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TV Review: ‘Community’

The comedy regains its offbeat footing with creator Dan Harmon back at the helm

With:

Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong and Jim Rash

Community” is both back on Jan. 2 and back. As in, the show that fans came to love during its first three seasons on NBC has returned.

Community” used to be my favorite show on television. There are several shows that I know are better, but “Community” was my favorite.

It was the only television show I watched — and maybe one of the only shows ever — that really loved being a television show. I love pop culture (perhaps a little too much) and each week, “Community” served as a place that I could go and feel like I was surrounded by people who also loved pop culture (perhaps a little too much).

When “Community” creator Dan Harmon was fired before season four, he took with him all that made “Community” great. I don’t mean that as a disservice to the actors, who did their best during “the gas leak year” (as it’s described in the new episodes), but the show was simply not the same without him.

Harmon took a lot of heat for ripping on season four after the fact, calling it an “unflattering” impression. He said watching it was “like flipping through Instagrams and watching your girlfriend just blow a million [other guys].”

The thing is … Harmon was dead on with his assessment and every “Community” fan knew it. And now that Harmon has returned to the show, it’s even more obvious just how right he was.

“Repilot,” the first of two episodes airing on Thursday, spends some time undoing what was done at the end of season four and by the end of the second episode, “Introduction to Teaching,” the study group is re-formed (sort of).

The second episode in particular has touchstones of what made the show so great under Harmon, invoking the season two plot line of Abed (Danny Pudi) figuring out exactly who is the boss in “Who’s the Boss?”, except this time he goes full Carrie Mathison trying to figure out if Nicolas Cage is good or bad. Pudi’s Nic Cage impression is a sight to behold.

The episode also features the return of Professor Garrity (aka Professor Professorson, played by Kevin Corrigan), a Greendale riot, and a Jeff Winger speech that actually does not win everyone over for a change.

But going back to the first episode, we see that Jeff (Joel McHale) has tried (and failed) to become a lawyer who helps people in need, as illustrated by a commercial where Jeff fights an evil giant robot. When he later tries to convince his former study group they need to sue Greendale Community College for ruining their lives, he tells Troy (Donald Glover), “In real life, the robot always wins.”

I couldn’t help but think back to the blog Harmon wrote the day he was fired. He talked about how when he was a kid, his mom told him that “friends” who beat him up were not friends worth having. Harmon used that story as an analogy (wait til you hear Britta’s attempt at an analogy in episode one, it’s a classic) to describe how he was treated by execs at Sony and NBC. He wrote: “I’m 39, now. The friends my Mom warned me about are bigger now, and older, bloodying my nose with old world numbers, and old world tactics, like, oh, I don’t know, sending out press releases to TV Guide at 7 p.m. on a Friday.”

I hate to tell you, Dan, but the robot does NOT always win.

TV Review: 'Community'

(Series; NBC, Thur. Jan. 2, 8 p.m.)

Production:

Filmed in Los Angeles by Krasnoff Foster Entertainment, Harmonious Claptrap in association with Universal Television and Sony Pictures Television.

Crew:

Executive producers, Dan Harmon, Russ Krasnoff, Gary Foster, Chris McKenna, Patrick Kienlen, Tristram Shapeero; co-executive producers, Andy Bobrow, Erik Sommers. 30 MIN.

Cast:

Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong and Jim Rash

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