‘Community’ Season 4 Premiere Review

Published 1 year ago by

community jeff dean hungergames Community Season 4 Premiere Review

In the wake of NBC giving Up All Night the multi-camera, live audience treatment after airing as a single-camera comedy series for a season and a half, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the laugh track and cheesy tone that kicks off the season 4 of Community were a permanent change.

But new showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port have taken this opportunity to simultaneously make fun of the concern fans have had about changes to the cult comedy series – especially considering their past work on shows like Just Shoot Me - and have fit right in with the series’ meta comedy style and story elements. They even poke fun at the departure of Chevy Chase by having Fred Willard (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) play Pierce. But that’s not all.

The writers have the convenient plot element of having everyone’s favorite study group embark on their final year at Greendale, which is good since this could very well be the last season with all the rigamarole NBC has put the series through since season 3. But there’s a problem. After taking some online classes over the summer, Jeff (Joel McHale) is trying to graduate a semester early with only one history credit left to obtain, and he’s desperate to make sure the rest of the gang can take this final class, History of Ice Cream, right along with him.

Meanwhile, Abed (Danny Pudi) is worried about his time at Greendale ending, and thus we have the real reason for the cheesy sitcom opening, which takes place in his mind after Britta tells him to find a happy place. In his mind, the study group is starting their college education all over because Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) has misplaced their student records. What’s simultaneously hilarious and disheartening is how dead on the writing is for the terrible sitcom version of Community that exists in Abed’s head. It’s almost like this is what the show would have been like on NBC in the ’90s or on CBS today.

community jeff balancing hungerdeans Community Season 4 Premiere Review

The plot in the “real world” takes aim at The Hunger Games as Jeff competes to secure everyone a spot in the History of Ice Cream class. Honestly, the parody of the recent book and film franchise feels a little too recent compared to the other pop culture references usually made on the show, but it works given the Dean’s theatricality and overall outlandish narratives that every episode employs. Plus, the parallels between this world and the TV world inside Abed’s head are written so well, complete with a new animated sequence paying homage to the Muppet Babies.

Honestly, any worries about this season losing the flare that Dan Harmon brought to the series have almost entirely been erased. In fact, I’m even interested to see where slightly progressed elements like the romance between Troy (Donald Glover) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) end up going.

However, not all was perfect with the premiere, as certain side plots, like the pranking antics of Shirley (Yvette Brown) and Annie (Alison Brie), felt weak and didn’t really impact the episode as a whole. Additionally, the end of the episode where Chang (Ken Jeong) shows up somewhere with a sign that reads “Hello, my name is Kevin. I have Changnesia” was a fun cliffhanger, but seemed forced, but maybe that’s because he’s my least favorite character on the show.

In the end, the series premiere should give viewers hope that the series can live on, even with NBC playing these games with it. Maybe a larger audience will find the show this season, or NBC will keep it around if the reception is good with the fans it already has. Either way, for now, it’s safe to say that if Community does go out with season 4, it won’t go out with a whimper, but with a bang, and thankfully that won’t be accompanied by a laughtrack from an audience watching the show from a soundstage…for now, anyway.

Community airs Thursdays @8pm on NBC.

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  1. If Chang is your least favorite character, you need to rewatch seasons 1 and 2.

    • seriously.. how can chang be your least fave character? Chang has so many hilarious parts throughout the series (gollum parody in season 2 haha classic) I think either britta or shirley are the most worthless characters. I love britta and shirley but in terms of their characters importance in the show chang wins.

  2. I could not disagree more with this article. I thought this episode was generally unfunny, and while the sitcom gag was cute at first, it got old pretty fast. The plot of the episode wasn’t bad, but overall, I was not a fan. I sure do miss Dan Harmon…

    Also, Chang is for sure one of my favorite characters. Britta is probably my least favorite. And the Britta-Troy relationship really bothers me for some reason. Personally, I preferred their romantic tension to this official relationship, but maybe I’ll warm up to it.

    • I’m with you on the Britta/Troy relationship, something doesn’t feel right about it. My guess is that it’s a bump on the way to having Jeff and Britta hook up, but I’m not sure I like the idea of anyone in the study group really dating, I don’t see why all shows feel they need to have some relationship element all the time.

      Overall I think it wasn’t a bad episode, but it was a weaker one. Part of that may be due to the anticipation of waiting for it for so long and building it up in my mind. Glad to have it back though and not on Friday nights.

  3. Thought it was a terrific episode. I really don’t see how St. Harmon could’ve done it any better.

    Loved the gag with Fred Willard as fake Pierce. Did anyone catch Jeff’s offhand remark about Pierce dying in the future? Think that’s how they might write him out?

