Community Back In Session: Does the Greendale Gang Still Make the Grade?

Community - Season 4After what was arguably the longest summer break in television history, Greendale Community College reopened on Thursday night. But did Community‘s first post-Dan Harmon offering leave you feeling cool, cool, cool, Human Beings? Or perhaps a little cold?

We’re eager to hear your thoughts on the cult fave’s comeback, but first, here’s the deal, Jessica Biel (thanks, Britta):

A majority of the season opener consists of a show-within-a-show — a multi-cam comedy called Abed’s Happy Community College Show, to be exact. Some quality (?) therapizing from Britta prompts Danny Pudi’s alter ego to retreat to his happy place (the aforementioned imaginary sitcom) when he can’t deal with all of the change afoot in the real world — a trigger that Jeff sets off in abundance during the half hour.

RELATED | Community Season 4: 6 Fresh Scoops Revealed!

It turns out the group leader needs just one more history credit to graduate early, and Abed & Co. are none to pleased about that prospect. The main concern from all parties involved is that if someone leaves campus — and thus the group — will the friendships remain intact? Still, Jeff competes in a “Hunger Deans” battle for the coveted enroll code that will make his college transcripts complete — that is until “New Jeff” wins out and chooses Abed’s well-being over his own desires. (Don’t worry, Dean ultimately creates another history course for Jeff to take.)

Elsewhere in the episode:

• Funnyman Fred Willard plays Pierce to perfection in Abed’s Happy Community College Show

• Abed creates a show-within-a-show-within-a-show, as well. The result: the animated Greendale Babies, a spoof on the classic Muppet Babies.

• Britta and Troy, now officially a couple, attempt to create their own new traditions (without replacing those the latter already has with his other life partner, Abed).

• Annie calls her own future into question, confessing to Shirley that maybe everything she has planned isn’t really what she wants at all.

RELATED | Community Bosses Tease ‘Emotional Messiness,’ Possible Jeff/Britta Romance in Season 4

• Dean Pelton and Jeff Winger tango — and it’s glorious.

• A naked Chang reappears and is suffering from something he calls “Changnesia.” He also now goes by the name “Kevin.”

It was a jam-packed 30 minutes with tons of laughs and countless creative gags, but the question remains: Was it still the Community you’ve known and loved for three seasons? Or could you feel the absence of the series’ creator Harmon — who, as you well know, was replaced at the end of last season by veteran comedy writers David Guarascio and Moses Port?

My opinion: The show is certainly still funnier than most and boasts one of the most talented ensembles in recent memory. The episode — written by longtime Community scribe Andy Bobrow — did have a slightly different feel than in years past, but not by much. That said, it’s still far too early to know whether or not Greendale has been changed forever, or if this is just the same, beloved story narrated by someone(s) new. For now, I’m reserving judgement and pledging my allegiance to Community‘s E Pluribus Anus flag and everything that comes with it.

What say you, TVLiners? Hit the poll below to let us know what grade you give Community, then back up your grade in the comments!

TAGS: ,
GET MORE: Polls, Premieres, Recaps

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

70 Comments
  1. Tom says:

    #SixSeasonsAndAMovie!!!!!!!

  2. It was Awesome! Fred Willard as Pierce was a great surprise.

    • jericho says:

      Unfortunately, that was about the only thing the episode had going for it. Absolutely NONE of the episode was fun. It felt like the writers were trying to “force it” the entire episode.

      • TV Gord says:

        That’s my thought. Trying too hard. However, although I love Community, not every episode is a classic, and last night’s wasn’t. Traveling hopefully to next week. :-)

      • Philipp says:

        Dan Harmon’s absence was palpable IMO. Throughout the entire episode I had the feeling that it wasn’t the original Community.

      • Mitholas says:

        Exactly. All the concepts were great and totally suited community… Except nothing actually felt like it was Community. Like the baby subsection was such an amazing idea… But it wasn’t actually funny. They went for a Hunger Games spoof and then… Ignored it half the episode to have us watch two other groups do downright boring things? And what was with the abundance of Dean puns? I love a good Dean pun so much, but they’re good because they aren’t in every episode and when they do make an appearance they are always horrible in a hilarious way. Half the ones in this episode were horrible in a horrible way. I have never before wanted to write a script for a tv show based on a concept they have already used, purely because I think I can do it better, but now I do.

        I’m sure everyone involved is very talented in their own right, but this is not Community. This is not the show I’ve loved for three seasons.

