After nine months of being off the air, NBC’s sleeper-hit “Community” has returned to television with their season four premiere. The show returns to quite a few drastic changes. Dan Harmon, the creator, was fired by the network in May. Fans of the show were dismayed and disheartened, but those emotions were heightened even more when NBC pulled the comedy (along with “Whitney”) a week before it was slated to debut in its new Friday night timeslot on October 19th. Finally, after what seemed like the longest and darkest timeline, the network announced that the show would return in February. And fans rejoiced!
As a huge fan of the comedy series, I was a bit concerned that the tone of the show would change at the helm of new showrunners. After all, “Community” had three established years in the Harmon era and any kind of change or deviation from the normal would be a bit jarring to those of us who are intimately acquainted with the series. Harmon’s voice was so nuanced and unique that… well, let’s just say that Abed spoke for the majority of viewers in the episode when he expressed his desire to stay in a “happy place” and not face reality.
“History 101” focuses on the study group returning to Greendale for their senior year, where they are anticipating taking a History of Ice Cream class together. When it’s revealed that the class is over capacity, Dean Pelton devises a Hunger Games-style competition to decide seats: the winners of each of the 35 tasks will receive a seat in the class. When the rest of the study group attempts to leave, Jeff insists that they HAVE to participate – he’s been taking summer classes without telling them and the history credit will ensure that he graduates a semester early. Meanwhile, Abed – under the advice of Britta – is attempting to process the changes that will be taking place once the study group begins to graduate and move on with their lives. He retreats within his mind to his “happy place”… only to find that this state-of-mind fractures the closer Jeff gets to achieving the tasks and winning the study group seats in the History class and therefore getting closer and closer to graduation.
The season four premiere’s message was pretty simple and layered: change, as everyone discovers, is often paralyzing and scary. Knowing that you are approaching the end of anything and having to start over scares Abed. And it scares fans of “Community,” too. We were afraid that the show wouldn’t be the same without Harmon’s voice and direction. And what we discovered throughout “History 101” was this – change means that things will not be the same. Sure, “Community” feels a bit different on the surface (the lighting is brighter, the jokes are a little broader, etc.) but at its core and heart this show is still about learning to love people, accept them for all of their weirdness, and grow together as friends and – ultimately – family.
So whether we’re back at Greendale for a year or for two more years and a movie, I am along for the ride. Because Greendale is where I belong.