  4. “Of course it’ll work. It’s an antic.”

  5. I loved the new episode. The Showrunners have proven themselves so far. And its nice to have a conclusion if this is the final season.

    NBC really needs to change its time slot. It airs the same time as “The Big Bang Theory” the only other show that can get more of the target audience. Moving the show back even a half an hour could see a real bump in viewers. At least its better than the Friday Death Slot it got a few months back

  6. I have to say I enjoyed it. At first I was pissed with the laugh track till it was shown to be in Abed’s head.

    It may not have been the strongest of season openers for Community but it did it’s job.

    And if you hate Chang then why the hell are you even watching?

  7. I love u guys too sexy

  8. it was a mixed bag. annie was funny. britta was annoying. troy was a hollow shell of his former self. but all the meta-pathos was pretty spot on.

  9. An absolute mess, it wasn’t terrible per se, but it really wasn’t tied up well, too many separate plot elements not working together. It stank of trying too hard without the whimsy usually present in the show. I hope it improves sharply, otherwise I’m going to be very sad indeed. There were funny moments, overshadowed by foolish decisions

  10. Last
    night’s show started strange. Aside from the “Scrubs”
    sitcom/laugh-track ripoff, the writing seemed like dialogue other
    characters would say on another show. A show like Apt 23 or Happy
    Endings trying to be funny/fun/quirky, that isn’t the humor I was
    accustomed with when I watched Community…WHY I watched community. To
    put it another way I didn’t believe the actors as the characters because
    of what they were saying. It almost felt like an entirely new cast
    playing the old roles. Maybe what Abed was envisioning with Fred Willard.

    2nd time I watched I wondered if Abed was retreating into his world
    because he wasn’t comfortable with the new direction of the show. It
    actually made more sense. I did warm by the end of the episode. Things
    like: 1. Shirley saying “This isn’t a conversation” totally in
    character. 2. Changnesia 3. The History of Ice cream 4. Abed writing
    Jeff’s speech. Lets hope these small little gems come to the forefront
    in the coming months. Still Hope!

  11. It was eh* let’s see how the rest of the season turns out

  12. I think that this episode was pretty good. People may be over analyzing this episode a bit too much (both the good and the bad). In my opinion premieres have never been the strength of community, i think the best premiere was season 2 and this one is right behind it. Season premiers for Community have always been a way to set up the rest of the season and that is one thing this episode did well. I think we can all agree its great to have Community back #sixseasonsandamovie.

  13. Are you serious? Any worries have been erased? I turned the show off after 10 minutes. I couldn’t take it. It was like one of my friends being tortured in front of me. I’m going to pretend this season never happened. I can’t see it getting any better and I won’t put myself through the agony of watching said torture -just in case- it gets better.

    P.S. I hate you, NBC

    • It was just awful. I read the article and thought I was in some multidimensional world where only I saw the junk they aired last night while everyone else saw something awesome. It was trash. I’m so mad. We waited for this to come and redeem itself. I’ve never felt more let down by a show I loved. AND let down by screen rant’s mostly positive review of the show.

      • Just out of curiosity what was it that you guys hated so much about the episode? I don’t wanna argue or anything its just that I am a huge fan of the show (I’ve watched the entire series multiple times) and I thought yesterdays episode was great. I did think the babies thing was kinda ridiculous, but that is totally what abed would think in a fantasy inside a fantasy.

    • I did not laugh once in 10 minutes and turned it off. Seems much less quirky and funny without Dan Harmon. I hope it improves.

  14. Considering this episode was better than both the season 2 and season 3 openers, anybody complaining about it being so horrible that they miss Dan Harmon wasn’t going to be happy no matter what they saw.

    It was a funny, solid episode true to all the characters. Better than many episodes that have come before and not as good as many others.

    The one thing that I thought was off was that there were too many things going on. That made Jeff’s story a little rushed, and his conclusion felt a bit off. Community generally has an A and B story. This episode had A (Jeff), B (Abed), C (Troy/Britta, and D (Annie/Shirley). I think they could have done away with C and D.

    But that’s a minor criticism considering this is only the first episode of the season. I’ve watched every episode of Community live from the first episode, and it’s the only TV show I bother to watch the day it airs. There were great things about season 1 – 3, but let’s not start acting like there weren’t flaws as well just because we don’t like what NBC did to Dan. NBC’s decision wasn’t the new guy’s fault, and it wasn’t the cast’s fault, so let’s be fair to what they created and not take out frustration on them.