        • Alan says:

          you remember the pulp fiction parody that nbc pushed but turned out to be a my dinner with andre parody a few years ago, its just keeping with the formula to push a parody but to then do something else in a bait-and-switch

        • Sim says:

          Agreed. They could have made an entire episode on just the ‘hunger deans’, similar to the pain-ball episode. There way too much going on.

          I’m sad that my once favourite show is turning this way.

  3. Lexi says:

    It’s not quite the same without Dan Harmon. It’s like seeing a bad Spielberg movie: not quite Schindler’s List, but it’s still Spielberg.

  4. Matt says:

    And the fanbase is divided!!!! I voted C. I can feel Harmon’s absence. I’m in until the end though!

    • M3rc Nate says:

      Havent seen the episode yet, but i honestly wonder how many people who “notice/feel” Harmon’s absence would notice anything if they didnt know. As in if it was never announced and no one ever mentioned Harmon was gone…if 25%…50%…75% of the people who say what you said, wouldnt have noticed a thing. The only reason some “notice/feel” a difference is because they were looking for one, and it was so in the foreground of their mind that he was gone and such a huge part of the show (along with the writers that left).

      Im not implying that your wrong btw.

      • Reboot says:

        I absolutely agree with you. If I didn’t know Harmon was not involved anymore, I don’t think I would’ve guessed it at all. That said, something felt off in this episode. I didn’t laugh (only smiled once or twice). The episode seemed very wacky, as usual, but it lacked heart or something. The characters felt off. Might be because I didn’t laugh or cared at what they were doing. But that’s the way I felt for a lot of episodes last season and that was when Harmon was still there. I really hope it gets better soon, but whether it improves or not, I am pretty sure we’re witnessing the last season of the show. I hope it ends on a high note (or that I am wrong :) )

      • Alan says:

        im glad im not the only one who thinks that a lot of the complaining about it being different without harmon comes from them wanting it to be different

    • Teag says:

      Most people who watched tonight’s episode probably had no idea who Harmon is or that he left.

  5. Henry says:

    In the end, I’m thankful Dan Harmon created the show. But what makes this show really work are the talented writers and cast. At the end of the episode I found myself saying, “Harmon who?” Not a shot at Harmon, but I don’t feel the need to worship him either.

    • rowan77 says:

      Henry, what you don’t realize is that Harmon did rewrites on almost every Community script for the first three years. He was exacting and while that was a pain in the butt for the people who worked with him, it was also why the show was as good as it was. I don’t worship the guy, but I give credit where credit is due. The show had his voice. This week’s episode was fun, but was lacking in the sharpness that Harmon brought to the table.

      • Henry says:

        I can appreciate that you know what I “don’t realize,” but I know this exactly. I know how a showrunner works. That said, I repeat, Harmon who?

        • rowan77 says:

          Well, if you know how a showrunner works, you are assuming that you now how a showrunner who isn’t a head writer works, because one that’s a head writer as well has his handprint all over the show. Without his voice on the show, this week was a fairly pale comparison to the last few seasons.

    • Alan says:

      exactly, it takes more than one guy to make a show. sure he was important and was heavily involved but he wasnt the only one who had a heavy involvement and wasnt the only one behind the identity of the show

  6. SJump says:

    I liked it a lot, but you could tell that the “Harmon touch” was not there. I’ll be watching every week and hopefully it will be as good as the first three seasons.

    • Philipp says:

      It was like Gilmore Girls without the Palladinos. The show’s final season got better with time though, let’s hope there’s a learning curve with Community now as well.

  7. Karen says:

    I thought it was a great show – perhaps stuffed up a little much, but I can’t really complain

  8. KD says:

    It was really missing Dan Harmon`s voice. I smiled a couple of times(Making fun of the CBS comedies),and there were some good laughs(Jeff-Dean apt. scene at the end),but they were few and far between.

  9. CJ says:

    The comedy seemed so much more overt than in past seasons. There was no subtlety in the Dean’s character and the whole Hunger Games were glanced over. Maybe it was just spread too thin. I will say Abed’s happy place being a multi-cam version of Community and then his multi-cam sitcom character’s happy place being an animated baby version of Community was pure genius and the saving grace of the episode. Gave it a B, I’m optimistic though that it will get better.

    • Philipp says:

      My thoughts exactly. Also gave it a B, also thought Abed’s happy place moments were the episodes strongest. The Hunger Deans were just weak.

    • Sarabi says:

      Agreed.

    • Alan says:

      when was the dean ever subtle? maybe in the first few episodes of the first season when the show was still finding its feet but ever since then he has been just as over the top as he was here

      • CJ says:

        Personally, I disagree. You can have an over-the-top personality and have a subtle humor to them which I always thought the dean as having. He got laughs for his over-the-top nature and at his hints of a loose sexuality through throw away comments. The premiere, I felt, was less hinting and more saying. Taking the ambiguity out of it I think took a bit of the humor out of it. Maybe I’m over thinking it, if only because I find the dean to be one of the funniest characters.

