Spoilers for the season three premiere of NBC's "Community" after the jump:
Well, that was certainly a jam-packed first day back for the Greendale gang, wasn't it? It says a lot about how good "Community's" writers are that the show was able to cover this amount of ground while remaining true to its delightfully off-the-wall sensibility. The opening song promised that this year "Community" is going to try to appeal to a more mainstream audience, but the mere fact that it was a song serves to disprove that notion. And from there on out, the series was as blissfully unhinged as it's ever been.
All that said, "Community" season premieres tend to be rather traditional: at least as close to traditional as one can get when you've got Chang living in the vents and Abed going into a "sleep mode" state after Britta's ill-advised attempts at helping him get over "Cougar Town" being moved to mid-season. In essence, this first episode was designed to do three key things: establish how much this group means to its members, reintegrate Pierce into the group, and provide a few potentially interesting ongoing storylines. I'd say it accomplished all three pretty much perfectly, with the help of a pair of great guest stars.
The first is Michael K. Williams, known best for his stellar portrayal of Omar Little on "The Wire". He and Jeff get off to a rocky start after Jeff has issues with cell phone noise (in a rather predictable but still hilarious scene). He's funny in his fairly limited screen time, but the real hilarity starts after he kicks Jeff out of class and gives the seat to Pierce. See, Jeff had previously told the group that since they're so close they don't need the studying or the table to keep them together. Of course he just said that to get rid of Pierce, so this neatly turns the tables on him. And as Jeff discovers, it's no fun being out of the group.
This leads to a scene where Jeff confronts his friends that is just completely hysterical on every level. It's a hilarious reference to a certain Stanley Kubrick film, but what I love about "Community" is that it's funny even if you've never seen the movie it's referring to. In addition, the scene is driven by completely believable emotions of fear and frustration on the part of Mr. Winger. And it leads to a sweet and satisfying conclusion, as the group decides that maybe they do still need "the power of the table". Pierce also stepped up big-time for Jeff, so it seems that perhaps he really has changed.
The other key guest-star is John Goodman (so great on season one of "Treme") as the vice-dean who has it in for our Dean Pelton. He's delightfully menacing, and having him shave Pelton's goatee by force was a wonderfully weird display of his power. It would appear that he's pretty much bankrupted the show: leaving Pelton to offer vouchers for Greendale classes as a means of paying the employees ("you're lucky I need my scuba certificate"). Quite an eventful start to the season, wouldn't you say? I love this show.
- Chang is now a security guard on campus. This has the potential to be completely hilarious. "Okay, so we're all going to die this year."
- Shirley sees Abed's comatose state as a perfect opportunity to baptize him. Of course she does.
- I can't praise that table smashing scene enough. The white hair, the deranged behavior, the ax... it was perfect.
- Chang coming in when he did interrupted a very awkward (in a good way) scene where everyone tries not to laugh at the idea of Britta majoring in psychology.