Watching last night’s two-part season premiere of Community was like greeting an old friend who just returned from a long trip around the world. He’s a little different than you remember, and he hasn’t quite readjusted to the rhythms of his old life, but he’s happy to be back and he’ll readjust soon enough.
Of course, Community didn’t go abroad last season – it went adrift. After Sony unceremoniously dumped the show’s idiosyncratic creator and showrunner Dan Harmon, replacing a singular voice with two journeymen Moses Port and David Guarascio, Community turned into an awkward hybrid of generic two-dimensional sitcom and desperate Community imitator. Aside from the dreadful premiere and finale, the show rarely fell above or below average, with a few episodes landing reasonably well but without the soaring heights of the show at its peak. Sony’s attempt to broaden the show’s audience failed – the show’s audience wasn’t ever going to expand no matter how many changes were imposed, and the loyal fans were unsatisfied with the subpar performance of the show in its unlikely fourth season. In a desperate attempt to win back the show’s jaded audience, Sony rehired Harmon in an apparent first for network television, hoping to stretch the show to syndication without alienating its core fanbase.