There was a rumor that Jeff would wake up in the premiere and Season Four would have been just a dream. Thankfully, Dan Harmon didn’t completely throw it all out the window, instead choosing to re-build after the destruction that was Season Four of ‘Community’.
Last season, Jeff Winger graduated from Greendale to go out into the world and become a lawyer who worked for the little guys. It was a happy ending for the Study Group patriarch, who left behind his friends, feeling comfortable that they could take care of themselves. It was a happily-ever-after scenario.
Fast forward just a few months.
Jeff failed. Not because he was a bad lawyer; he failed because he tried so hard to be good, to do the right thing, and apply those wholesome principles that he learned at Greendale. Even an ultra-cheesy commercial showing off his ability to be a hero (Call 555-HERO) couldn’t save his career. Enter Rob Corddry, reprising his role as Alan, Jeff’s former law firm frienemy. Alan has a new client, Marvin Humphries, who lost his fingers in an engineering mishap, and wants to sue the school reckless enough to give him an engineering degree in the first place, Greendale. Alan needs Jeff’s help to get into Greendale and grab Humphries’ records. Because Jeff is so bad at being good, he chooses to be good at being bad, and he agrees to help Alan by heading home to Greendale.
The Dean, always beside himself with his deep, deep love for Jeff, thinks that Jeff has returned to save him. Greendale is, after all, the little guy. Upon his arrival, Jeff learns that the Dean has closed the Study Room (now the records room) for sentimental reasons, as well as the asbestos. The Dean has also called Abed to join the “Save Greendale Committee”, who arrives to re-meet Jeff by calling back to the way they met in Season One. Abed isn’t alone. He called everyone else, who had (but also didn’t have) careers of their own, to help save Greendale. Enter the rest of the Study Group, minus Pierce (who graduated with Jeff, but didn’t return.)
It seems that Greendale has to give out a certain number of diplomas each year in order to pass as a legitimate college, and avoid being shut down. Hence, how Marvin Humphries acquired his own diploma. Jeff sees an opportunity to sue Greendale, using his old friends. As Jeff explains it, sometimes students can win lawsuits by blaming a school for giving them a bad education and ruining their lives. The Study Group only needs to look at themselves as proof: Shirley’s Sandwiches has failed, and she has split from her husband, again, who took the kids this time. Annie isn’t in hospital administration, but a pill pusher, who really just pushes pens. Britta is on “sabbatical” from being a therapist, working as a bartender. Troy is just waiting for Abed to make billions for a social media app, and then he plans to sue him. Abed seems to be doing the best as a programmer, far from a career in film, where he only directed one commercial and was never paid (see above about Jeff’s commerical.) One quick line from Troy, “You really think we should be doing this without…” followed by a nod to Pierce’s old chair, provided the biggest laugh out loud line of the night, “…Magnitude?” (Pop, pop!) and with that, ‘Community’ set themselves up for the new season. Jeff has an obvious change of heart, ultimately, and ends up deciding to return to Greendale, rather than sue them. This time Jeff will be a professor, and the Study Group re-enrolls as well, recognizing that they all failed when they tried to leave. Cue the Zach Braff voiceover from the Season Nine’s first episode, “Our First Day of School” and ‘Community’ successfully completed their re-pilot.
“Repilot” was just that; a re-branding, a re-birth, courtesy of returning show runner, Dan Harmon. ‘Community’ showed that they are self-aware. They know that they allowed their characters to go from “awesome” to “eh” in four seasons. They accepted it, and are correcting it. They were able to engage viewers who were tuning in for the first time, and not completely throw out the past. A surprise cameo from an old friend in hologram form (I won’t say who, it’s far better to see for yourself), an exclamation from the Dean, (“It’s not easy being Dean!”) and ‘Community’ brought the characters we fell in love with in Season One full circle, ready to go around one more time.
It’s too soon to tell if this re-branding will work, completely. Many sitcoms try the “return as a mentor” tactic, however, the writers of those sitcoms are generally not as smart or sharp as Harmon in his ‘Community’ heyday. If this, and the second episode which aired immediately after, are any indication of what’s to come, then ‘Community’ is back on the right track to regaining their glory days.
Laugh Out Loud Lines:
Abed: “Repiloting can be intense. New people show up, regulars shift roles, or even fall away. Season Nine of Scrubs, Zach Braff was only in the first six episodes.”
Troy: “That Son of a Bitch! After everything Scrubs did for him?!”
Annie: “We need to throw out fundraising ideas that aren’t bakesales, or a zoo where the humans are in cages and the animals come to visit.”
Troy (sadly): “Oh…”
Annie (to Britta): “How’s the therapy business?”
Britta: “I’m on sabbatical.”
Troy: “You’re Jewish?!”
Jeff: “You quit.”
Abed: “Creative differences.”
Jeff: “I asked you to put the number on the screen!”
Abed: “I didn’t like the number. 555? It’s derivative.”
Jeff: “It’s the number of my business!”
Abed: “It sounds fake! How can every number start with 555?”
Annie: “Chang was faking his Changnesia?”
Troy: “They seriously re-hired a teacher they fired for trying to burn down the school?”
Shirley: “After being re-hired as a security guard, after being fired for impersonating a teacher!”
Abed: “That’s insane. And I’m Abed.”
“Community” airs Thursday nights at 8pm on NBC… for now.