  10. Luz says:

    I don’t know I felt like the new show runners tried so hard to keep the show’s spirit that it ended up being to much.

    But it was the episode, so I’ll keep watching to make my mind.

  11. Rachel says:

    I really loved it. It was missing a little something but I thought it was fresh and the comedy was great. I wasn’t sure about some of the changes mentioned before the season started, like Britta/Troy, but I actually liked them. Looking forward to the rest of the season!

  12. Ashly says:

    I didn’t care for the show within a show, but other than that it was pretty good. I laughed quite a few times. Troy and Britta are the cutest:)

  13. kdjust2smooth says:

    It was really missing Dan Harmon’s voice. I did smile a few times(making fun of the CBS comedies),and there were some good laughs(Jeff-Dean apt. scene),but they few and far between. The first 3 seasons were classics,and it’s going to be really hard to measure up ti those first 3 seasons when you fire the soul of the show.

  14. Tom Charles says:

    I for one loved it

  15. Chel says:

    I think they tried to do too much all at once. There was a full episode of content in the Jeff/HungerDean and Abed’s Community Show.
    and then there was also Britta and Troy, and then Shirley and Annie.
    I’m not saying multiple plotlines is a bad thing but 4 in a 30 minute show is stretching everything a little thin. Personally I think the show thrives when the group either tackles something AS a group, or their is internal conflict within the group.
    Abed is worried the Greendale Seven is breaking up, if every ep is about 3 ‘twosome’ plots I’d say his fear is well founded.

  16. Julie says:

    I had somewhat mixed feelings on the episode. My expectations were pretty low, and I’d missed Community more than I’d realized, so I ended up enjoying the episode pretty well. There were funny moments that I smiled at, and the characters are still fun to spend time with.

    However, the episode definitely felt a bit off to me, and I don’t think it quite added up into a great episode. The show-within-a-show thing was somewhat of a funny idea, but it didn’t really fit that well into the episode and seemed like an obvious attempt to replicate earlier storylines. Plus the excellent Parks and Rec episode that followed highlighted the offness of the Community episode.

    Stil the episode was pretty good, and I’m interested to see how the season is going to play out.

  17. Midori says:

    It felt a bit off for me as well. Like the new creators were trying to much to match the magic of past seasons. Like the TV show, and Muppet Babies and Hunger Games, they were just trying too hard and it showed.

    However it could be worse. At least the last season of the show should still be crazy fun.

  18. Karen says:

    There was a lot going on but it was all awesome! I’m loving Troy & Britta so so so much! I hope Jeff doesn’t get jealous though! That’s my only fear. So much awesome I’m so excited for the rest of the season.

    • Alan says:

      i dont think jeff will get jealous, he saw that he was only interested in britta when it was secretive and hasnt looked at her that way ever since their hookups were revealed at the end of season 2, i think he just sees her a friend now

  19. Josh says:

    Why did they put this show back on against big bang theory? Its gonna get crushed they should stuck to the orginally planned move to friday nights!

  20. Brett says:

    Call me crazy, but I didn’t notice a major loss without Harmon. I was entertained the whole way through. It was packed with a ton of stuff, but so are many of the episodes like my two favorites, Paradigms of the Human Memory and Remedial Chaos Theory. I really enjoyed it. I’m really looking forward to this season. And the next one. And the next one. And the movie.

  21. Kay says:

    I loved it! I personally was not disappointed one bit. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

  22. Angela says:

    Very hyper and hectic-it felt like they were trying to throw a whole lot of things in. I liked the idea of Abed’s “show within a show” thing, and there were moments where it worked, but it was probably the weakest part of the episode for me (though Fred Willard oddly enough works well with the group…).
    I did think it started off kinda shaky, but got better as it went on, and every moment involving Jeff and Dean Pelton was glorious and I loved it. The ending where Dean went into his new apartment-ahhhh, that made me laugh :D. I can’t wait to see what will come of that, if anything.
    Not perfect, but still enough good stuff here that I liked, and it’s just nice to see the group back on my TV again. No matter what happens with the remaining 12 episodes, good or bad, I’ll be watching.

  23. Ben says:

    The way it was filmed was so different than any prior episode; there were A LOT of close-ups. I don’t know if I would have noticed had I not watched the first three seasons in the last week, but it was very off-putting. I don’t know what to think–it seemed like they were trying too hard. Maybe the episodes will feel more “normal” over the next few weeks.

