By ALEXANDER COUMBIS
So it actually happened, Community returned for a fourth season. As any die-hard Community fan already knows, Dan Harmon, the creator of the show, was fired. Fans were left in a lurch as to whether or not the show would go on. Since the show did return this month, people have been debating: Does Community maintain the same self-aware satire we have come to love? Does it still have heart? Will it ever be as good?
The season premiere, “History 101,” had a promising start. It began as a standard sitcom style with an over-the-top laugh track. Think Seinfeld or The Big Bang Theory, except this “new” Community spoof had many more lame jokes. The new writers were playing on our fear that Community would change drastically. It turns out this cheesy scene only existed in Abed’s head. Throughout the episode, Abed learns to cope with the fact that the group will potentially break up post-graduation. His fear of change perfectly reflects the viewers’ anxieties of the show degrading from the high standard it once held.
Where the plotline fell the most flat for me was with “The Hunger Deans.” The Dean accidently allowed too many students to enroll in “The History of Ice Cream,” so students need to fight for a spot in the class. Jeff needs this History credit to graduate early, so he is the only one in the study group who invests in this potentially awesome plotline. Instead of going into a full-on Hunger Games montage, similar to the “Modern Warfare” episode, the gang splits up. Britta and Troy throw pennies into a wishing fountain. Annie and Shirley, for some reason, try to prank the dean. Meanwhile, Pierce spends the entire episode trying to make a joke, and “gay balls” is what he comes up with. The show is a few good jokes once in a while, but nothing mind-blowingly special.
The episode ends with naked Chang walking up to a postal worker. He says he has “Changnesia.” So, I guess we’ll see where that plot line goes. Personally, I have been over Chang for a while now. Overall, I was disappointed with this first episode of Community. There was so much potential, yet nothing really happened in this episode.
The second episode, “Paranormal Parentage,” was more promising. I liked the fact that they aired a Halloween episode during Valentine’s Day. At first, I thought this was a brilliant commentary on how these two starkly opposite holidays are actually very similar. Then, I remembered the show was originally supposed to air in October, so I guess there is not underlying commentary there. Although, I am looking forward to a possible Christmas episode airing in May.
The gang goes to Hawthorne Mansion to help Pierce, who accidentally locked himself in his panic room. Of course, the group decides to split up (which always happens in a cliché haunted house story.) Britta and Jeff go off together, and Britta attempts to psychoanalyze Jeff by trying to decipher his daddy issues. Abed finds a secret passageway behind a swinging bookshelf. He goes to a security camera room and comments on everything from behind the scenes. He leaves Annie alone and then spooky montages begin. One of my favorite lines from this episode comes from Abed. He says, “I remember when this show was about a community college.”
It turns out that Pierce faked the entire haunted house to scare his friends. However, Abed discovers a mysterious figure who watched Pierce while he slept through the security camera (think Paranormal Activity). Then, Gilbert, Pierce’s half-brother, comes out of nowhere and reveals he has been sneaking around the Hawthorne mansion for months. The two brothers reconcile and decide to live together. It was a very moving ending.
This second episode gave me a little more hope for the future of Community. I will continue to watch season four, though warily. It’s undeniable that the show will never be the same, but there still are Harmon-esque moments.