Despite its immense fan following, it’s hard to think of a show that has had a harder time staying on the air than Community. Though the reviews for the first three seasons were consistently glowing, low ratings and an unhelpful Friday night spot (the drama behind the scenes certainly didn’t make matters any easier) meant that at times it wasn’t melodramatic to wonder whether the show would come back the following week. To make matters worse, creator Dan Harmon was fired after the third season leading to a blunder of a fourth season and it had never been more unclear whether Community would be renewed.
The fan base breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that NBC had signed it for a fifth season – but that wasn’t the end of the good news. With the reviews as well as the ratings finally equally as negative, Dan Harmon along with other former writers were re-hired as a way of bringing the show back to its roots. And it worked.
Expectations were at an all-time high for the opening of season five, which came in the form of an hour long special, and it did not disappoint. Harmon knows that the way to satisfy the fans is to go back to basics rather than trying to think outside of the box. The characterisation is back on track, as are the subtle jokes coming in a constant stream and the right-on-the-nose meta commentary on pop culture. It still feels fresh, certainly not recycling old episodes, but Community is back, doing what it knows best.
Personally I’m most excited for the return of the Annie we were introduced to in the first season. Even the actress Alison Brie (The Five-Year Engagement) noted on Annie’s confused character development, ranging from determined and studious to boy-crazed and immature depending on what the episode required from her. The opening episodes show Annie at her best: focused, driven and the moral compass for the rest of the group, particularly Jeff. And yes, though I am totally biased as a long-running rooter of these two as a couple, Jeff and Annie have easily always had the best chemistry in the show and it’s wonderful to see it utilised in sharp, effortless banter.
Unfortunately, as far as I know, Community is yet to air on TV in the UK but catching the series on DVD will not be a decision you’ll regret.