This is the third in a series of blog posts about the wonderful American sitcom Community, which recently returned for its fifth season. Here’s the first blog post, which is a general introduction to the show and its characters. Here’s the second blog post, which is a list of the series’ best episodes so far. This post is a review of the first four episodes of season five.
So. It’s back.
As anyone with an interest in the show knows, there’s been plenty of cautious optimism and weary anticipation towards the critically-acclaimed comedy’s new season. The creator of the show is back (Yay!), but one of the show’s main actors has quit (Boo!). There’s a lot of great guest stars on the way (Yay!), but another of the show’s main actors is leaving soon (Boo!). Will this be any good? How will the show go on in the aftermath of the controversial fourth season? How will it deal with not one, but two main cast members leaving?
Well, judging by the episodes that have aired so far, things are looking good.
First, Jeff returned to Greendale and so did the rest of the study group, but it took a while for things to go back to normal. Jeff, after graduating from Greendale as a more mature, more sincere and a generally better person, went back to being a lawyer, but this time he tried his best to be honest and helpful.
A year or so later, we meet him in his office, homeless and skint, when he is offered a chance to make money. But to do this, he’ll have to regress to his pre-Greendale ways and become a manipulative, selfish jerk again to get his way.
When he bumps into his friends during a brief visit to Greendale, he finds that their careers have been going just as badly as his. Annie’s promoting pills, Britta’s a bartender, Shirley’s business failed, which caused her husband to leave her, Troy is aimlessly waiting for Abed to make money so he can piggyback off his success, and Abed’s film dreams have crashed and burned.
It’s quite a dark episode, metaphorically and literally – the lighting is dim and gloomy – and the group’s first meeting around the study table turns into a heated argument after each member reveals how much their lives have sucked since they left the community college.
The group’s mood swings between supporting Greendale and hating it. Jeff points out how they’ve all changed since coming to the school, arguably for the worse, pointing out several problems that fans (including me) and critics have had with the characters becoming too cartoony. Season 4 is hastily written off as a period where a year-long gas leak caused everyone to act differently, which is a great, cheeky dig.
The group re-enrol at Greendale, but Jeff attempts to turn their underlying resentment of the school into a lawsuit. Fortunately, he has a change of heart after hearing some surprising advice from Pierce (!) who has an unexpected cameo as a hologram, inadvertently dealing out Obi Wan wisdom to Jeff.
Meanwhile, Abed is, of course, comparing Jeff’s return to Greendale to the plot of a TV show. Abed compares Jeff’s role to JD in the ninth season of Scrubs, where JD returned to Sacred Heart to teach instead of learn. Jeff laughs this off – a teacher? Jeff? Oh, please – and Troy criticises JD’s actor for leaving 6 episodes into that season*.
*(Troy’s actor is leaving five episodes into this season. Foreshadowing meta-ness! Ah, it’s good to have you back, Community).
Any reference to Scrubs is going to make me smile like an idiot, even if it is referencing the terrible ninth season (are the writers self-deprecatingly suggesting that this season of Community is going to be as bad as that one?), but this joke has a brilliant punchline later on. JD himself, Zach Braff, narrates the end of the episode using one of his old Scrubs monologues – a monologue from season nine, no less! For a few seconds, my old favourite comedy crossed over with my new favourite comedy, and it was just THE BEST.
Anyway, the rest of the group, still miserable and hateful towards the school, decide to burn the study room table. Jeff stops them and they decide to take new courses. Jeff ends up accidentally burning the table anyway, and reluctantly accepts a job as a teacher at Greendale. It’s a new era, a new start, a new table, a new Community that is an awful lot like the old Community. Hooray!
To read about the other three episodes, click ‘Read More’!