Community Season 4 Premiere Review: Senioritis

Community S04E01: "History 101"

Look, I didn't want to start this discussion of Community's return talking about Dan Harmon either, but what we have here is an unavoidable Dan Harmon-sized elephant that, uhhh, isn't in the room anymore. If you're a die-hard Community fan, it had to be on your mind. It was impossible not to think, "WWDHD?" while watching the ironically titled "History 101," because his demented genius and stubbornness was integral to the show that in the past gave us alternate timelines, a My Dinner With Andre spoof, and a clip show featuring never-before-seen clips. And maybe it's because I knew he was gone that "History 101" felt like someone else's Community, and not the one I had adored so much the previous three years.

That's not to say the episode was terrible, because it wasn't. In fact, there were a few signs that the show can still be as good as it's ever been. But now I know how that kid felt when he came home from summer camp to a dog that looked an awful lot like his best friend but wasn't because an 18-wheeler flattened old Fido and NBC the kid's parents figured they could fool him with a new pup that looked the same. The old gang was all here—Jeff, Britta, Annie, Troy, Abed, Shirley, Chang, Dean, Fat Neil, Vicki (ugh! Vicki! She is THE worst of the worst!), and Pierce—but the Community we saw tonight was more of a competent facsimile than the magic-making sitcom that was so streets ahead.

New showrunners Moses Port and David Guarascio currently have one of the most unenviable jobs in Tinseltown, but they're clearly fans of the show and wanted to give us a premiere that walked, talked, and meta'd like the Community we once knew. In a single episode, they parodied a movie, included an animated sequence, and cleverly addressed the uncomfortable situation regarding the regime change. On paper, that's a Community explosion, but in practice, it made for one heck of a busy episode that hit the marks it thought we wanted to see it hit rather than coming out swinging on its own. Port and Guarascio need to make their version of Community rather than the one they think will please fans, and they're more than capable. They're behind one of my favorite sitcoms of all time, the delightfully wacky and touching (and underwatched) CW comedy Aliens in America, which shares some traits with Community. Seriously, go download it (it's not on DVD), because it's great.

But, yeah, consider, for example, Abed's multi-camera comedy Community fantasy land. It was an instant nod to the upheaval behind the scenes, a recognition of how Community might be if NBC had its way completely with the show. It was also a really funny joke and something the old Community would have done. But it never really made it to that next level (beyond the incepting Community Babies) Harmon was always living on. In Harmon's Community, Abed might've gotten stuck in a nightmare scenario with the real world affecting Abed's fantasy world and vice versa and the whole thing would play out like a sly spoof of Die Hard. It would be some mind-blowing shit and we'd talk about it for weeks. Tonight, it felt more like a sketch within the show that had good intentions but never really paid off.

But for every thing that didn't work in "History 101" there were also things that did. Just as the multi-camera gag was flailing, the hilarious fake-show ads (American Sword Cooks and Blonde/Blind) sprung up. Real-world Pierce was wasted figuring out a joke about balls, but Fred Willard as alterna-Pierce was amazing on like twenty levels. There were small splashes of the old Community here and there, which gives me hope for future episodes, but "History 101" never cannonballed into the deep end.

It's impossible to single out what made the Harmon-era Community such a revolutionary sitcom, and that's part of what made it such an unpredictable treat each week. That's also what's going to make it hard to define what's missing in the post-Harmon era, other than Dan Harmon. I hate myself for looking at "History 101" under a microscope and wish I could jump headfirst off a rock to give myself Changnesia so that I never knew Dan Harmon left. Maybe then I wouldn't be so aware that something was missing. Seeing a show I love so dearly without the creative force behind it is foreign territory to me, and I'll admit that I'm confused and don't know what to think.

But let's not hang ourselves yet, we've only seen ONE episode of Season 4 so far. And it's the episode we're going to scrutinize the most. Plus, we can't forget that even with Harmon on board, the show was prone to duds. I didn't want to jump ahead and watch the second episode that was sent to critics (the Inspector Spacetime convention episode, which is scheduled to air on February 21) because I wanted to be on the same level as you guys when writing this up, but critics I trust are saying it's more of the same hollowed-out Community. Not that it'll deter me from watching, though, because even a disappointing episode of Community is better than most sitcoms.