    • I totally agree with you.
      Everyone who was complaining about Harmon leaving are the same people who are saying this episode was bad. Do people even realize that the writing team is the exact same as before? I think the actor of Star-Burns, who was also a writer, was really the only writer to leave so why did people expect this episode to be any different from any other.
      I really only think that the too many story lines was because that this was the first episode of a brand new season and the writers were setting up future plot lines that they could follow. Now you have a story involving Jeff trying to become a nicer person, Britta and Troy (and all those people who are saying that they don’t like this couple and are also complaining about Harmon leaving are hypocrites because the seed for that was planted when Harmon was still around. ), Abed trying to come to terms with change, and Annie realizing she doesn’t want to continue and move into a uncomfortable and unfamiliar place.
      The story lines was the only thing that seem out of place this episode but it was needed so people wouldn’t be complaining later when these stories come up and feeling like the show has become choppy.

    • I don’t know if I can agree. I’ve seen every episode multiple times and this had an off taste to it. It was okay but it wasn’t Community. It felt like I was watching someone else’s idea of the show. Still I’ll keep watching maybe it will get it’s groove back.

  15. To whoever made the mess Community is now I say: ‘Maybe we all need some space, to pull the knife out of the back of the most celebrated American alt-comedy show of the mid 2000′s, you selfish, jaded, ass!’

  16. Chang is your least favorite character? Shirley you can’t be serious

    • that’s streets ahead man!

  17. I’d give the episode a 7 out of 10.
    The reason it’s not a 8 or 9 for me was the Annie & Shirley sub-plot. It really felt tacked on just to give them something to do.
    But let’s be honest. Even if the episode was terrible I won’t stop watching. I’ve stuck with the show from episode 1 of season 1 so I’ll finish the series no matter what.

  18. Honestly, people always find something to criticize. This episode could have been a masterpiece, but people still would have sad it was a mess because it didn’t have Harmon. I guarantee if Harmon made this episode, half of the current naysayers would be praising this episode.

    • You’re prbly right. I mean Dean said it himself “I dunno why I was so worried about change after all!” There may have been a change behind the scenes but the essence of the show is still there and I thought yesterdays episode was great.

  19. I started watching this show at season 3 and fell in love with it immediately.
    This episode however, was pretty bad. Some funny moments of course, but overall very messy and… strange.

    Unless the rest of the season picks up, I think I’ll rather spend my free time watching season 1 @ 2 instead.

  20. How’d you get there ‘lil “@”. Here, let me replace you with an “&”.

  21. Meh.

    This was the least good episode of Community. Of course, least good effectively means worst, but that word doesn’t help communicate the fact that even the worst episodes of Community have been pretty good and that says a lot about this show. The season 4 premiere was sort of good, therefore, just less good than any other Community episode.

    I should get this out of the way – I watched all of Community in the previous month, I don’t really know Dan Harmon or have any other contact with his works, so (as bad as it may sound) I haven’t developed any kind of emotional attachment to him as other Community fans may have. Thus, I’m not very bummed by his absence or by the actions of the “evil network” against him or anything like that. And I do understand that the new show runners aren’t responsible for his departure either and that they’re doing their best.

    That being said, the first problem with the new episode was that it didn’t have any Community humor. Or, to be precise, it had very very little of it. Of course, it tried to cover this shortcoming with the sitcom act that was lame “on purpose” and the fact that (real) Abed was essentially out of the show and the joke about Pierce’s joke being lame, etc. But these cover-ups can really only work once (and they did – sort of). If the next episode doesn’t bring the old Community humor back, it won’t be able to cover it again with the lame-on-purpose scheme. It’ll have to face the truth (gasp!).

    The second problem is actually bigger than the first because, I believe, what made Community appealing to its fans wasn’t the humor foremost. It was the fact that every episode kept blowing the mind of the viewer in increasingly unexpected ways. What other show had a post-apocalyptic episode, a zombie episode, a space episode, a mafia episode, a western episode, a Star Wars episode, a fantasy episode, a documentary episode, a stop motion episode and so many others mind blowing things? This element was missing in the season 4 premiere. Instead, the show runners quite obviously tried to rehash aspects of Community that were loved in the past (even the “game” aspect of the episode was an attempt to get some of the love the paintball episodes got from fans). This wasn’t a good move, but it still could have worked if the rehashed aspects were made to work together (possibly one inside the other), instead of theme park rides placed side-by-side. But to really feel like Community, they’ll have to invent new ways to blow our minds and to do so with the organic, thoughtful and jaw-dropping that the previous episodes did.

