knife.

    • Greg

      Everything you just said validates my opinion that the character development being thrown out the window
      Britta has already been a bimbo during the show's run, Troy has always been Abed's sidekick, Shirley's back to being a divorcee, Jeff having a moral conflict about hurting Greendale even though he had this same conflict in season 3

    • LostInDisgust

      Well, please enlighten us as to how you would have gone about trying to create a plot line that would have brought the characters back to Greendale after they've graduated... Because simply ignoring the fourth season would have been a creative cop out. I shouldn't even bother with you if you seriously believe Repilot was "the worst piece of television" you saw "in the last two years" since you obviously watched the pitiful garbage that was season four. But in genuinely curious what would have been a less "idiotic" way to bring the characters back.

    • Greg

      Have it be the second semester of last year
      with the other characters having their graduations
      and have Jeff struggle with his transition from student to lawyer
      I also would have saved a cameo of Pierce for the very last episode

    • L.O.V.E.

      This post is sorely lacking in Alison Brie gifs, but I got a Veronica Mars post so I forgive you, Rowles. Lets just not make this a habit.

      Anyway, time to announce my new Avatar. 2012 saw Kristen Bell take the honor, and then the very next year Veronica Mars came back to life. In 2013, Alison Brie was chosen, and Community just came back to life in January 2014.

      From Kristen Bell to Alison Brie comes Salma Hayek as my 2014 Avatar, and the third avatar since the introduction of Disqus. Congratulations Salma. Here's to your inevitable comeback. There is a good movie to be made with you as the star. I just know it.

    • UMNomad

      I feel like there weren't really gif-able moments for Allison Brie in those episodes. Where they once made a very conscious decision to make those moments in the past, now it seems like they've made a decision to cover her up.
      The show is still fantastic and Annie has a lot more to offer than cleavage obviously, but there was a noticeable difference I think.

    • L.O.V.E.

      Are you kidding me?

      "Minuses are made up! (riot commences)

      And

      "At least the drugs I sell don't get slurped out of my belly button".

      http://dobreith.tumblr.com/

    • Danny

      HEY

      That's only on Tummy Tuesday

    • Afferbeck

      The Dean desperately wanting to learn Excel with Jeff was just the perfect level of Deanness the show needs.

    • A. Smith

      That singing French internal monologue bit was perfect at the end.

    • Some Guy

      God, what a relief that premier was. The heart was back, the randomness was back, and the legitimate funny was back. It was such a relief to watch something that didn't feel forced and artificial, ala season 4. I think I probably had more genuine laughs in the first two episodes last night than I did through all of what I remember of season 4.

    • Greg

      what heart

    • Rewatching the Harry Hanrhan video makes that episode and Danny Pudi's performance even more brilliant. And I'm convinced that Nicolas Cage is a genius.

    • Kjopo84

      Will you die protecting his vision? ;)

    • Skyler Durden

      Britta was on fire last night! Between the owl comment and my other favorite, “I don't believe in evil, but this school clearly got a finger up its butt as a child", she was the MVP for me.

      I also loved seeing the Dean back at a nine where he belongs. He spent all season 4 at an eleven and I wanted to punch my teevee.

    • Skyler Durden

      What the hell? That was a totally innocuous comment. Whoever downvoted me is the AT&T of people.

    • Robert

      It's pretty easy to pick out who has been down voting a lot of the comments in this thread. He didn't like the season premiere because Community is still set at the community college and he'll let us know with downvotes.

    • UMNomad

      I didn't downvote you, but I will disagree with you on the child abuse line. I thought it was super jarring, thoughtless, and completely out of place on that show. My SO was a victim of childhood abuse and that "joke" just really took us out of the episode. Maybe I'm misinterpreting and it seems the internet truly enjoyed it, but I thought it was a huge dud in that ep.

    • Guest

      Britta / Gillian Jacobs has been on fire pretty much since the middle of Season 1. She is my favourite part of the show, the Britta episodes are the only ones worth watching in Season 4, and she is second only to Jaye Tyler for fictional characters I wish I could marry.

    • LaineyBobainey

      *fistbump* for Jaye Tyler and her 'sodes.

    • GDI

      When the series was at it's worst, Britta became the best. Wait...

    • Guest

      Britta is the best thing about Community I.M.H.O. (since Advanced Criminal Law). And yes even during season 4 the Britta-centric episodes (Herstory of Dance at least) and Jacobs in general was the only real highlight of the gas leak year.

    • Greg

      No they aren't

    • Guest

      Falling In Love with Dan Harmon's 'Community' All Over Again.

      I never fell out of love with Community so no re-"Falling" in love was needed. Yes like all relationships we took a break (during season 4, it was going through a phase), but my love only increased with last night's reconnection.

      I can't quit you Greendale.

      *I'm so happy to have Britta back!

      Jeff: Britta, when we met you were an eclectic anarchist, how did you become the groups airhead?

      Britta: Thank you...?

    • NimueIBack

      "I know we'll never completely get rid of riots, but I think I have plan to cut them by 40%."

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