It’s time to head back to school for another year at Greendale Community College, and boy, does it look like it could be another fun season. The early promise from the season premiere of “Community” comes in musical form, as Jeff (Joel McHale) and the gang sing that they will “have more fun and be less weird, than the first two years combined” in a Glee-tastic opening number which makes us of course pray that will never actually happen. Thankfully, it looks like we’ll get our wish. Within moments of the grand opening number, the gang is convened at their usual study table and Pierce has returned from a 3-month “retuning.” The problem is, Pierce can’t easily rejoin the group, because the class they’ve all chosen to take together this year, Biology 101, is full.
“Community” has always had a way of being off-beat and sometimes the humor of the show is divisive; comedy is often a very subjective artform, and what makes one person laugh uproariously makes another scratch his head. “Community” is clearly aware of its reputation and by promising to be less weird is a nod to one of the larger criticisms of the show – that it just isn’t as accessible as some of those other comedies. Still, fans of “Community” like it that way, and the show has enough fans that it made it to a third season. If nothing else, the nearly instant repudiation of their promise to be normal is a relief – Abed still obsesses after “Cougartown,” freaking out that it is now moved to midseason; Britta is still blundering along, buying the wrong book for class and perpetuating Abed’s freakout by introducing him to “Cougarton Abbey,” the presumed British show which was adapted to become “Cougartown” for the U.S. (but it only ran six episodes – Abed needs something else to sate his jonesing for “Cougartown.”) Jeff still hates Pierce just as much as before and when he sees an opportunity to shut him out of the study group, he takes it, though, of course, the plan backfires in spectacular fashion.
One of the strengths of “Community” is its use of guest stars, and the pilot introduces us to two new characters we hope to see throughout the new season. First, there’s the Biology professor, Dr. Kane, played by Michael Kenneth Williams, better known to HBO viewers as Omar from “The Wire” or Chalky from “Boardwalk Empire.” He casts a long shadow over the group and with reason – he earned his doctorate by studying an hour a day in the prison library while serving a term of 25 to life. He wastes no time feeling somewhat intolerant of Jeff’s impertinence and kicks him out, allowing Pierce to take the class with the rest of the group and pushing Jeff to the outside once more.
Also on the outside looking in is Dean Pelton who discovers that his position as Dean is more tenuous than he imagined. Apparently the air conditioning repair school (it’s an annex, as he emphasizes) is far more successful than Greendale itself, and so the Vice Dean, played by John Goodman usurps the Dean and cuts off much of the school’s funding, which is being generated by the AC school in the first place. The despondent dean intones to the group that this year won’t be much different after all, and really, I think that’s best for everybody, especially the fans.
Fans will love having “Community” back on TV. Those who aren’t fans won’t really have a specific reason to start watching now, but of course I would encourage anyone to do so anyway. We need Greendale, perhaps as much as it needs us.
“Community” returns to NBC Thursday September 22nd at 8:00 PM Eastern/Pacific.