Community: Repilot

"Do you guys feel weird doing this without... Magnitude?"

Hello faithful readers. Yes, it’s me. I have returned to the Community reviewing fold after checking out last season. But this time I am not alone. This season I’ll be sharing reviewing duties with my old partner in crime, Miss Josie Kafka, Juliette, who valiantly stepped in to review the rest of season 4, and Sunbunny, who has compromising pictures of me and that is all you need to know about that.

The reason for my return I don’t hear you ask? Well, it might have something to do with the studio seeing sense and returning the keys to Greendale to their rightful owner. Yes, after a year in exile, the all-father himself, Dan Harmon has returned. Community just hasn’t been Community without Harmon to steer the ship. Which brings us to the problem of what to do about season 4. The way that season ended presented Harmon with a bit of problem. Jeff Winger, by all accounts the show's central character, has graduated from Greendale and returned to his career as a lawyer. How can you make a college set comedy when your central character no longer goes to college?

I’m sure it was very tempting for Harmon to simply Dallas season 4 completely and just have Annie wake up to find Jeff in the shower, still a student and ready for another year of skipping class. Ultimately Harmon has decided to reboot the series rather than reset. As the title suggest, this is the start of a new beginning for the study group and the show itself. Rather than contrive a scenario that requires Jeff to re-enrol as a student, he brings Jeff back to Greendale as a teacher sort of like Turk, Cox and (briefly) J.D. in season 9 of Scrubs, which was also a unmitigated disaster that was mercifully cancelled quickly. So of course they are going to compare this season to. Oh, Danny Boy, I have missed you.

So how was the first episode of the new/old Community? Well, to be perfectly honest, it was something of a letdown. Probably my own fault, really. Shouldn’t have expected too much from this episode. Season openers were never that great before Harmon was fired. Don’t see why they would have to be brilliant now. What I did find surprising was how downbeat this episode was. Rather than be a laugh riot, this was one of the series’ most depressing episodes, essentially 20 minutes of people sitting around a table talking about how much their lives now suck post-Greendale. They all came to this place with such high hopes for the future. They worked hard (or at least did the minimal amount of work required), earned their degree, graduated and ended up working exactly the kind of menial jobs they went to university to avoid working in the first place. I can relate, as I’m sure can many a former student. Realising the futility of it all is pretty much the last true experience of being a university student.

It is something of a contrivance that they’ve all fallen on hard times since graduating. But it is a necessary contrivance in order to get them all back at Greendale so they can Quantum Leap the last four years and put right what they feel went wrong. At least that's one way of looking at it. Another is that they are hiding themselves away in the comforting arms of Greendale so they don't have to deal with the horrors of the real world outside, like having to work crappy jobs. Are the group really trying to correct their mistakes or are they simply running away from facing up to them?

Despite its faults, I came away from this episode hopeful rather than disheartened. 'Repilot' may have not been a great episode of Community, but was unmistakably an episode of Community, and not a bad impression of one like we were repeatedly subjected to in season 4. With any luck, now that the awkward second pilot phase is out of the way, the following episodes will see a return to the glory days of seasons 1-3. If this is to be the show’s final season (a sentence I seem to type every year and probably will again when it is unexpectedly renewed for a sixth season) then at least it will go out under the guiding hand of its creator.

Notes and Quotes

--I hope the bottle quality of this episode is because they are saving money for more ambitious episodes, not because the budget has been slashed to virtually nothing.

--Jeff, if you want to be a independent lawyer working out of a shopping mall office, this is what your commercials should look like:



--RIP Study Room Table. You will not be forgotten even though you will be quickly replaced.

--Chevy Chase’s holographic cameo was certainly unexpected.

Jeff: "That's for making me go to this school. That's for making the last four years happen. And now i get to make them un-happen. For me and the only people I care about."

Jeff: “Oh don’t blame it all on a gas leak year. This was a four year process. We went in one end as real people and out the other end as mixed up cartoons.”
--Nice to see them acknowledge that.

Abed: "Repiloting can be intense. New people show up. Regulars shift roles or even fall away. Season 9 of Scrubs Zach Braff was only in the first six episodes."
Troy: "Son of a bitch! After everything Scrubs did for him! I'm sorry."
--And nice to see they can make fun of Donald Glover's coming departure.

Jeff: "Tory, your entire identity has been consumed by your relationship with another man."
Troy: "You found my Clive Owen Tumblr."

Abed: "I've been spending so much time with computers, your tears are just 1s and 0s to me."
Shirley: "Yeah, you were a real Hallmark card before."

Two out of four staged robot battles.

5 comments:

ChrisB said...

Welcome back, Mark!

I agree with your assessment of this episode. I expected it to be hilarious; it wasn't. It was, however, a return to form and I remain hopeful.

Kathy said...

I got to be honest, though. I laughed more at this episode than I did most of season 4.

sunbunny said...

I'm glad others were disappointed as well. Although, like you said, it did at least feel like classic Community. I always enjoy their meta references, so I really appreciated the acknowledgment of "gas leak year," Glover's leaving, and Britta's extreme ditziness (although I'm a bit torn on that, because Gillian Jacobs does such a good job with it).

The Chevy Chase cameo was really surprising. I thought they might have killed off the character, but I like that he's absent because of a court order. Maybe they'll bring him back (in extremely small doses, please) occasionally.

'It' also seems to have reset to his season one persona, thankfully. And that's all I have to say about that.

Freeman said...

I went into this with leveled expectations, as I am wont to do with most everything. So I didn't find myself disappointed, I found it quite funny. It was amusing to see that trademark cynicism mixed with heart once again.

Now that they've got most of the issues out of the way, Community can settle back into a groove. Suffice it to say, the second episode was friggin' hilarious.

Juliette said...

I was surprised how truly delighted I was by the Chevy Chase cameo. I never liked Pierce much but the empty space at the table was a bigger hole than I thought it would be, and I'm glad the character - and the actor - ended up with a proper goodbye.