Thursday, January 2, 2014

REVIEW: 'Community' Refocuses on Its Characters in 'Repilot / Introduction to Teaching'

NBC's Community - Episode 5.01 Repilot / 5.02 Introduction to Teaching

Jeff returns to Greendale to gather evidence for a lawsuit he is pursuing; Dean Pelton is thrilled to see Jeff back and quickly calls the study group back together; Jeff settles into his new job at Greendale; Professor Hickey (Jonathan Banks) shows him the ropes and shares some pointers on teaching; and Abed convinces the study group to take a new class, "Nicolas Cage: Good or Bad?"

Overall, "Repilot" was just a little too meta for my personal taste - Abed & Troy's lines about Zach Braff and Scrubs season nine, Troy saying it's weird to be there without... Magnitude, the "gas leak" year, etc. But it also was a solid premiere given all that it had to do. The show had to address the stuff that happened in season four while also realistically getting the gang back together at Greendale.

It's also really fascinating how the show was able to ground all of these characters again while also offering its strongest depiction of Greendale Community College as an institution. The school has been scrutinized by this bridge collapse scandal. Now, it's up to Jeff to help save the school. It's also a strong story for Dean Pelton as he becomes something more than just a man with a crush on Jeff and who likes to dress up in elaborate outfits.

More than anything, Community season five just has a renewed sense of energy and focus. It really gets back to its roots of community college hijinks in the second episode. It mines so many laughs because of that. There's a presence of teachers and students trying to learn the materials to help them in life. I'm glad the show underwent a time jump between season four and season five. It gave each character a new history that is now informing their decisions - Jeff's failure returning to the law as a "hero," Andre leaving Shirley again, Annie being stuck in a job she is not happy with, Britta becoming less and less of the activist she once was. The character work will make or break this season. Right now, it's really working for me.

"Repilot" - B
"Introduction to Teaching" - A-

Some more thoughts:
  • As with every other time Community returns to NBC, I have no clue what to expect with the ratings. 
  • What was your reaction to seeing Chevy Chase one last time as Pierce Hawthorne? That was a major surprise in the premiere - even though it was just a small part.
  • Jonathan Banks is just a great addition as Buzz Hickey, the new teacher at Greendale. His interactions with Leonard were wonderful as is his mentorship with Jeff. I'm really looking forward to see what else they will do with him in upcoming episodes.
  • The whole riot over minus was just so hilarious. It's stuff like that that made Community and is helping to bring it back again.
  • Also, Abed's Nicolas Cage breakdown was just so spot-on and hysterical.