As a fan of Port and Guarascio's previous work, I still think they can pull this off. But they're going to have to do it on their own terms and not try to retrace Harmon's bootprints. This was the hardest of the episodes to handle, now let's see what they can do once the pressure off.



STUDY NOTES

– I wrote down the lyrics of the theme song to Abed's Happy Community College Show:

This is my show, it's about me,
And all my friends on Abed TV
My happy place, nothing but fun,
Nothing but laughs and smiles and then we rerun
For those times when life's too hard to face,
I'll find some happy in my happy place

Abed's Happy Community College Show is filmed before a live audience inside of my head.


– The biggest deansappointment in the episode was how Dean Pelton was treated. He was just a dress-up doll with a crush on Jeff. That's definitely part of his character, but he became one of my favorite characters over the last season and a half for many other reasons.

– Britta and Troy at the wishing fountain was a low point, possibly for the series and not just the episode. Annie and Shirley prankin' just sorta happened. And the big Hunger Games parody felt underused. Or overused. I'm confused!

– Again, fake shows: AWESOME. Fred Willard: AWESOME. Changnesia: GOING TO BE AWESOME.

– Don't forget, it wasn't just Harmon who left. Writers/producers/directors/actors Chris McKenna, Neil Goldman, Garrett Donovan, Dino Stamatopoulos, and Anthony and Joe Russo also departed. This is going to be an interesting season, guys. Hold me.




Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (138)
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This was a very good episode...the Abed Tv was a masterful satire of the other laugh track sitcoms out there...too bad a lot of Harmonites didn't want to see it.
Annie and Jeff's attempt to not be themselves and their realization of the fact was very nice drama
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For everyone saying its dumbed down..it has to be this is a season premiere and they are just introducing the characters again to the new viewers. It was mostly the same but I will save judgment till the next COUPLE of episodes
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I hardly see the difference. It's still the same old crazy Community to me.
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I had high expectations due to the scathing reviews and I managed to enjoy it. It felt like there was too much happening though, which is usually handled better with a cast of 7 main characters.
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This episode was fun! It was no anthropology but also no biology.
In comparison with the other comedys on TV(aside don't trust the b*) it came out way better, so let us just leave it at that for now. I don't think we need to doom community yet. I remebember episodes I hated way more under harmon (basically everything britta based f.e.)
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I think everyone's overreacting a little. There were WAY worse episodes of Community produced when Harmon was at the wheel. If he could have misses and still come up with amazing material and innovative episodes, why can't the new guys? This was okay. It wasn't terrible.

There are two points in this review that were really insightful, and that's the fact that Abed's happy place felt like a sketch, and the Hunger Games thing was overused (or underused?). Both plotlines needed more time and they never managed to properly converge. I'm sad they did a Hunger Games spoof with only one member of the Study Group actually participating in the games. Boooo.

But my glass if half full over here. I thought this episode was above average, and I'm mostly happy. I'll always be a little bit nervous that the new team won't be able to pull off the amazing boundrary-pushing episodes, and I'm holding my breath until they do, but I want to give them a chance.
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I was really disappointed over the episode, especially after waiting so long. I felt like the writers were trying too much. The Abed Tv segments were too invading and they were'nt funny. The episode lacked some Troy & Abed awesomeness. I will hope for the best and keep watching.
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This was a carryover writer...so I think you are seeing what you want to see
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this is exactly what i felt, watching this episode...the was community but something was off they where trying so hard to please it felt awkward to watch...
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It was like an uncanny valley episode of Community.
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I didn't like it. The "Abed TV" segments were terrible, and the rest just wasn't interesting or funny. I'm actually surprised, since the trailers made everything look as awesome as ever. But something about this episode just felt wrong. So I'm concerned, but I still have some hope left.

