01st Jan2014

‘Community: 5×01-03′ (P)review

by Nathan Smith

Community-S5

Note: Three episodes (5×01, 5×02, 5×03) were watched for review. The season premiere airs January 2nd at 8pm/7pm Central with two back to back episodes.

There’s a common fear that most loyal television viewers have for long-running television series, that if the showrunner who created the original series departs, that the voice of the show, the thing that keeps driving it, keeps people coming back, will be gone. It’s a legitimate fear, one that can be assuaged by looking into the past at shows like, The West Wing, Gilmore Girls, shows that I never personally watched but discovered that critics and viewers felt detached from afterwards. The problem is these were shows that were so defined by the voice of their creators that when they departed, the show became empty. One show that had to get its sea legs for a while was Supernatural. After Eric Kripke left, the show was still impactful, but it was a show in search of a meaning. The words felt right, the characters felt right, but plot felt lost on the back road, It fortunately course corrected and is still powerful in its ninth season.

I know this is a review of Community, and I promise it is, its just important for you to understand where I’m coming from when I say that “Community” season four, was not a misstep per se, it was a show searching for meaning. When its original creator and captain at helm Dan Harmon left in season four due to creative differences, he took the creative with him it seems. Season four wasn’t bad, it had quite a few good episodes, ‘Paranormal Parantage,’ ‘Herstory of Dance,’ ‘Intro to Knots,’ and ‘Intro to Felt Surrogacy.’ It felt like “Community” was there, but it was hollowed out and the words felt off like an impression of the show fans had rabidly come to love.

Such is NOT the case for season five of Community, the hour long premiere is vibrant, and quippy and it’s really no surprise seeing as Dan Harmon is responsible for the co-writing the season premiere. It feels right from the first scene and delves into hysterics from there, just beat after beat of the finest tuned joke machine. A welcome relief after thirteen episodes of middling to good, the show is on fire. The actors feel alive and filled with a breath of fresh air. It’s quite easy to bowl over in laughter as each of the three episodes reviewed are filled with wall to wall laughter and there are some jokes, as Community are wont to do, that are so meta your head begins to hurt. You’ll be quoting the show endlessly like the good old days. And let me tell you, the third episode of the new season, is pretty much hysterical from beginning to end and features a guest appreance by Walton Goggins who loses himself in a role that is simultaneously the same that we’ve seen from him, but in the end is a refreshing surprise at being flat out hilarious, especially if one is used to him as Boyd Crowder on Justified, as well as Jonathan Banks, who plays a teacher, but lends his gruffness to a character that while feeling as if he never left Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad, he injects his role with a subtle humor that will you laugh.

It feels like an episode of Community, versus a show pretending to be “Community.” There’s a sense of starting over in the premiere as a show does when it’s starting a new season, but its also a mission statement for season five. This is the reset button, the new world order here. The big thing on everyone’s minds is would they acknowledge the events of season four, and how would they handle it. Well, yes they still address the events of season four briefly in the way that you’d expect Community to do. It still doesn’t feel resentful, it feels like a light-hearted jab that’s still pretty acerbic in its own right. And there are still surprises for viewers in the season premiere, a surprise that longtime viewers wouldn’t expect now that the reins are back in Harmon’s hands. And the hits just keep on coming in the three episodes I’ve seen. The show blazes along and hysterics ensue in that time.

Bottom line is, for viewers who gave up in season four, this is the time to come back. And for those really loyal viewers who stuck through Community in season four through love and hate, here’s your reward, a brilliant return to basics that’s anything but basic.

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