Warning Mild Spoilers discussed throughout the review.
After a long series of setbacks, the beloved NBC sitcom, Community, returned last night. From losing the beloved Dan Harmon, indefinite pushbacks, and uncertain airdates, Community and its fans were left in limbo and the fate of the show seemed to be looking grim. However, things moved on and Community eventually got the release date of February 7th, 8/7c. The new show runners along with their crew had big shoes to fill, and expectations were arguably unreasonably high. So how was Community’s long awaited return? Did it quell the worried and vocal fan’s fears?
History 101 (4.01) will be recognized as the most polarizing episode of the show’s history. As a longtime fan, I can say that personally I was pleased with the show’s return, but the episode isn’t without faults. The episode suffers from what a lot of other shows face when it comes to season openers. Story arcs need to be set in place, characters reestablished for new comers, and of course live up to the hype of fans. History 101 juggles a lot of different story lines and unfortunately it seems to come off a little chaotic.
Playing off the fear of fans that believed the show would be drastically changed, the episode opens up wonderfully with a stab at multi-cam sitcoms. Troy and Abed return to the study room in their famous melody to an uproar of applause and laughter. They exchange gimmicky quips and the laugh track continues. One after the other the old faces return with intentionally shallow jokes as well as the actors playing caricatures of themselves. We also see a surprise guest that pokes fun at a lot of the behind the scene issues, in particular with Chevy Chase. The bit works really well, but unfortunately becomes overplayed as the show keeps going back to that well one too many times.
It’s eventually established that these multi-cam bits are actually taking place in Abed’s mind as a way to deal with the stress of being seniors. They keep going back to this throughout the episode anytime Abed can’t handle the situation, like when Jeff announces that he’ll be graduating early. My problem is that these AbedTV moments feel redundant and lose their humor after awhile. However, the pay off for the AbedTV bit well worth it despite it eating up a lot of time. Personally I would have cut down some of the time dedicated to the bit and focused on fleshing out the other stories to make it a more solid episode.
The other storylines involve Jeff competing in The Hunger Deans, Shirley and Annie focusing on pranks, and Troy and Britta carrying out a new school year tradition. Although not without their funny moments, the pacing of these stories moves rather quickly, and it leaves a lot of these plot lines rushed. However, much like the AbedTV bit, these story lines eventually do have strong pay offs and set up a good tone for the rest of the season. Overall, the characters still feel natural and the episode delivers a nice heartfelt message. I won’t spoil it but it deals with moving on and learning to let go. Something Abed, as well as the fans of Community, will have to come to grips with eventually.
History 101 proves that the humor is still there, and although it’s not the strongest of episodes, it’s still Community. I chalk up a lot of the faults in the episode to just nerves and stress from the new show runners, and the old crew trying to keep things up to par. This might be a bit of a downfall due to the fact that all of the episodes are shot and cut, so there’s not much room to make changes on the fly. It’s hard to replace the beloved heart soul, Dan Harmon, but I can say that I’m pleased with the way the show is going so far. It’s still early, but if last night’s episode is any indication of the road ahead Community is going to be just fine.
Community airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC! Check out last night’s episode here on Hulu!
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