Somehow, however, that’s exactly what happened. “Community” has returned for 2014 and begins with back-to-back episodes: “Repilot” and “Introduction to Teaching.”
First thing you need to know: Some time has passed since the end of Season 4. Jeff has gone off to resume practicing law — only now he’s a “good” lawyer, vanquishing monster robots and such — while the rest of the study group somehow managed to graduate from Greendale. They’re all off working, leaving the study room to serve as an asbestos-laden file room.
It’s too bad that nothing much is working out for Greendale and its alumni.
Jeff is going bankrupt and the school is about to be sued by Alan, Jeff’s old nemesis, because one of Greendale’s graduates designed a bridge that recently collapsed. Alan ropes Jeff into returning to the community college to help with the lawsuit, and everything snowballs from there.
Repiloting and the meta-insanity
It’s not until Jeff reenters the study room and — almost literally — goes back to the beginning of “Community” that things really get going. Thinking that Jeff has formed a “Save Greendale” group, Abed reappears and, just like he did in the original pilot, brings the others along.
Only this time, there’s no Pierce.
Otherwise, things are as crazy as ever. Jeff quickly realizes that he can be a great lawyer, a good friend and a lousy human being by getting the study group to collectively sue Greendale for ruining their lives. Which it arguably has — they’re all a mess. Only a strange and well-timed hologram of Pierce (they got Chevy Chase back!) convinces everyone that lawsuits are not the right path.
By the way, has any museum ever had a better name than The Pierce Hawthorne Museum of Gender Sensitivity and Sexual Potency? (The answer is no.)
The ‘gas-leak year’
One of the most brilliant things about “Community” Season 5 is its recognition and subversion of Season 4’s existence. That season was such an out-of-character spell on the show that it must be tempting to ignore everything that happened.
“Community” doesn’t do that — not quite anyway. Instead, there are a few references to a “gas-leak” year. There is no way this isn’t a reference to Season 4, but the key is that no one uses this as an excuse. As Jeff puts it, one gas-leak year does not determine overall trajectory. Four years are what does that.
There’s an unwritten rule in the classic sitcom: Characters can never change. They may alter slightly within an episode or even a season, but they need to reset when all is said and done.
“Community” is hardly a classic sitcom though. Although the characters are somewhat back to where they started in the pilot, there are slight alterations in “Repilot.” Everyone seems to be back where they started, but all are also sadder-but-wiser.
Growth has happened.
Meet Buzz Hickey
The second of the two premiere episodes, “Introduction to Teaching,” also introduces the new old guy of “Community,” Jonathan Banks‘ Professor Buzz Hickey. This criminology teacher is cynical, kind of angry and … Well, the best word is “irascible.”
Hickey and Jeff hit it off quickly when Jeff starts his new and hated career as a law professor. The veteran show’s his new colleague the ropes, be it in harassing Leonard or partying in the faculty lounge. Jeff even learns the Secret of the Minus.
So wait — is Nicolas Cage good or bad?
Meanwhile, the newly reenrolled study group has elected to take a course focusing on the work of Nicolas Cage. Because naturally Greendale has a course on the actor.
This poses a problem for Abed. He has always sought out meaning in movies, but Cage’s inexplicable career stumps even the film genius. Over-watching, flowcharts and even embodying Nic himself lead Abed only to nihilism. Fortunately, Shirley is around to point out that the meaninglessness underlying Cage may just point to a deeper truth.
There may be no answer to the question of Nicolas Cage’s acting talent. There is, however, one for Danny Pudi — he is brilliant.
Also, “Always Be Cageing.”
Jeff’s teacher heart grew three sizes that day
Jeff doesn’t much like teaching when the episode begins. He might not really be into it when the episode ends either, but at least Annie’s pep talks and a minor Greendale riot convince the jaded lawyer that there’s more to work than just phoning it in.
Yes, Jeff has become a better person by the time “Introduction to Teaching” ends. But he still forces the Dean to cry a sad tear and think in French song lyrics. Maybe Jeff will at least learn Excel later.
