‘Community’ Season 5 Premiere Review: The Return of Dan Harmon!

Published 1 year ago by

community cast cafeteria Community Season 5 Premiere Review: The Return of Dan Harmon!

[This is a review of Community season 5, episodes 1 & 2. There will be SPOILERS.]


To some, last year’s Dan Harmon-less season of Community represented the darkest timeline, while his return was a momentous strike back against “The Man” who had fired him from the show after season 3. But while season 4 was awash with half-executed hijinks that felt more like an homage to the show’s past (without the standout moments that were commonplace in the time of Harmon), there was some value in the final product, with the characters showing a fair amount of growth.

At the start of season 5, it seemed only natural to wonder how Harmon would deal with last season’s developments: connect his season to the last one, or cover the whole thing up and pretend it never happened? Interestingly, Harmon chose to take the middle ground.

Changnesia is dismissed as a canard while other events from last season are (and aren’t) given permission to float away, thanks to what is described as “The gas leak year.” With that device, Harmon cleverly recalls the events of the “Epidemiology” episode from season 2, where the campus Halloween party became a zombie invasion – an event that was dismissed by authorities as a “gas leak” – while also giving himself an out to keep or toss whatever he likes as it pertains to season 4.

community s5 season premiere Community Season 5 Premiere Review: The Return of Dan Harmon!

The first half of the two-part season premiere, ‘Repilot,’ handles the bulk of the reconfiguration, placing every member of the study group out of school and in a dire state. Essentially, Greendale is in the rear-view mirror, but Jeff, Shirley, Abed, Troy, Britta, and Annie are all metaphorically stuck in traffic.

As the group’s unquestioned leader, we naturally focus most on Jeff, whose legal career is once again floundering following his four years at Greendale. Desperate and Scotch-less, Jeff begrudgingly takes a job working for his former cohort, Alan (Rob Corddry), as a henchman/investigator on a case against the college.

By way of the rules of tidy storytelling, the rest of the gang assembles in the study room/records room to help Jeff, who tells them that he is there to save the school. The episode depressingly lingers on the real state of the group beneath their brave smiles before conveniently and allowing them the chance to press reset on their lives (again) by re-enrolling at Greendale.

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‘Re-Pilot’ isn’t necessarily a funny episode, though there are laughs to be had. What it is, is a necessary evil to allow Harmon a fresh canvas on which to draw out the rest of this season. And, in the second half of tonight’s premiere, ‘Introduction to Teaching,’ Harmon more firmly re-establishes his dominion over the weird and wonderful elements that make Community a charmer.

Sure, making Jeff a teacher to keep him in the school setting comes off as a massive blinking cliche (complete with Jeff initially blowing off his new job before seeing its value and his affection for it), but Harmon makes it work with more than a helping hand from Jonathan Banks, who plays Jeff’s testy mentor.

Chevy Chase’s exit didn’t have to automatically lead to the addition of another actor to fill the group elder role, but with Banks, no one will accuse Harmon of simply trying to swap curmudgeons. After all, he trades Chase’s background aloofness and occasionally disruptive villainy for Banks’ no-nonsense intensity and Sahara-dry sense of humor. Without Banks’ Prof. Hickey, Jeff’s transition to teaching would have felt frivolous, but through Hickey we see a whole new side of Greendale that allows us to think that there might be value in this choice.

community s5 season premiere jonathan banks Community Season 5 Premiere Review: The Return of Dan Harmon!

There is also value in straying from the narrative to embrace the silly, and as always, Abed is the perfect vessel for that kind of flight of fancy, as he absorbs and then morphs into Nicolas Cage when he goes overboard for an assignment from Prof. Garrity (the returning Kevin Corigan).

It’s not like it hasn’t happened before, but it’s interesting that Harmon leans so heavily on Abed with little assistance from his usual running mate, Troy.

Tonight’s premiere represents two of Donald Glover’s final five episodes on the show, and on the whole, his character contributes the least out of the entire study group. Is this a way of weening us off of the Troy/Abed partnership, or is it just a coincidence?

Surely we’ll find out as Harmon likely works to wrap up Troy’s storyline in the coming weeks, but after a premiere night that was half-spent in transition, one hopes that Harmon can give Troy a proper send-off while continuing to move the show forward.