  24. Tran says:

    Community is here to stay and NBC better not cancel it if the sitcom gets even better ratings. Watch your back, Big Bang Theory or Vampire Diaries or IDOL.

  25. SanaA says:

    This year will be awesome!

  26. Mike says:

    I still think the heart of the show is the characters, as long as the characters stay true to who they are I think I’m going to continue to love it.

  27. Christine says:

    It felt different. I agree with the other posters who felt it was stretched too thin. There was too much story to be told in just 30 minutes. There was too much going on, that it was hard to really invest in or enjoy any of the storylines.
    hat I’ve loved about the first three seasons of the show were the throw away one liners that were hilarious. I didn’t hear a lot of funny one liners in this episode. I’m not sure if this is making sense, but I used to have to watch an episode of Community at least twice to make sure that I got all of the funny lines. I guess I just didn’t feel like I need to or want to watch this episode again.

  28. Heather Rose says:

    i liked that Abed and the group were all so worried about change… and here we all are as fans worried about how the show is going to be different this season. like Abed basically said we are in what was the future at some point- so we just have to go from there!

  29. Gem says:

    Perhaps I had been feeling the absence of Community for too long that my expectations had risen to inappropriate heights but the episode was just so-so for me. I liked the theme references they used with Hunger Games, Multi-Cam comedy, and Muppet Babies but I felt like they should have picked one and stuck with it. The beauty of Dan Harmon was taking the show/movie theme etc. and weaving it seamlessly into an entire episode rather than throwing 3 very different genres of tv/film at you at once. I love Community more than words and am hoping it will get it’s new legs soon!

  30. kavyn says:

    I liked it. There were a couple of lines that made me laugh, and that’s more than I can say for most comedies right now.

    I think the new showrunners were put in a very uncomfortable position when it’s really NBC that should take the blame. This episode felt like Happy Endings to me, and to be honest I don’t hate that at all since I’m a fan of Happy Endings. However the plot of the episode felt a little too scattered around. If they didn’t catch on this season (since all 13 episodes are already filmed) and we get a season 5, the new showrunners need to make sure everything’s a little more solid. We don’t like Community because of the randomness, we like it because of the creativity and the way Harmon and co. incorporated creativity into a community college setting.

    In the end Community still seems like it’ll be great, and I think the showrunners will do the best with what they got. The huge deal made out of Harmon’s exit only harms the new guys (obviously Community wouldn’t be the same with a completely new showrunner, the whole point of hiring new showrunners is to change the show into something more favorable to the general viewing public). In the end the new showrunners are supposed to bring in as many new fans while keeping old fans as possible, and you could tell they tried their best to do it. If the changes don’t pan out though then the ONLY people you should blame are NBC for forcing change in the first place. The new showrunners are doing exactly what they were told to do while trying to keep as many Community fans they can happy.

  31. Uncle Ralph says:

    Pretty good, but not quiiiiiiite right. It felt like it was missing some polish or something, or an extra little something with the spoofs that were featured. That might be where the lack of Harmon fell flat, since Harmon’s generally been pretty good for spoofs.

  32. RobMF says:

    I’ve watched the first three seasons literally 8 times now. It was very easy to tell there was a major difference in the show. It even felt like the directing was different but I’m sure that came from editing. Like the Actors didn’t seem like they usually would, laid back and relaxed. It seemed like they were a little tense. With that said, it was still a very fun episode and pretty funny. I think one important thing missing was the group sitting at the table for a few minutes at least.

  33. Yamas says:

    I gave it an A… But I wanted to give it a C for Cool Cool Cool

  34. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Ummm….I think I had my expectations set way too high. I was kind of let down. But it did have some positives. Britta in hipster glasses? Ha, classic Britta. Britta and Troy are pretty cute too, but I kind of would have wanted to see them forge a new relationship together instead of already being there. The Dean moving next door to Jeff was really funny. I wasn’t so much a fan of the multi-cam stuff since that was a bit Scrubs already did. One thing Community has never done is copy another show until tonight’s episode. (There’s a difference between spoofing and just outright copying something that’s been done before.) I might have liked The Hunger Games stuff better had I ever seen the movie. And something about the way the show was directed felt a lot different to me. Did it look cheaper? I couldn’t decide what it was, but it looked like it was shot a lot different.