It was a bad idea to start the episode with an "Abed TV" segment with a laugh track. It was as if my worst fears (about the show) had been multiplied by 10, and it left a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the episode.
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It was a backhanded slap to the Chuck Lorresque sitcoms out there and how they were told to "conform" by NBC...I loved it as it also fit Abed's personality.

,I also love IT Crowd, little trivia, they tried an American pilot, who was playing Roy? Joel McHale

you love IT Crowd, watch Father Ted, same creator and my favorite comedy of all time
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Thanks for the tip. I don't think I've even heard of Father Ted. I'll check it out some day when I'm bored.
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I actually thought all of the writers stuck around so all those people you named being gone explains it.
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I wrongly went into the episode expecting the community i know and love. then something slowly crept over me ...disgust. that this show was both trying to be the one it once was all the while including shit so common in such common other shows. annie was penny from happy endings? the penny that ruined happy endings for me (season 2 penny). annie never was more than an elisha cuthbert (i bet the same people who think brie's funny think cuthbert is too)

the episode was entirely unfunny. I laughed at delivery and nothing more. i really wanted to like the episode. but i just watched as it went on without me. it doesn't know what i like to see like the old community did. that's what's missing with no dan harmon. a direction for it to go and the will of someone to see it through. now it's just a show with a name and a cast and someone outline for people to try and color in. i'm glad OTHER critics know well enough to not give credit where it isn't due.
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I loved "aliens in america".
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Having tried and failed many many times to find a half hour live action comedy on network television that isn't completely rote, insulting to my intelligence, and/or stuffed with outdated plots and stereotypes, I was so shocked and giddy to find Community. So please stop saying it's still better than 90% of other comedy shows. That's a REALLY low bar!
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i'd recommend better off ted if you never saw it. that show was great. of course don't get attached, it was cancelled before it's time.
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loved it, of course it was cancelled.
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Yes, Better off Ted was one of the best ones in recent years. Not as good as Community in its prime, but good. Portia de Rossi was great in it.

Speaking of her, I have to mention Arrested Development, which is perhaps the best comedy show ever.

Since I'm talking about great comedy shows, and my name here is tnetennba, I also have to mention The IT crowd. It's even better than Community in my opinion. Too bad those lazy bastards only made 24 episodes in five years.

This makes me wonder if the people who make TV in the UK aren't getting paid. The show was never cancelled. The creators/writers were thinking about making a fifth season, but thought it sounded like a pain to actually get together to talk about it, so they just discussed it over the internet somehow. And then they just decided that they didn't feel like making another season.

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I have IT crowd in my netflix instant cue, still haven't watched yet. And yes, UK TV works with very different rules. I guess they're much more patient across the pond! (She says, waiting patiently for more Sherlock....) And Arrested Development raised the bar! (also cancelled....)
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I know. The IT Crowd was way better than Community, and that's saying alot because Community is my favorite comedy. I was so excited when they said there was going to be a series 5 and then changed their mind. I was also really excited when there was going to be an American version with Richard Ayode playing Moss and Joel McHale playing Roy. And then being dissapointed after they nixed that (Although afer finally watching the pilot episode on YouTube how could they not?)
That being said. I did enjoy the first ep of Community back. It may not have been the greatest, but there were some things I liked, and there wasn't too much Pierce, soo... I watched it with my roomate who had never seen any eps of Community and she was cracking up. I suppose it wouldve been more funny if I wasnt aware of all the backstage drama.
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I like the IT crowd more, too. I guess under the line it's important for a comedy to make me actually laugh - so Community is my (only) fourth most beloved comedy on television.
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Father Ted by the same creator is my favorite comedy of all time
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Also did anyone else notice the whole "last first day" things they kept throwing out? I think they want us to be ready for the inevitable.
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I couldn't wait for this episode, but I was also dreading it. I knew it was going to be different and probably off, so I tried to keep expectations low. With that said, I thought it wasn't too awful, but just really different. And super-busy, like all the parts didn't completely gel together. I appreciate Abed's Happy Community College Show (this was pretty much everyone's worst nightmare), but really didn't see any reason for Shirley-Annie and Troy-Britta subplots (but Annie's impression of the Dean was hilarious). The Hunger Games parody seems too easy, but I did love Pierce trying to come up with ball jokes ("Gay balls! Nailed it!"). Hopefully we'll see better things in the coming eps and this was just the new showrunners testing out the waters before they really dive in.
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Greendale Babies Forever!
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i think u guys are way over analyzing things. i loved it and made me realize how much i missed it, and it quickly made me see how much better it is than any other sitcom out there. just watch it as a funny show, not some life-changing moment in your life.

