Community, as a satire of modern secondary education, is never really meant to be taken seriously. The modern lackluster college campus provides topics aplenty, and the show hasn't begun to exhaust those topics yet. And the central characters are a collection of oddballs that have not worn out their charms. The show can start anywhere and go anywhere, and frequently flies completely off the rails in a way that feels wrong in precisely the right way.
So, with that in mind, I can take an episode like this one in stride. They're setting up the season, introducing the characters and the setting to the newbies, and preparing the space for the stories to come. Most of it is familiar to the returning audience, with a few surprises. There are battling deans in a wag-the-dog power struggle. (Welcome John Goodman! I hope they give you some good lines this year.) There's the hapless Chang moonlighting as a campus security guard. There's a re-purposed Pierce shedding his villain persona. These developments portend future laughs, but those laughs weren't really present this time around. There were chuckles aplenty, but belly laughs were absent.
And did the show fly off the rails? My, yes. There was a colorful opening musical number (which, sadly, fell flat) and an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which, happily, hit its mark. And there were little touches to add to the lunacy ("Cougarton Abbey") as well as add color to the modern educational experience (the Bio prof is an ex-con ... not that much of a stretch!).
With experience as a guide, plenty of wonkiness iscoming this season. As long as they keep the dials labeled "satire" and "absurd" turned up, the show will be at its best. The season premiere is just Square One. This show never stays on Square One (and sometimes doesn't even start there). From here, anything is possible.