Community of fans inspires a fifth season for the critically acclaimed series

Aaron Bialer and Josh White, Aaron Bialer, and Josh White

Think about your favorite horror movie.  A soft dissonance crescendos into an immense monstrosity of noise, building suspense.  The combination of bloody visuals and eerie music provides the audience the adrenaline rush for which one watches a horror movie.  Now imagine that same movie, with Abba’s “Dancing Queen” playing in the background.  The same bloody visuals meld with the upbeat song into a conglomeration that could only be described as bizarre and leaves you unsure as to whether to laugh or scream.  This is the plot of an episode of NBC’s Community.

Community started its fifth season on Jan. 2, 2014.  The beginning of the fifth season marked a return for Creator and Executive Producer, Dan Harmon, who was let go by Sony and NBC after season three.  Under Harmon, the show flourished.  Its cult fan base watched every episode with bated breath due its strangeness and seemingly unstructured plot.  Unfortunately, to viewers’ dismay, season four without Harmon did not live up to Community’s previous legacy.  Harmon himself deemed the fourth season an unflattering impression of his previous work in seasons one through three.

The show is set at Greendale Community College, where seven diverse students form a study group.  The first episode of season five is entitled “Repilot,” suggesting that those who did not watch season four, or even the first three seasons, may start anew.  Three years after graduating, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) returns to Greendale to research a potential lawsuit after his practice goes under.  When he returns, Winger finds out that the rest of the gang, excluding Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase), has also re-enrolled in Greendale after failing in their respective fields.  Dean Craig Pelton (Jim Rash) and Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) convince Jeff Winger to pursue a teacher position at Greendale.

As the characters are reintroduced and reestablished, Harmon slowly eases new and returning viewers into his unique production style.  Thus, the first episode does not feel quite like those of previous seasons.

The second episode of the one hour premiere reassures cult viewers that Harmon has not lost his talent.  The students enroll in a two day class entitled “Nicholas Cage: Good or Bad Actor.”  Abed’s eccentricity returns as he becomes obsessed with determining whether Cage is talented or terrible.  Upon close analysis, returning viewers familiar with Harmon’s story will realize that this subplot is undeniably self-referential.  Abed in his obsessed deliriousness says, “That’s why critics could call him a genius or an idiot and be right no matter what.”  This lies in parallel with Harmon’s past critical reviews.

With its fairly unstructured plot, Community is dynamic and entertaining.  From episodes dedicated to intense paintball games to existential episodes creating meaning through ordinary objects like trampolines and pens, Community enthralls its cult viewers, even if it is not able to gain any critical acclaim.  However, because of all the time spent orientating the viewers to the relevant situation and climate of this new season, there is not a huge amount of room for new jokes.  Harmon clearly understands the dangerous line he is treading between pleasing his bosses and his fan base.

For Community fans who have considered splitting from the comical series, stick with it because Dan Harmon has made a convincing promise to keep with six seasons and even a potential movie.