going by your notion the new showrunners don't have a shot in hell to please you. if they stick to the community "you know and love" they are just copycats trying to be Harmon but "not quite succeeding". if they go their own way you will ridicule them and say "they aren't Harmon". it's lose-lose for them unfortunately.

just enjoy it!

ps - anything with a muppet babies reference is awesome to me!
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I didn't remember about Harmon at all and I just kinna wasn't feelin' it. Makes sense now. We'll see, but this is exactly the sort of episode they would have nailed before.
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I fogot he left. It was such a disjointed episode and now I understand why. There were so many places where it was almost hilarious and then fell off. Still funnier than most of the stuff on tv. Dont like the Britta/Troy thing or the Jeff/ Annie thing. I just don't feel the chemistry in either of those relationships and I hope they kill it off early.
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The Jeff/Annie and Troy/Britta things are the best possible pairings, as they have both developed naturally over the series, both play on good chemistry, and bring the best out of the characters involved. Jeff/Britta, which is seeming to be a push by the new writers, was already done early on, and while amusing for a bit, the relationship was a disaster that brought the worst out of the two. I hope they settle down with Jeff/Annie and Troy/Britta, make them both confirmed fact, then simply continue on with the amusing group stories we have come to love from the show.
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I think the Troy/Britta thing is a terrible idea. It doesn't make any sense to me. I don't think it developed naturally at all. I think I actually missed the early signs, since for me it was so far outside of the realm of possibility that I couldn't see them. I had to read about that development here, and it just made me go WTF?!
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for the high points of the Troy/Britta development, start with competitive Wine tasting, then origins of vampire mythology, curriculum unavailable, chang dynasty, and Intro to finality.
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I'm impressed that you know that. :)
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Exactly, plus the age differences make me cringe. Jeff had a career as a lawyer while Annie was just getting out of high school. Troy - also just out of high school. Ew - I just threw up in my mouth.
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So? who cares about the age differences? Annie started out acting far younger than him, but she has matured to the point where she stands up to Jeff and he treats her like an equal, not a child. They are good for one another.
And while Britta is older than Troy, they both accept who each other is, and support one another. I'd take a relationship like that over any concerns about a moderate age gap. I'd be more worried about Troy and Britta's combined money management skills than the age difference.
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this has more laughs than that f-ing episode.
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IT IS SOOOO DIFFERENT! I'm not saying it wasn't great, I'm saying you could easily feel that something was off. But hey I'm glad about the ratings ;). And Tim, you couldn't have expressed my very thoughts more precisely!
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See i think everbody has just set the bar to high in their mind. On a scale to 1-10 i would give it 7 1/2 maybe a 8. i think it was a solid episode. Yea there were some things wrong with it. The Hunger Dean games could have been shown more. The Annie prank and Troy & Britta in the pond was a little boring. But I think they did a good job for the 1st episode. I don't think we can keep comparing to Harmon all season. It's gonna be different no matter what. We just have to deal with it. I think they nailed it on the fake show promos and if there is a next season. Fred Willard is perfect to replace Chevy Chase. Like i said it was good and there is always room for improvement. Us Community fans have to keep suporting it. We have to get to Six Seasons and A Movie.
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Tim, this review couldn't have been more right on the mark, thank you for articulating what many of us were feeling. The whole time I watched if felt wrong and off. So many half-baked ideas, so many cliches and forced moments, so grabs at Community greatness - Community greatness doesn't come from grabs, it comes from the opposite, from the moments of character that are natural. I hold out hope that the cast and writers can make a meal out of this, but it feels now like October 19th will never come.

