Fri
Jan 3 2014 11:00am

Love the Show that Loves to Hate Itself. Community: “Repilot” and “Introduction to Teaching”

You guys, we exist in a timeline where Community was never cancelled.

The season 5 double premiere “Repilot” and “Introduction to Teaching” was an excellent return to form; expertly tackling the difficulty of being funny and pulling off an even harder trick by making it feel like no time had passed while still talking constantly about the amount of time that had passed.

It also played out like the inside of my head, with all the self-loathing and misuse of Excel which that implies.

Whatever plot acrobatics had to be accomplished to get Jeff and the gang back together, what really makes the characters’ continuing adventures at Greendale believable is the emotional honesty being deployed by the re-installed showrunner Dan Harmon. The show doesn’t sacrifice the growth of the past few seasons in favor of hitting a reset button, instead it asks the very logical question of what happens to these characters once they strive for their original goals, post-college, and it keeps asking what happens once they fail.

Our instinct is to want to see them happy and prepared post-Greendale, but we identify more strongly with their failure, because that’s how our own lives work. Like Annie, we stay in soul-sucking jobs because it sustains us just enough. Like Abed, we find out that our creativity does not give us an excuse to disconnect from the world. Like Britta, we worry we’re not smart enough, because we’ve never been told we’re smart enough. Like Jeff and Annie, we charge full steam ahead and find out our dreams can fail as easily as anything else. Like Troy, we’re definitely just as sad as the rest of them but will figure out why later.

But you and I tend to have places we can go, or places we construct for ourselves, when we’re forced to deal with these kinds of ongoing failures, be they large or small, public or private. We join guilds online, or decompress alone with a game. We go to a convention, lecture, or concert and talk to the people who’s art makes our heartstrings thrum. We take breaks from work to read what other people thought of the things we love. As genre readers/writers/thinkers, our lives contain multiple worlds and when the real world grows dull, or doesn’t treat us so well, we gather the like-minded around us and create a world that will.

This is the same kind of action that drives the new season of Community. Greendale and that study table is their world and while that admission is nothing new to the show, the realization that that world isn’t just an escape hatch is. If they’re that comfortable at Greendale, isn’t it worth curating? Isn’t it worth being there until the next thing comes along more naturally?

For now the show agrees with this, but even here it’s smart to introduce an opposite viewpoint in the form of new professor Buzz Hickey (Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks). Odds are he felt the same way about Greendale at first, decades ago, and now just sees a life frittered away drawing cartoon ducks that have beaks when they should have bills. Even in the most supportive environment you can muster, you can still fail, and that is scary.

But misery loves company, and one of the things that makes Community so entertaining is that it’s so energetic about pointing out that this isn’t a bad thing. And when the show is at its best, we become a part of that company. We love how this show loves to hate itself. Welcome back, Community.

  • I am not a fan of Chevy Chase but I really loved his cameo. I wonder if they spliced it together from existing audio, like a smoother version of Chef’s final episode from South Park?
  • The appeal of Nicholas Cage is so perfect as something Abed simply can’t deduce. Your mission: Find an animated gif of Sexy Cat Abed.
  • A.B.C. = Always Be Cageing. Damn right.
  • Troy seemed pretty underused for a character we only get three (four?) more episodes of.
  • I loved how Britta just kept breathlessly repeating “psychology” in the face of the entire group suggesting alternate majors.
  • Greendale’s riots are the best. Magnitude’s psychotic “Pop POPPPPPP!” just kills me.
  • Community may or may not be a show we cover regularly. The premiere certainly called for it but we’re taking a wait and see approach in regards to weekly coverage. (The show may tempt us. There’s apparently a D&D sequel episode coming up, definitely a Zardoz-themed one, Troy’s departure, and a fourth episode that the AV Club is touting as one of the best episodes in the show’s history. That’s probably at least two notable episodes coming soon…)

Chris Lough’s interior monologues are not in French, but the Excel on his work computer is and it’s driving him crazy.

7 comments
Ty Margheim
1. alSeen
It was actually Chevy. Of the cast, only Joel knew that it was going to happen until the final edit was done.
alex
2. jerec84
The first episode really spoke to me, as I'm sure it will for a lot of people finishing college but not getting a job out of it. I spent 2 years on a course, achieved a distinction overall, and was never able to get a job in that field. I've finished another course just recently and I'm applying for jobs like mad and I'm a little scared it'll end up the same way.

But unlike Jeff and the gang, I can't go back, I won't go back. But I'm glad they've gone back.
BDG
5. BDG
I actually thought the first episode was a little weak and if they didn't have the follow-up episode I would been very disappointed but they did and we had Abed becoming Nic Cage.
BDG
6. karina_burana
"Like Jeff and Annie, we charge full steam ahead and find out our dreams can fail as easily as anything else."

Do you mean Jeff and Shirley, maybe?
BDG
7. Dianthus
Ooh, I hope you do decide to make this a regular thing. I love Community with a passion. Absurd, but grounded. Dark, but loving and supportive. Odd, but wise. Funny as hell. What's not to love?
Bob Blough
8. Bob
"Nicholas Cage: Good or Bad" as a course? I'd grab at that one with both hands and both feet. To me, one of the funniest shows I have ever seen.

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