'Community': A Very Awkward Back-to-School

By Alyssa Rosenberg
communitypremiere_post.jpg

NBC

Has any back-to-school ever been as exciting as last night's return to Greendale Community College? Last season, Community ended on a note that was as emotionally sour as it was dramatically sweet: Jeff (Joel McHale) spurned the overtures of two ladies who were unsuitable in different ways, his professor ex-girlfriend and blonde study-buddy, only to lock lips with Annie, the cutest recovering-addict and former-debate partner ever to tempt a disbarred lawyer into dallying with near-jailbait. Back at school, awkwardness ensues. Britta's becomes a Cosmopolitan-style heroine, Troy's spent the summer under the influence of Pierce, Senor Chang's signed up for anthropology along with everyone else, and Abed's been storyboarding the entire semester. They—and we—learn a lot in that first half hour back.


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1. Betty White is indestructible. We knew that, professionally, but as Professor June Bauer, she can nail Starburns in his starburns with a blowgun, wrestle Jeff to the ground, subsist on her own urine—and sing a killer chorus in a Toto cover.

2. At least visually, you can never go wrong by referencing Wes Anderson. It's not surprising that Abed sleeps in tighty-whities, that Troy rocks a Spider-Man costume, or Shirley goes to bed under the protection of a cross and some really awful wallpaper. But the opening jaunt through the characters' bedrooms gives us the first glimpse we've seen of them off-campus, and it's an astonishingly revealing 30 seconds of television.

3. The new business plan for conservative political magazines? Smooches. "I took the Makeout Meter in this month's issue of...National Review," Annie says, realizing belatedly and sadly that just because Jeff stuck his tongue in her mouth doesn't mean he's going to date her.

4. Nothing's as good as it seems on television—not even for television characters. After Jeff and Britta got together to spite each other, inadvertently hurting Annie's feelings, melting Shirley's heart, and prompting Abed to set up a quickie "wedding...episode" with an Irish singer and a George Clooney impersonator, Shirley to reveal that Jeff slept with Britta, and Annie to reveal that Jeff kissed her, Jeff cursed Abed for not being able to tell the difference between real life and sitcoms. "TV makes sense," Abed bites back at him. "It has structure, logic, rules, and likable leading men. In life, we have you."

Community's always had at its heart recovery from self-inflicted tragedy, whether it's a football career-ending kegstand or faked credentials. It's good that a show that's aware of absolutely everything else is aware of that, too.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/09/community-a-very-awkward-back-to-school/63477/