Community – “History 101” (Season 4, Episode 1)

Community Season 4 Episode 1 - "History 101"

Community’s season four premiere carries the weight of expectation, given it is the show’s first episode without Dan Harmon as showrunner. The new showrunners address this head-on with a broad parody of Community as a laugh-track-heavy, multi-cam sitcom. It’s supposed to be clever, but is instead remarkably clumsy, and it’s telling that it doesn’t seem too different from the brightly-lit “reality” of Greendale.

The premiere isn’t as awful as we’d feared, but neither does it take the opportunity to correct some of the wobbling the show demonstrated in an uneven third season. “History 101” is like a middling Harmon-helmed episode. But generally the weaker Harmon episodes were due to a lack of ambition – here the show is just trying to do too much.

Most of the core narrative just doesn’t work, whether it’s Abed’s anxiety or “new Jeff” in the “Hunger Deans.” There’s still stuff to like here: the best moments are found in the margins, like newly-dating Troy and Britta bickering in the fountain. But on the whole, the show feels burdened by its own history, trying too hard, throwing in poorly-conceived in-jokes (a dalmation here, a “crisis alert” there) to reassure the fanbase that this is still Community.

10 thoughts on “Community – “History 101” (Season 4, Episode 1)

  1. Ugh I’d forgotten about the “crisis alert” thing. I don’t know why that would suddenly be something Garrett himself does. I could understand if it was something other Greendale students might know him from, but it felt like a really forced reference.

    • Yeah – I don’t mind so much if a reference doesn’t make sense if it’s *actually funny,* which this wasn’t. It was just like, “Hey, remember when Gareth said Crisis Alert?”

    • Agreed, for the most part, although the Dean has been a very-broad character ever since the first scene of the pilot. One of the things that I found interesting about this ep (though not in a good way) was how it kept going back to the well of jokes the show had already deconstructed to the point of being obsolete under Harmon’s run.

      For example, the show has been making fun of “the Winger speech” since almost the beginning and basically nuked it from orbit in the first clip show episode. Similarly with the Dean’s outfits, which were dealt with in the John Hodgman clip show episode. Going back to these jokes shows that the new showrunners don’t understand the show as well as they think.

    • I’m not giving up on it yet, either! I’m just hoping that they don’t feel too burdened by Harmon’s legacy and feel free to do their own thing – becoming a pale imitation of Dan Harmon’s vision just isn’t going to work, as the premiere showed

  2. Pingback: Community – “Paranormal Parentage” (Season 4, Episode 2) « Carbon Copy

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