‘Community’ returns with overstuffed episode

Annie Bruce, Writer

When the creator of “Community” left at the end of season three, the future of this lovable show was in jeopardy. There was controversy surrounding actor Chevy Chase, the ability of the show to even have a season four was up in the air for some time and the highly anticipated season was pushed back from October to February. All in all, the NBC series has struggled to stay on our television screens. But “Community” is not going down without a fight. In the season four premiere, “History 101,” the writers proved with or without Dan Harmon, they can still deliver. The episode was not one of my all-time favorites, but it gave me confidence “Community” is still here and still worth watching.

The episode opened with the study group members anticipating their senior year at Greendale Community College. Abed, in particular, is struggling. He is naturally worried that when everyone graduates from Greendale, their relationships will change. Britta, who considers herself a therapy expert, tells Abed to go to his happy place whenever he is anxious about the future.

Abed’s happy place consists of a cheesy version of “Community,” filled with lame jokes and a laugh track. This bit was charming at first, but as the episode went on, more and more time was spent in this imaginary version of Greendale. Unfortunately, the fictional version is not nearly as funny as the real one, and the episode would have benefited if it focused more attention on a subplot that featured Jeff competing in a “Hunger Games”- style tournament (where, of course, the Dean dressed up as Effie Trinket) for a seat in a history class.

It turns out Jeff needs to take a history class this semester so he can graduate early. This not only upsets Abed, but the rest of the study group thinks Jeff is being selfish as well. Jeff works throughout the episode to prove he is acting in the best interest of the group. The episode gave Jeff, along with other members of the group such as Annie and Abed, the opportunity to show how much they’ve changed since season one.

The best part of the episode was the beginning, which was filled with laugh-out-loud moments and cute reunions between the different members of the study group. But as the episode went on, it became further disjointed. It absolutely wasn’t bad, but there were several story lines that could have each been main plot points of their own episodes.

When a show has interesting characters and entertaining themes that can stand alone, it’s important not to cram too many aspects into a single half-hour episode. The “Hunger Deans,” which could have lent itself to a whole lot of laughs, was cut short to see more of Abed’s fictional Greendale, which was less funny. Make no mistake — “Community” is still filled with clever jokes and compelling characters, but it’s at its best when it doesn’t try to do everything at once.