Well, the season premiere of Community started off on a harmonious note with a Glee-esque opening song. It had everything, from coordinated outfits to sequins to self-referential jokes! Turns out it was just Jeff’s daydream of how wonderful the new school year was going to be without Pierce in the study group. The Pierce-less group has signed up for a filled-to-capacity biology class together.
They instantly undercut the tension of the season 2 cliffhanger “Will Pierce be back?” by answering in the affirmative. We get our first Jeff’s Big Speech of the night when he convinces the group that they don’t need to be in the same class as Pierce to still hang out with him.
They also don’t waste much time launching new guest star John Goodman as the Air Conditioning Repair Vice Dean. Hearing his musical baritone and seeing his comic frown as he plays a “bad guy” were probably the highlights of the episode for me. He is going to be an excellent villain.
Meanwhile, the new biology professor, played with over-the-top earnestness by Michael K. Williams, formerly of The Wire, apparently has a knack for kicking people out of his class. He wastes no time kicking Jeff out after Jeff’s series of increasingly improbable phone interruptions during his speech about having triumphed over adversity. (Naturally, Pierce fills in Jeff’s vacant spot.)
After suddenly finding himself the outcast, Jeff teams up with Chang, who has been living in the school’s air conditioning ducts. Remember, he hasn’t worked at the school since the end of season one? The Dean suspects that it’s Annie’s Boobs, so he sends a beefed up security force to smoke the monkey out. Jeff inhales what should probably be a lethal amount of gas and heads to a showdown with the group looking something like a cartoon ghost.
A misunderstanding with Pierce and Jeff is quickly resolved and things are back in order. The group reassembles in the cafeteria at the end of the episode, and Jeff has learned”¦ something new? The episode just felt a little stale, probably because with the exception of the Dean’s plot-line, it could have easily fit into last season. So, Chang’s still a loser, and Jeff still loves the group but pretends he doesn’t but admits it in the end after Annie gives him the doe eyes. I think these points were already hammered home several times last season, no?
Maybe it’s just that the group dynamics were off. It was a little strange to be reunited with the group, only to have an episode that kept the group mostly apart. With apologies to my Dr. Who-loving colleague Selena, even Abed’s sub-plot left me cold, despite the rather spot-on “Professor Spacetime.”
While the new cast members have a lot of promise, the first episode didn’t really do much to set up what’s new this season. With the Dean, we know what’s in store for him: he has to contend with the eeeeeevil Vice Dean, and his own insecurities about his little school. But what about everyone else? I guess we’re just supposed to wait for all the wacky theme episodes to come! Not that I won’t enjoy those, but I can’t help wishing that sometimes Community would be just a little bit more like a regular TV show.