After a few moves around the schedule, NBC's comedy "Community" landed a Thursday night time slot and made its return last night. The show's fourth season kicked off episode "History 101" with a cold open on cast member Joel McHale as Jeff Winger, an exiled former lawyer who enrolled at Greendale Community College in the show's first season ("But I thought you had a bachelors from Columbia?" "And now I have to get from America.") and over the course of three seasons fell in sync with an island-of-misfit-toys study group.
In the premiere (which marks the group's final year at GCC), Troy (a former high school football star played by Donald Glover) and girlfriend Britta (Gillian Jacobs as a psych major who enjoys psychoanalyzing everything and everyone around her), progressed into a hand-holding phase in their relationship. (And we mean, literally, holding hands. Not co-dependency.) Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) is continued to make any and every excuse to dress in drag, Annie (Allison Brie) stayed perpetually chipper, and Abed (Danny Pudi) retreated back into his own hyper-reality based on pop culture and blanket forts.
The most notable difference in the season may be the tone of the show since it was announced that Chevy Chase's character, Pierce (Chevy Chase), will not play through the rest of the season. Chase split from the show partially through taping season four with a "mutual agreement" over Thanksgiving and McHale recently opened up to Howard Stern about his own on-set feud with the 69-year-old actor. A swap in producers (which included the departure of show creator Dan Harmon) may also be notable to the show's bigger fans.
Early critiques of the episode have been mixed, including thoughts from Slate.com, Vulture, and The New York Times:
"It didn't seem like they strayed too far from the show's core. It just walked a very fine line and stumbled." -- Slate.com
"This season, Community came out of the gates like a guy running a four-minute mile to start a marathon. There is no way the pace is sustainable, but it was a lot of fun to watch." -- Vulture, NYMag
"The show has been dumbed down, its humor broadened past recognition, and the two episodes provided for review — Thursday’s season premiere, 'History 101,' and the Feb. 21 entry, 'Conventions of Space and Time' — have fewer laughs between them than a single good scene from the old 'Community.'" -- NY Times
Did you watch last night's premiere? What did you think? Will you continuing watching season four?
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ContributorsMatthew Gilbert is the Globe's TV critic.
Sarah Rodman is a staff TV and music critic for the Boston Globe.
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Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
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