PS - I didn't see any fake commercials, what part of the episode did they air? I still have it on DVR, went over it in fast-forward but saw nothing. We had breaking news right before the final act return though.

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The commercials were during ABED TV!
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They're those ads that just show up at the bottom half of the screen promoting another show on the network.

I actually missed both of them my first watch through, as I've gotten used to ignoring those things when they show up, just assuming they were from NBC itself.

The first one comes about 8-9 minutes into the episode after Jeff gets his first red ball. Abed switches over to Abed TV and the gang are reading about the different subjects they can major in... a small ad for American Sword Cooks comes up.

The second one comes at about minute 18 when Abed is picturing Jeff's signature speech and an ad for blind/blonde is shown.

Neither made me laugh, but I commend them for the attempt.
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Thanks, found 'em. I've become so conditioned to ignoring these that they made no impact despite both being done with main characters. And like you said, neither made me laugh although Blind/Blonde was a medical show marathon.

The folks commenting below pointed out that this type of gag has been done a few times lately on other shows, and I'd argue that those were done better.
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You know those ANNOYING TV pop ups that tell you to watch THIS, The animated overlays during the TV show...It was a Very Funny bit. 30 Rock did it too, LIZ was all like "What the Hell is This, Do you guys see this,??" as if she was having a hallucination and seeing a promo for Dot-Coms new up coming show... I was giddy for them making fun of that crap_
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Only Family Guy already did that several seasons ago, albeit not in someone's head. And before that Marge did it on a Halloween Simpsons opening. So, definitely not "streets ahead." Actually the Simpsons one might be my favorite.
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Really watered down, Britta and Tory's relationship was contrived and unbelievable (no chemistry between those two), and to top it all off Piece and Abed had barely anything to do. With Pierce on his way out I want to see as much of him as possible while he's still around and Abed's the best character of the show, having him on the sidelines like that is a gross misuse of resources. The episode was fine, but I've come to expect much more than just fine from Community.
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I have to agree. It felt like this whole episode was the new showrunners' way of showing us that we can rely on them to give us the elements that made the show great in the first three seasons, and it did result in a few good parts, but as a whole it seemed to be mishandled. However, I do still plan on watching the show for a while longer, to see if they work out the kinks. And I may also try rewatching this episode to see if my opinion changes. After all, the last time, and maybe only time, I felt an episode was bad (by any standard, not just Community standards) was the episode "Course Listing Unavailable," which was another episode with a somewhat disjointed plot, which I watched when I wasn't feeling good, and when I rewatched the episode I ended up loving it. With this episode, not only was its plot disjointed, I've also recently come home from the hospital after a surgery and am still recovering, so that could have also affected my viewing as well. Either way, I just hope the show picks up from here so that, even if we don't have the same level of greatness as Dan Harmon's Community, we can at least have something that's enjoyable enough in its own way, instead of feeling like it's trying too hard to recapture the old magic.
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It wasn't the best. I didn't expect it to be. However I did feel Abed's dream Community kind of poked fun at those shows that need a laugh track. But it did feel off. I couldn't help but notice how Jeff's emphasis on trying was kind of a allegory for the entire show itself. It felt a little disjointed. I still have faith in the show, I would watch an entire episode of baby Community because that was great. And despite it being off, it is still better than damn near everything out there. Especially on the networks. The only show that is comparable and maybe currently a little better is Happy Endings.
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Like the Jeff idea.
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Hardcore Community fans are the Britta of TV series fans. First you don't want the show to change and then you are complaining it for trying to be the same it was. Seriously? This episode of Community was better than some of Harmon Community episodes and worse than some. It didn't 'break' Community
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It's a self fulfilling prophecy, most fans expected it to be worse, so it was. I enjoyed it for what it was, and it was a good episode, bit up to Community standard, but it wasn't horrible.
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I thought people would wait at least 2 episodes before turning on their "favorite" show, got to love the glass half empty people
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Most people didn't even wait for one episode. There was so many people who stated they'd not continue watching after the news about Dan Harmon got out. Community's been proclaimed dead even before this season premiere. It's really ridiculous imho....
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I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. There was a noticeable difference but for the most part it felt like Community had picked up right where it left off. I feel bad for the new show runners because they're faced with an impossible task -- if they stray too much from Harmon's Community then fans will accuse them of turning the show into something else, but if they stick too closely to Harmon's approach then they'll be accused of pandering and playing it safe. Every episode from this point on is going to be examined with a microscope and fans will wonder what Dan Harmon would've done, and that's not how you watch a show. I think expectations are unreasonably high because the show was never perfect, even with Harmon at the helm, and it had its fair share of stinkers -- Season 3 had some absolute gems but I'd say the show peaked in Season 2. I'm just going to try and enjoy the show for what it is and be thankful that it's in the hands of passionate fans instead of some NBC drones who'd try to cater to the masses.
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I totally agree with you, it was different for some unknowable reason. It has some great parts, and some just okay parts. But I would take this episode of Community over literally 90% of everything else on television any day!
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I think we need to stop dwelling on the fact that Dan Harmon is gone, not that I didn't miss his presence, because I did, but he is not coming back, so we need to move on, and try are best to enjoy New Community. As far as reboots( can we call this a reboot) go, this was not terrible, though you could tell that the new show runners are trying their best to keep it the same. I watched it a third time today just comparing it to other shows and how it stacked up, and while it may not be the best comedy on TV anymore( or at least this episode), it is still better than most shows, which is a blessing.
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I have a feeling the AbedTV bid will be an on-going thread for this season. He will fall deeper and deeper into it and the group will have to try to pull him back into reality. That's also how they'll deal with the absence of Chevy towards the end. The Community reality and AbedTV reality will merge at the end, with Fred Willard becoming the new Pierce.
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Dan Harmon Who_ ??? Last night I saw the best TV show I've seen all Year (except maybe the Victories Secret Fashion Show)