    • Sarabi says:

      I don’t think they intended to “copy” Scrubs. I think that spoofing multi-cam sitcoms in a certain way has become pretty common (you can’t take a jab at multi-cam sitcoms without a laugh track in the background). And if they want to make fun of these sitcoms, I say bring it on! Who cares if it’s been done before – everything has been done before. It doesn’t automatically signify that Community is ripping off other shows (Supernatural also comes to mind) just because it parodies the same thing. Besides, they did the spoofing in their “meta” way, and Scrubs people did it their way. Like you, I also think that this episode was a little off, but this wasn’t the reason why. In fact, the whole “show within a show within a show” concept was the strongest suit of this episode, albeit a bit forced.

      I do believe that Community will become itself again. Go, Human Beings! :)

  35. Waage says:

    It was… NOTHING HAS CHANGED SINCE DAN HARMON LEFT… THIS IS THE SAME… PLEASE KEEP WATCHING METAMETAMETA… Yeah… It was okay. But it tried to hard.

  36. Brooke says:

    I think it was the same old Community. I don’t think I would have thought anything had changed behind the scenes if I hadn’t read about the drama online. I really enjoyed the storyline about change, since it was both in character for Abed to be so worried about senior year and also speaking directly to the audience that was worried about the change in showrunners. I don’t think we’ve got anything to worry about here.

  37. R.O.B. says:

    Sorry, I am getting tired of the dean dressed in drag. I just never found the drag/transvestite thing funny. Never bothered me much on Community because the dean was always a bit part. He’s becoming the Jar Jar Binks of Community (everything has to be a play on the word “dean” now? Really?), and now he lives next door to Jeff. I think his part works better like Chang’s used to – less is more.

  38. Anon says:

    I loved it, didn’t notice a difference. I feel like a lot of people here watched the show searching for flaws to say they felt Harmon’s absence instead.

    • Ben says:

      There was an objective difference in the way this episode was filmed compared to any prior episode. When the group was walking to class in the beginning, in any other season, that would have been filmed from a wide angle, showing all seven characters talking and reacting to one another in one shot. Here, each character got their one-liner while the camera was zoomed in on only them, then it jumped to whichever character had the next line, and so on. I’m not saying this is a huge flaw or anything, but it is VERY different than what the show has done before, and did feel a little off-putting.

  39. Alan says:

    can we just have a full greendale babies show please? i laughed so hard at that spot on muppet babies parody.
    loved the show within a show, felt it was used to perfection to poke fun at other bland generic comedies and also at the idea that harmon’s departure would cause a major overhaul on the show.
    if i hadn’t already known harmon was gone i could have easily believed he was still there as part of the process, it was still the insane show it has always been in my view.
    i get the feeling that a portion of the people who say they didn’t enjoy it most likely had already convinced themselves they weren’t going to like it before they even saw the episode and would never change their view.
    can fred willard play pierce permanently? i found him far more enjoyable than chevy chase in the role. it was a very nice surprise that his casting wasn’t screamed from the rooftops.
    liked the advancement in the characterizations here too. jeff actually wants his friends to do the class with him, he really has come a long way from the anti-social douche who just wanted to get in and out of greendale as quick as possible way back at the beginning. troy and britta’s relationship progression was good to see too. the advancement i was most happy to see though was annie’s, when we met her she had her life planned out and had already limited herself to that, now after spending a few years as part of a real group of friends she has seen there is much more to the world than what she had set out to do and is finally doing something that she would actually enjoy.
    overall it was a very good episode, no it wasn’t up there with the very best episodes we have seen in the past but it definitely kept up the quality in my opinion.

  40. emma says:

    It was different, not necessarily bad, but different… you could feel it wasn’t the same.

  41. Tumbleweed says:

    So many people say they can feel the absence of Harmon, but I wonder if we didn’t know he was gone, would anyone notice? I think it’s a little bit of loyalty to him (which is lovely, I have it too, his exit was handled very poorly), and convincing one’s self that his non-presence is noticeable. I don’t think it is. The people who are still there know that show. The actors know those characters better than Harmon, even, IMO; they’ve actually BEEN them for 3+years. The writers who’ve been there know what the show should look and sound like. It hasn’t been rebooted. The fans had such high expectations, but realistically, every episode of the show hasn’t been “amazing!”. Some are better than others. This one was very good, in my opinion.

  42. tara17 says:

    I enjoyed the episode. If I want to be picky I could say it lacked a certain group cohesion, but it was full of terrific scenes and moments.

  43. August Deacon says:

    I think that there were a little too many things going on at once within the episode, but as it’s a season opener they didn’t have much of a choice but to try and have everyone doing something, especially since this is their last first day together at Greendale. It was a solid episode and I think it’ll become much better once they start focusing on 2-3 plots rather than the 4-5 that were happening in the first episode.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,598 other followers