Return of the King

And, we’re back! Re-piloting can be tough, but there is not TV writer on earth I was more confident in to do it that Dan Harmon. After guiding Community through the first three innovative seasons of the sitcom he created, Harmon was fired by Sony and NBC, who produce and air the show. The result was a fourth season where the beloved characters we know and love no longer had the mad scientist who controls the funny things they say to tell them what to say anymore. It was a season that, as a fan of the show, I wanted to like, but was missing its soul. It still looked like Community so you wanted it to be good, but it was missing something intangible. This week, Community returned, and it felt as if the fourth season never happened. It felt normal, and by normal, I mean totally weird, because that is where that show thrives.

Dan Harmon is back and we’re back to the basics. Jeff is a lawyer again, but penniless and tempted to crawl back to his former partner who got him disbarred in the first place. Abed has a film degree, but quit his only filmmaking gig, working for Jeff. Shirley’s marriage is in shambles, but this time she admits it’s her fault. Annie is working for a pharmaceutical company, and creating a new generation of pill addict overachievers like herself. Chevy Chase’s Pierce Hawthorne made a brief cameo appearance, as a ghost/hologram. Chang is a teacher at Greendale Community College…again. It feels like the Pilot episode again. The callbacks to the very first episode that aired in September of 2009 are uncanny. For the first time in a while, I found myself genuinely laughing at Community, and not just because I want it to be funny, and it felts great!

After four seasons and a severe gas leak, they are not done growing. They got their fifth season, which means they’re only a season and a movie away from becoming the most meta-rific show in the history of television. They’re creator has been brought back after NBC and Sony realized that his perfectionism, attention to detail, obsessive compulsiveness, and difficulty to work with that caused them to go in a different direction after Season Three are precisely the reasons he is the perfect man for the job. Season Four was not great, but was still better than 90% of what made it onto network television in the 2012-13 season. The Season Four writers gave it the old Greendale try, but Dan Harmon was so much a part of the foundation of the show, that his absence was more apparent than Chevy Chase’s abrupt departure.

The show was never really about going to community college, and this show has found a way to get past the fact that most community college students only stay in community college for two years, and most college students have a degree after four years. Greendale is more than just a community college, it is a community. It is where these characters have learned about themselves, and where they have grown. There is a lot to look forward to with the new season of Community. Former Breaking Bad star Jonathan Banks has been cast as a teacher. John Oliver, fresh off hosting The Daily Show this summer and doing such a good job that HBO is giving him his own show to host, is back for the first time since Season Two to play the drunken Professor Ian Duncan. Dino Stamatopoulos, a veteran comedy writer and personal friend of Dan Harmon, is back to play Greendale’s scummy drug dealer, Alex “Starburns” Osbourne. David Cross, Mitch Hurwitz, Vince Gilligan, and Ben Folds all have appearances later in the season. The study table may be brand new and voice activated, but the old magic of the first three seasons has returned to the realm. Six seasons and a movie!

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