'Community' returns for fifth season
Against all odds, Community is back tonight for a fifth season. The quirky comedy about fictional Greendale Community College survived the loss of creator Dan Harmon last season (he's back at the steering wheel this year) and star Chevy Chase, who has publicly dissed the show.
I have what is probably an irrational love of this show. I've even purchased DVDs of it for friends I knew would love it (and they did). At its best, it's smart, inventive and totally original. The show is anchored by Joel McHale of The Soup, who plays Jeff Winger, an oily lawyer who was caught with a phony college degree. He chooses Greendale to get a real one, thinking he could breeze through the mediocre school but ends up being the reluctant leader of a study group made up of misfits.
The show is like a pop culture fever dream. There's been a Christmas episode shot in stop-motion animation, a la Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a Pulp Fiction surprise party that gets put off by a My Dinner with Andre parody that features an extensive conversation about the meaning of life. And the annual paintball fights on campus turn into homages to Westerns, 28 Days Later and action sequences from sci-fi and action movies. They almost lost me with the Dungeons and Dragons episode where the characters use the role playing of the game to work out issues of bullying, but I just can't quit anybody trying that hard to bring creativity and pop culture together.
For Season 5, show creator Dan Harmon, who was fired after Season 3, is in charge again. Jonathan Banks (the great gangster Mike from Breaking Bad) is joining the cast, and geeky Troy, played by Donald Glover, will be leaving after a few episodes. Expect a lot of in-jokes in the first few episodes.
The show returns Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC starting tonight.