A crazy number of quotes to reemphasize the brilliance of ‘Community’
- “Jeff, I once saw you convince an arson victim that he liked his house better burnt.” – Alan
- “Greendale: Ranked America’s number-two community college by GreendaleCommunityCollege.com!” – Dean Pelton
- “We will be observing a moment of silence on the quad, followed by four years of silence to the press.” – Dean Pelton, on school-liable tragedy
- “Shut up, Leonard! I’m not here. I’m just a figment of your creeping dementia.” – Jeff
- “After you and your friends left, it was closed for sentimental reasons … and asbestos reasons.” – Dean Pelton
- “I see your value now. It’s a callback to when we met first season. And me calling ‘years’ ‘seasons’ is a call back to my first-season dialogue …” – Abed
- “This is like ‘Scrubs’ Season 9!” – Abed
- “Repiloting can be intense.” – Abed
- “Zach Braff was only in the first six episodes.” – Abed
“Son of a b****! After everything that ‘Scrubs’ did for him!” – Troy
- “My wife left, my girlfriend dumped me, and they’re sisters, so now the whole family’s p***ed!” – Alan
- “That’s like me blaming owls for how much I suck at analogies.” – Britta
- “They invented fibromyalgia and the cure for fibromyalgia!” – Annie
- “I didn’t like the number. 555-? It’s derivative … It sounds fake. How can every number start with 555? Are there only 10,000 numbers?” – Abed
- “Relaxibrex doesn’t make you give up on your dreams! That’s a side effect.” – Annie
- “He took the DVR. 166 episodes of ‘Bones,’ just gone.” – Shirley
- “Guys like you should be scared — you trust-funded, body-sprayed, Eli Roth DVD owner. You’re an amateur monster, Alan. And you stomped on the grave of a real monster, who was willing to stay buried. Because real monsters have shame. Real monsters … You’re not worth the monologue. Give me your tie.” – Jeff
- “I’m much sadder than the rest of you! I’ll figure out why later.” – Troy
- “That’s insane. And I’m Abed.” – Abed
- “I don’t believe in evil, but this school clearly got a finger up its butt as a child.” – Britta
- “Don’t blame it all on a gas-leak year. This is a four-year process. We went in one end as real people and out the other end as mixed-up cartoons.” – Jeff
- “In real life, the robot wins.” – Jeff
- “I’d like to take this table out back and burn it.” – Abed
“Burn it?! Why?” – Britta
“The same reason I never took ‘Time Bandits’ back to Blockbuster: Nobody else deserves it.” – Abed
- “I’d be depressed right now if these samples from work weren’t giving me a new outlook on life.” – Annie
From ‘Introduction to Teaching’
- “It’s voice-activated.” – Abed, on the new table
- “There’s a course about Nicolas Cage, but if you mention Jesus to your science teacher, you get a written warning.” – Shirley
“Well, Jesus wasn’t in 70 movies.” – Abed
- “This line is for food, not Lionel Ritchie tickets!” – Leonard
- “The trick is, you’ve got to show the other baboons you’ve got a bigger, redder a**.” – Prof. Hickey
- “Nicolas Cage is so weird. I mean, he seems scared to smell that flower but happy to get shot?” – Troy
- “That … was an odd choice.” – Annie, on Nicolas Cage
- “Awwww … She in your class, yo!” – Chang, on Annie
- “I know my rights.” – Jeff
“No you don’t! That’s the problem.” – Annie
- “You don’t argue with Annie, Garrett. You let her argue with herself until she loses.” – Jeff
- “If I was in 70 films over 30 years and I spent each one talking at random volumes, I might accidentally win an Oscar.” – Shirley
- “Think of something safe! Like Holly Hunter or Don Cheadle!” – Troy, after Abed’s Cage meltdown
- “I have seen human heads used for something other than heads!” – Prof. Hickey
- “I may not love teaching. But I did fool around with it today. And I might hook up with it a few more times, even if I do dump it right before Christmas.” – Jeff
- “Minuses are made up!” – Annie, starting a riot
- “You like ‘Hellraiser’? You know the word ‘Hellraiser’?” – Abed, to Shirley
- “The whole world is watching this! Oh wait, I’m out of data minutes. The whole world will be watching this on the first of next month!” – Britta
- “The teachers here are teachers here because they did something wrong.” – Jeff
- “Don’t forget: If I fire you, you’re likely to starve and die.” – Dean Pelton