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Community returns next Thursday with “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” @8pm on NBC.

Follow Jason Tabrys on Twitter @jtabrys
TAGS: Community
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  1. I didn’t think season 4 was the end of the world like some, but I am SO glad Harmon is back! Two fantastic episodes!

    • Agreed! I didn’t think season 4 for as nearly as horrible as everyone made it out to be.. it had it’s funny moments, but it certainly was obvious that Harmon was gone. I’m so glad he’s back. last nights episodes were awesome. It seems like Community is on the right track.

  2. For what it needed to do to put it back on track the first 2 episodes were brilliant.

    I thought I would have to fall back onto It’s Always Funny in Philadelphia for the Community style shot of humor. Although the past season has been ripping Community plots off to a tea. Which has annoyed me.

    #AxeParks&Rec so NBC commissions #SixSeasonsandaMovie.
    But seriously Parks should have been axed last season let alone drag it on this far…

    • Youre crazy. Parks and Rec is one of the few shows that consistently gets better each season. Doesnt need to be axed.

      • I think Parks has still got a gas leak since last year too, just saying :D

        • @ Dooger

          Even though this season of Parks has gotten off to a bit (a very tiny bit) of a slow start IMO I still believe that now that 30 Rock is off the air Parks & Rec is the top comedy on TV today.
          I enjoy the likes of Sunny, Louie and even The League as much as anyone else but from week to week Parks & Rec always delivers.
          I just hate the fact that it’s already January and only 8 episodes have aired.

          • It’s probably that I just hold a higher standard to shows and can’t tolerate when they slack off – potentially harming shows around them. Maybe it’s just really dumb down to literal toilet style humor and childish pranks you’d expect from a Nickelodeon show & not a once smartish adult show. Veep put’s it to shame.

            30 Rock was awful by nearer the end and steadily went downhill after season 2/3. Much like Parks I had stuck with 30 Rock because I had already invested time into it and with what I had seen at the start had given me hope for it to improve. I should have learned from Chuck and given up really…

  3. It really seems like this season is going to be focused on cleaning up Greendale, or at least trying to make it a little better, which is actually pretty interesting.

    From everything they’ve done in the past seasons, they’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that Greendale is Greendale: that it won’t change but will always accept everyone. It’s such a cool choice to try and actually IMPROVE the school, even giving the Dean a major arc for the season (assuming that this is what they are trying to do).

    Anyone else agree?

  4. Off-topic, but Joel McHale would have made a fantastic Ant-Man.

  5. Why do I get the feeling Jeff is the only member of the study group? It’s like Harmon only likes writing for McHale when to me Jeff has Shirley level blandness. I miss Pierce…without Chevy and Childish Gambino…

    • “Don’t you guys feel weird doing this without….. Magnitude?”

  6. I liked these episodes, but they seem awfully contrived to continue the gang’s time at Greendale. I was disappointed that the growth of the characters from Seasons 1 – 4 was no longer evident. And I miss Pierce. But, I was pleased that Troy was Troy again–and he was spot on in both episodes.

  7. Any worries I had were squashed in the first half of episode 1 with the line from Troy about Scrubs.
    After that I thought and believe that the Community we loved is back. :)

  8. I thought Chevy Chase has a falling out with Harmon. How did they get him to do that small scene?

  9. ” Jeff Winger: Hero-At-Law,” No monologue for you, now give me your tie!” Dan Harmon did it for me once again, he SAVED the show from last season. Yes, it had it’s moments, but Chang becoming Ken was a Lame Cop Out! Britta is ‘Still The Worst,’ and I love how they talked about one of my favorite T.V. shows “Scrubs.” Nick Cage Class, (Sign Me Up Greendale!) So These two episodes made my birthday week, Thank You Dan Harmon!

  10. I was a big fan of the show, but the show’s (season 5) lighting makes it look cheaper,
    less interesting and makes it hard to watch. Does Harmon have a death wish? Greendale,
    under the harsh lighting, looks more like a morgue than a junior college. Really, I hope they can fix it. I know they have a smaller budget but even college freshman, maybe even high school kids can produce better lit videos…so why can’t or won’t Harmon?
    Anybody else notice or care? Like I said, I WAS a big fan of the show, but the lack
    of production quality upsets me…..