You said it best, any Community show is better then even the best of other trite / un-funny comides. I loved this episode, It felt exactly like Community, Thursdays on NBC 7-9, thats were you'll find me!
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I liked the episode, but I think there was just too much. There probably could've been two episodes, one for the Hunger Games and the other for Abed's TV show.
I did love that the happy place inside the happy place was them as cartoon babies.
And I also loved how happy Annie was with her prank to moving everything and inch except the stapler. She would get excited about that.
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Yes, felt they crammed too much, and in doing so didn't give us enough of any one thread.
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It kind of feels like new guys are saying "Oh you like the paintball eps. than you'll love other parts the show had like Inspector Spacetime, chang acting crazy, love quadrangles!" Old community said "Oh you like paintball? Too bad we're giving you a multi-timeline scenario that changes your concept of reality!" It's really apples and oranges. More of what we love as opposed to you'll love it because it's never been done before.
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The first instance feels so juvenile though. Maybe it reminds me too much of when I was a precocious 10 and decided I could write a sequel to the HHGTTG trilogy. I wrote one or two chapters with plenty of "Triple-breasted whore of Eroticon 6", etc., but nothing original. (No, it wasn't slash fiction; I didn't actually know what a whore was and even thought you pronounced the "w"!) Then later that year So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish actually came out -- the fourth book in the trilogy! -- and real Douglas Adams was infinitely better than me aping Douglas Adams.
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I'm just glad it's back and I'm going to enjoy the ride. Oh how I missed you, Community!
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It seemed like a dumbed-down version of Community, but I have a small bit of hope that it will get better.
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I think you are right that they tried to put a lot of different plots and allusions and it felt rushed. The Hunger Games reference wasn't well used. It was a competition and a red dress, nothing more and that was supposed to please us. Annie and Shirley prank didn't have any kind of sense, you could have erased the scenes without damaging the overall plot of the episode.

