Season four of “Community” didn’t feel the same without series creator and showrunner Dan Harmon, who was unexpectedly fired by NBC. His absence clearly showed in the extremely lackluster season, and it seemed that “six seasons and a movie” was about dead.
Thankfully however, NBC decided to re-hire Harmon for season five of the previously acclaimed comedy series. With Harmon back in charge, “Community” has returned as one of the most original, wacky and ingenious comedy shows on television today.
The season premiere “Repilot” acts as more than just a typical premiere, as it sees a return to how the show was run by Harmon, and also functions as a season that someone who hasn’t watched before can begin from. The episode title serves as a reference to how the show has been re-booted by Harmon’s return, and to how the characters have led dispiriting lives since their leader, Jeff Winger, graduated.
Three years after he has graduated, Jeff’s law firm has dissolved into nothing, but a former colleague of his convinces him to obtain information on a lawsuit of his former school, Greendale Community College. However, after reuniting with the rest of his former study group companions, Jeff changes his mind on letting them form their own lawsuits against the school, and instead has them re-enroll at the college and pursue new majors.
The best parts of “Repilot” lie in how Harmon pokes at his resentment of the fourth season. The presentation of Greendale with low lighting and abandoned rooms, in addition to the main characters leading despairing lives, serve as darkly comic zingers to how the fourth season almost ruined the series itself.
Furthermore, the writing in the episode by Harmon and Chris McKenna contains a great amount of jokes on restarting things in film or television, especially when Abed quotes that “A repiloting can be intense. New people show up and regulars shift roles or even fall away. In season nine of ‘Scrubs,’ Zach Braff was only in the first six episodes.” In just one micro-joke from the series’ best character, it re-affirms how the writers under Harmon are significantly self-aware of almost every common staple in popular culture.
The follow-up episode, “Introduction to Teaching,” ironically feels like a true season’s 1-3 season premiere of the show. Jeff takes a job as a law teacher, however his inexperience clearly stars to show early on. He soon gets a mentor to help out with the process, eccentric criminology professor Buzz Hickey (Jonathan Banks; aka Mike from “Breaking Bad”), who he ends up sharing an office with.
The absolute best story arc of the episode though, is when Abed takes a film class called “Nicolas Cage: Good or Bad?” It serves as a hilariously smart riff on Nicolas Cage’s acting, where Abed makes the mistake of binge-watching too many of his movies, and it ultimately leads to him going insane, and eventually having a Cage-esque breakdown in his class. Its stories, such as this, that show “Community” reaffirming its past status by creating characters and story-arcs, that are outlandish on paper, but deftly executed when on screen.
Episode three titled, “Basis Intergluteal Numismatics,” marks the first concept episode of the season, where Jeff and Annie team up to stop, wait for it … the Ass-Crack Bandit, a shadowy figure that drops coins into unsuspecting peoples’ pants. Even with that crazy premise which produces a lot of big laughs, the episode echoes the style of director David Fincher, specifically his films “The Social Network,” “Se7en” and “Zodiac.” The only problem with the episode is that some characters got less screen-time than they should have. Yet the re-teaming of Jeff and Annie for another investigation (“Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design,” anyone?) was handled with subtle precision.
With Dan Harmon back in charge, “Community” is returning to its old roots as the most richly creative comedy series on TV. The fifth season is very bright so far, which means that the hope for “six seasons and a movie” is still alive and well.
Recommended: Harmon fans rejoice! The “Community” we fell in love with is finally back.