    Ideally, in my opinion, we would have a new season of the old Community. It’s obvious now that this cannot happen. The next best thing we could have, then, is a new kind of Community. The worst thing we can have (and this is what this episode suggests we’re going to have) is watered-down fake “old Community”. If the new show runners can’t be Dan Harmon (which most likely they can’t be, just like any person can’t really be another person), I can only hope that they at least realized that before filming most of the other episodes of the season.

    If they embrace the fact that it’s their own show now, it can be good enough. If they don’t embrace that fact, well… We’ll all remember that Community was a great series with 3 seasons.

  22. It was def a bit forced or fanfic-ey or over-produced or under-developed or something, but thankfully it was also def still Community. Even sans DH, I’ve already bonded with these characters and likely will watch as many eps as they make.

    And as for Chang… well, Ken’s got great energy, but he’s not a strong enough actor — probably because he’s not a trained actor — to carry lead. In the right supporting slot, however, and in measured doses, he can be very funny and quite appealing. I got sick of him by the end of last season, but it’s a new day in America, so fresh starts all around.

    So — fingers crossed that we’re watching the awkward first steps of something that will grow in wisdom, grace and beauty.

  23. “It was the fact that every episode kept blowing the mind of the viewer in increasingly unexpected ways.”

    Bit of an over-exaggeration there. You may not be a Harmon fanboy/girl, but you seem to be making the same mistake as many of them by holding the previous seasons up on a pedistal. That or your mind is blow by totally different things than my own. ;)

    You’re comparing this episode of Community to the very best and judging it as the worst because “this element was missing from the season 4 premiere.” It was also missing from the season 2 and 3 premieres.

    Almost half of season 3 were episodes that weren’t mind-blowing. I liked all of them, but not all were amazing. Most of the below at were basically on par with this episode. (Some a little worse, some a little better.)

    Biology 101
    Geography of Global Conflict
    Competitive Ecology
    Advanced Gay
    Studies in Modern Movement
    Contemporary Impressionists (What about those awkward on-screen graphics?)
    Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts
    Virtual Systems Analysis (This one many might disagree. It was original, but I thought it was lacking both humor and genuine character development.)
    Course Listing Unavailable
    Curriculum Unavailable

    • Shelly, it’s possible that I do hold the other seasons up on a pedestal, but I don’t know why this would be the case. Usually this happens to someone who saw the previous seasons long ago, possibly even as the episodes were coming out. I didn’t. As I said in my previous post, I watched it this month. I literally finished it a few days ago. It hasn’t developed in my mind in a way that it would make it feel like a golden era that has been lost in the sea of time. For me, it’s a show I saw this month and I enjoyed but the latest episode felt lame.

      It may be a coincidence, yes. But the possibility that the lameness may not be coincidental this time, due to the production changes, is what makes this more important than other arguably lame episodes (which, I still believe, were better than this one). True, this is unfair to this one, but I hope you can at least see where I’m coming from. =)

      Here’s my problems with the episode:

      I said about the humor earlier. I can’t elaborate on this and I’m aware I might be the only one who’s thinking this.

      Someone said the episode felt forcefully overproduced. I agree with that too and was actually looking for this expression in my previous post. The episode felt like it tried too hard to return with a bang and this made its failure to be on par with the average Community episodes somewhat more obvious.

      What exactly wasn’t on par? One obvious issue was that the character were separated in two categories: those who were given minimal screen time and those who were given more screen time and didn’t feel true. It sounds like I’m being hard on the episode, but that’s what it was. Pierce isn’t the guy who would sit in the corner, not participating and simply mumbling. Annie was trying too hard to be a prankster, but this kind of “development” happened way off screen. You can’t connect with a character’s development if it’s presented as an axiom, you have to get to see the proof – not because you don’t believe or trust the writers, but because this is the beauty of bonding with a character: seeing their personality flourish and change and, as you go, knowing that this character is the same person that you watched in the beginning of the show, but also isn’t – and you know the reason. Which brings us to the next issue, Abed. Aside from the fact that Abed’s happy place probably wouldn’t be a laugh track sitcom (but that’s just my opinion), Abed had massive developments in the previous season. Somehow it seems like the writers forgot them in this episode. They wanted to deliver “classic Abed”, fearing that trying to deliver the developed Abed, right off the bat, would be taken negatively by the fans. So we had a case of what I call character development rewinding. This isn’t always bad, it can be good if it’s done properly because, in real life, issues that were resolved can surface back to a person and haunt them and cause them to go a few steps behind. But it didn’t feel like it was done with much thought here for Abed (except, as I said, out of fear regarding the reception). Additionally, Abed had an issue that was created and resolved within the same episode. While this can happen, something tells me that the old Community wouldn’t have resolved this specific issue so quickly (if they had put it in, in the first place) – it would have been a (half-)season wide issue, at least (like Pierces previous concerns of being excluded, etc). I wouldn’t say this for, say, Britta, because I don’t usually mind Britta. But Abed is a very obvious character in the show (for almost every viewer I think) and mistakes with him are obvious as well.