It had his good moments, too. I specially loved when Jeff said: "This doesn't look good. He is dressed as himself" (talking about the Dean), the ads for the fake shows with Troy and Abed or Annie and Britta or the use of the typical sitcom with laugh track like telling to us: "You think we are going to turn Community in this?". They are a lot of episodes from the Dan Harmon era that weren't great either, we can't expect for their first episode to make a Paintball (quality wise) episode, so I won't be pessimist and I have hope that they will find a way to keep Community alive and fun and original.

After all, this community (watered down or whatever) is better than not Community at all
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The Hunger Games bit was a misdirect, like the Pulp Fiction costumes in the "My Dinner with Andre" episode.
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I know this is Community blasphemy, but I almost wish they'd cancelled the show after Season 3. This episode was really disappointing and I'd hate to see the final season mar the legacy of an otherwise great show.
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It most certainly should have. I would have never said it prior to this episode, yet here I am.
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I know exactly how you feel. I hate myself for thinking it, but nothing might have been better than this. And when I read the word "mar" in your comment, it made me think of the name of Jeff's character in the D&D episode, "Maaaaaaar", and how hilariously amazing Community used to be.

Now I'm even more depressed.
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It reminds me of the final season of Scrubs, or Zombie Scrubs for those in the know. Familiar faces, a few returning running gags, but it's just not the same. I feel like Dan Harmon would've kept the group together and really dove into the hunger games parody. I hope it improves, but if not as Barney Gumble once said "Don't cry for (Community) It's already dead."
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Which final season of Scrubs? It had three of them.
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I was perfectly happy with this episode and really don't care that much about the loss of Dan Harmon. The episode was extremely funny, had some nice cultural references, and kept everybody in character. I honestly find it ironic that fans expect so much from this show and then hardly anybody watches it legally, which is what has led to all of these behind-the-scenes problems and the mammoth amount of issues with NBC in the first place.
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I watched it on network TV when it aired, I even watched the commercials. I have no tivo.
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I find when it comes to a show it's good to pull back a bit and look at if someone were to have randomly picked yesterday's episode to watch as their introduction to the show. What would they think? I believe they wouldn't have lasted 10 minutes into this episode. It was like if you tried to step on a treadmill while it was at level 10 speed. Nothing about that episode would make sense to a non-seasoned viewer.
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I found the episode reminded me a lot of The Office, and in a bad way. I haven't watched an episode in a few seasons and saw one a couple weeks ago, where the whole office got lice I believe. Just seeing the characters were no longer nuanced and just crazy for the sake of crazy reminded me of last night's Community. Nobody questions the craziness of the Dean anymore. Shirley isn't reserved and the moral compass anymore. Shirley, Pierce and Britta need to be the Debbie Downers of the show to keep the other crazier characters in check. If they're all crazy, the concept just falls to pieces. While the show was far fetched, it wasn't like the school they attended was a circus all the time, which is pretty much what it's become.
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The general vibe that the episode gave me was lack of confidence. They relied a bit too much on the crowd-pleasers (Troy and Abed back from summer, a not so witty Dean pun (but let's be honest, they can't beat the ones from the clip show) (hey, I'm using brackets within brackets, get it?)) and never really gave the episode an identity of its own. I don't want this season to be just a bunch of references to the Harmon era.

I really hope they become more confident in handling it as the show progresses. Yes, it's not the same dog, but this one can learn some neat tricks as well.
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The new showrunners have the hardest job in television. First people said, "I hope it's not too different from what Harmon created." Now they're saying, "They're trying to be too much like Harmon." The worst! (BTW, Vicki's not so bad; that Todd is the worst!)

