'Community' Review: A Little Bit Different for Season 4
'Community' Review: A Little Bit Different for Season 4
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
After an impossibly long wait and a lot of behind-the-scenes drama, NBC's cult classic comedy Community is back Thursdays at 8pm.

There's been a lot written about the shake-ups for this new season. Creator Dan Harmon is out, replaced by the guys behind Aliens in America, and there's been plenty of drama surrounding co-star Chevy Chase, who is gone at the end of season 4.

All of that, plus a nearly nine-month hiatus, has placed a lot of pressure on Community's season 4 premiere. For the most part, it's all OK.

The show still boasts the same weird, absurdist fantasy it's always had and all of the characters are essentially the same. As season 4 kicks off its senior year and the study group is preparing to say goodbye to each other.

The premiere features the Dean's ridiculous Hunger Games parody to determine who will be allowed to take the History of Ice Cream, a highly sought-after class. Abed, worried that impending graduation will change things forever, tunnels himself inside his own mind, and as you might expect, Abed's mind is a wacky place with some rather brilliant meta jokes, including one big jab regarding Chevy Chase's role on the show.

Fans hoping to see Troy and Abed be weird or Jeff deliver a big, stirring speech to neatly tie everything together and save the day won't be disappointed. But there's definitely something different.

Community season 4 feels slightly more traditional than it has before. For me the show is at its best when it's cerebral. Episodes like the Pillows and Blankets documentary, the Law and Order parody or the 8-bit video game world worked because they were flawlessly devoted to the style.

Yes, Community has characters and relationships, but their emotions always seemed trivial to me. The Jeff/Annie flirtation or the Troy/Britta romance were played for the sake of comedy. It was more about mocking the conventional sitcom cliche of "will they or won't they" than actually being about the truth of the relationships.

That's where things are different for season 4. The show seems to be more concerned with finding some sort of truth and genuine connection in those dynamics. Realism has never been Community's strong suit, and for the show to act as if the relationships matter more than the avant-garde, intellectual style of the series feels like a shift in tone.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe there are 'shippers out there who care more about Troy and Britta hooking up than with the show's cleverness. Maybe there are fans who think a little dose of reality and earnestness will help balance the weirdness.

But for me, that's a step backwards. I don't want Community to be conventional. I don't want it to have actual romantic relationships like every other sitcom. I don't want Community to have a heart, I want it to be all brain. I guess I'm just an Abed.

If you're like me, you will still find things to love about the new Community, though it will feel a little bit off. But maybe this is all part of the plan.

Perhaps the show will be renewed for a fifth season, Dan Harmon will come back, and the season 5 premiere will reveal that the entire fourth season took place in the Dreamatorium as Abed attempted to envision a world where a different set of showrunners was put in charge of their lives.

Community isn't completely different. It's not normal by any stretch of the imagination (unless a man in a dress being carried by shirtless hunks with unicorn horns can be considered normal). But it's impossible to deny that there is something different about the show.