      The second thing that wasn’t on par was the structure of the episode. True, there have been lame episodes in Community before, but even in those, the side stories that were set up in the beginning started connecting with each other eventually, they ended up intertwined and moved the episode in crazy and funny directions. Here, the side stories merely existed side by side, independently. We had the Hunger Deans, the sitcom, the fountain and the prank and of those four side stories, only two interacted (and marginally at that). Some people consider this kind of writing bad. I don’t consider it necessarily bad (I actually prefer it in some occasions), but it’s definitely not what the old Community team would have done.

      Last, but not least, the darkness was missing. Every episode of Community, every other scene and many of the jokes indicated that there was some darkness inside all the people of this group. This is something that made this study group (and this college in general) something much more than a group of weird people making fun of each other and causing mayhem and bonding with each other and learning a lesson. You knew that these people weren’t the good guys. They were a bunch of strange ***holes in a sea of other strange people. And sometimes they were genuinely ***holes to each other. You just knew that there was something ugly inside every character, main or not, and learned to love them for that. But, as a result, even in its funny moments, the show felt uneasy and this gave it much more depth than any other sitcom I know of. I really hope the new team doesn’t forget that.

      Now, to reiterate, the episode wasn’t bad. To this day, no Community episode has been bad, in my book. But, as I said, the new show runners have a hard job in front of them. But I know that they’re good people, that they have good intentions, that they like the show and I do wish them the best and I hope, even if Dan Harmon doesn’t have any more input officially, that they’ve at least consulted him throughout the season. For the sake of the show.

    • Gotta disagree. We’ve watched a lot of those episodes you’ve listed many times over, but I don’t feel that the season four premier begs to be seen again. Still I will watch more and maybe it will get better. It was just one show.

  24. Terrible episode, really disappointed. It’s like the writers/ showrunners couldn’t differentiate between the sitcom part of the episode and the ‘real’ part of it. This does not bode well for the rest of the season.

  25. There’s a lot of mewling and hissing on the internet about how terrible the first episode of the new season was, how everything’s different, how Community is dead and gone forever, replaced by a shambling undead monstrosity, a shell of its former self. Now, I saw the episode, and I have to be honest with you: I actually thought it was pretty good. Not the best episode I’ve ever seen, but certainly far from bad, and not nearly as much of a change from the style we’re used to as some people are saying. It’s hard to ignore the fact that Harmon is gone, of course it is, but if we didn’t know he was, would we be scrutinizing this one episode as closely? Would so many people see as much wrong with it as they have?

    Sure, I noticed things that I thought seemed just a bit off, or that I thought could have been done better. (They beat the “Dean” thing to death, for one.) At the same time, there are things I would have liked done differently in several episodes of the first three seasons as well, but I never started writing doomsday prophecies about the show because of them. I certainly don’t expect every episode to be “Remedial Chaos Theory” or “Modern Warfare”.

    For all those who say that the real Community is gone forever, I say this: Give it a minute. No, seriously; this is the FIRST epsiode we’ve seen from the new guys. In one episode, they had to introduce themselves, assuage fears that they would turn the show into Whitney, start a whole new season of Community and a new semester at Greendale, and (of course) make us laugh for a half hour. I’d say they did pretty good. The one complaint I keep seeing is that the season opener went too far in trying to gain the audience’s trust. They wanted us to know that everything was going to be just the same, and in trying to show that, they made things different, if ever so slightly. But now that the first episode’s been aired, it’s time for us to move on. I think we’ll all be happier when we see what weeks 2 and 3 bring. Now, there are always going to be holdouts. These will be the people who say that SNL hasn’t been good since the 70′s, or that ‘And Justice For All’ was Metallica’s sell-out album. (Everyone knows it was the black album.) But I suspect that all but the most stubborn of hipsters will come around and start loving Community the way they did back in the old times. Even if it’s just a little bit different than what we’re used to.

    I’m not familiar with DG and MP’s earlier work, although I hear it’s pretty good. But I have to assume that if they’re stepping up to do a show like Community, they had to be fans to begin with, and they’d have to get the show’s sense of humor and why it works. So, even though I would much rather have Dan Harmon still running the show, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and more of a chance to prove themselves.

    And even if they run the show into the ground, we’ll always have the good times. #threeseasons!