This wasn't one of the best episodes of the series, but I'm OK with that. I spent the episode laughing, and I don't think I once thought about Dan Harmon. I think the problem was trying to fit so much into the episode. Abed's Happy Place + the Hunger Deans both might have done better in separate episodes.
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Don't understand the backlash at all, sure it wasn't one of the best (let's be honest the best are pretty incredible and normally we only get two a season that are up there) but it was more than fine.
The Dan Harmon thing was in my mind at the beginning but I quickly forgot about it and enjoyed the episode, and certainly never had some constant question in my head throughout.
To think that ONLY Dan Harmon could run the show well is pretty presumptuous in my opinion, many of the writers are still there.
"Look, I didn't want to start this discussion of Community's return talking about Dan Harmon either,"
Maybe its just me but I think you really did, or at least had it so lodged in your head that it influenced your enjoyment of the episode (which is somewhat understandable).
Telling those of you with this problem to treat it like a normal episode is pointless, clearly you can't or you would have, I'm just thankful that these thoughts weren't undermining my viewing experience.
If this episode had come out during the Harmon era I don't think there would be anywhere near as much negativity flowing about.
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awww tim, hate to say this, but i did watch aliens in america per yer recommendation and it really wasn't that good at all
also this episode of community -heh, quite off
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haven't tried aliens in america ...I can't help but think that his affinity for it is skewing his perception of their community.
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I think the expectations were way too high and rather then watching the episode, you all were thinking too much during the episode. In your head you are being critical of every line or every set up because you know there is a new showrunner. If you watch any show like that, it will be a let down. Try it, watch a different show or even a previous random episode of community and be critical of every line and every set up and ask if it's funny or not, I doubt you will enjoy it
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"I hate myself for looking at "History 101" under a microscope and wish I could jump headfirst off a rock to give myself Changnesia so that I never knew Dan Harmon left."

My thoughts exactly. Bias is one nasty little thing, but during every scene I kept asking myself "WWDHD?" I don't envy Guarascio and Port one bit. Were they ever even given a chance? I don't think so. There is nothing they could have done to please us, and that's unfair, but it's also reality. It is difficult to understand how the influence of one mind (Harmon's) can be so great that no one can replicate the same feel, but that's just the way it seems to be.

The cast tried, the writers tried, everyone seemingly tried. But somehow none of them reached the finish line. There were many, many scenes in which I felt that the cast was holding back. Their performance was subdued and down-played. Troy was almost normal, Annie was just semi-cute and Pierce was nowhere near as creepy as he should be.

I know this is unfair to expect the show to be exactly the same as it was. It gives very little room for the new showrunners to express themselves, but at the same time one has to recognize that the show Harmon gave us is what we fell in love with. This post-Harmon version is simply not the same.

P.S. I wasn't aware that some many other people behind the show left along with Harmon. I didn't expect the dent in the show's quality to be this big as a result of just Harmon departing, but I guess now that I know so many other left too, I have an explanation for that.
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What got to me the most was the underlying tone the episode was conveying; "This is our last". =(
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Since my first comment, I decided to rewatch the episode... and I've watched it three times in total now. To possibly get a different feel, my second viewing of it was actually almost completely auditory -- I was playing The Simpsons on my iPad as I listened to the episode.

I will say that it felt slightly better. The one where I listened to it all but barely watched probably gave me the most favorable impression of the episode. It felt like an "average" Community episode, and that tells me that the writing itself wasn't much worse (if at all) from average episodes in previous seasons. I guess it allowed me to imagine the picture myself, and in doing so, I could better understand and appreciate what the writers were going for. The first ten minutes or so, in particular, felt like it'd potentially be a quality episode.

But my third viewing of it was back on track with my first viewing and impressions, so I guess I'd have to chalk that up to the director, the editing, and some of the acting. That fountain scene, in particular, was a mess to watch. I liked some of the dialogue that went with it -- Troy's line about Britta wanting to stop all wars was funny -- but seeing Troy and Britta fight around in the fountain made me want to cry (and not of laughter). The only visual scene or joke I kind of maybe liked was Jeff seeing Britta wearing those hipster glasses and taking his off angrily.
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One of the first things I noticed about this episode was a subtle change in camera work and lighting, while trying to force the same blocking as before, and from a visual standpoint it looked off from that, it looked flatter and more like a sitcom (which would have been fine had the whole thing taken place in Abed's mind, but since it didn't...). But IMO, there's no question that the flaws in this episode started on the page.
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