“We All Dean for Ice Cream”- Community Season 4 Premiere Review
The follow is a review and not a regular essay piece. Spoilers follow, so boo to you if you poopoo. And enjoy the first review from Chekhov’s Gunman.
Before I begin this review, I must admit that I am incredibly biased to any kind of extended Muppet Babies references, especially those involving animated breasts and Baby Jeff with a bindle. Now that we have that out of the way…
Let’s rap. I am simply, gratefully, delightfully delighted to have this show back in my life. An eight-or-so month gap between the season 3 finale and this premiere has been agonizing for an obsessive nerd like me. When the mid-season hiatus was announced last year, I was inconsolable.
I’m a junkie. And I’ve been chained to the radiator for the best part of a year. I’ve already chewed through my own hand and have started using it for shadow puppet shows about Horsebot 3000. As I sat in my underwear, anxiously anticipating the most important teaser in the show’s history, I was overcome with a rapture only ever felt by myself in dreams or Ryan Gosling in everyday life.
I’m going to avoid talking about Dan Harmon as much as possible, even though I respect him greatly and his is the only real person on my Facebook list of inspirational people next to Malcolm Reynolds and Jules Winnfield. However, his absence is important to note before I proceed.
“History 101” is a very solid and pretty funny episode of Community, good enough to satiate our needs as fans, but not enough to totally assuage our feelings of impending doom. There were funny bits, particularly involving the Dean and Abed’s unexpected sitcom happy place, but it bordered oftentimes on just being bizarre. Did Jeff really punch Leonard in the face? Like, did that just happen? I understand that this is Greendale, but assault is assault is assault. Assault by any other name still sues as sweet. You know. Etcetera.
The thing I admire most about this episode is what it marks in terms of character progression. Community has finally made the commitment to turn former-lawyer Jeff Winger into a fully formed and loving human being. He now and forevermore cares about this group. I love “New Jeff.” The show has been pushing in this direction since its very first alternative rock song in its very first episode. Finally, after proving over and over again that “Yes, Jeff is no longer a total sociopath,” we are in a satisfying denouement to the Jeff Winger character arc (barring an appearance by his estranged father here in a few weeks). This is real and serious development on a show that has often resisted such things in the past, and is a sitcom after all. Real, true, mature character growth.
Also, we have our first official study group couple! Troy and Britta have made themselves a thing! Their B-plot depicts their relationship going about as well as you could have guessed. They’re wonderfully mismatched, but so naively sweet and darling that you’d be pretty silly not to be happy to see them together. This episode does that sitcom thing of introducing a concept that has supposedly been going on the entire time off-camera, here in the form of a trustworthy wishing well. I’m relatively shocked that such a self-referential show didn’t comment on this fairly standard sitcom plot. It was a pretty insubstantial plot, but seems to be a nice set-up for this fledgling relationship. And their fight was one of the more interesting and entertaining I’ve seen from a sitcom couple, so there’s that.
And then Annie and Shirley were doing some stuff, and it was cute, but mostly because Alison Brie and Yvette Nicole Brown are just good actors I suppose.
Annie Kim was back and no one cared. Still waiting for the multi-Annie grudge match I keep reading fact fiction depictions of.
The Dean moving in next to Jeff was an interesting choice. I laughed when it happened, don’t get me wrong. I just feel like it’ll be one of those plots threads like Troy living with Pierce where we know wacky hijinks are going on off-camera, but we’re just not seeing them.
The episode was rushed, as all season premieres tend to be, and Community has never been great at premieres, with even this fairly mediocre one being probably the show’s second best premiere to date.
If there’s a weak point to the episode, it’s the Abed storyline. Abed, our wonderful bedrock amongst the insanity, spends almost the entire episode in his laugh track-riddled fantasy sitcom land, and it was pretty funny the first couple it happened, but dragged on and on the more it was seen. It was all somewhat redeemed by the wonderful Muppet Babies homage, but that doesn’t move it from the low point of the episode. That and the Jeff speech segment has already been done by this show once before (and much better) in the original fake flashback episode “Paradigms of Human Memory.”
In any case, television is about hanging out with the characters week after week and Greendale is still my favorite place on Earth to spend half-an-hour or so. Even lackluster Community is still usually wonderful television and it’s an insular world I don’t think I will ever grow tired of visiting,
If the show felt different this week, that’s because it felt like another show. Guarascio and Port, the new showrunners, used to write for Happy Endings and seem to have brought some of that show’s wonderful verbal repartee and light comic sensibility with it. It’s not the style we’re used to, but I think it adapts well within Greendale’s borders.
All in all, I’d rank this episode as being about on par with the celebrity impressions episode from season 3. Funny, clever, and with some character insight, but not one of the all-time memorable ones. In either case, I’ll be watching every week until we get our six seasons and movie.
Side note before we go, Senor Chang’s changnesia name is Kevin, which is also my name, marking the fourth time the show has used this name.
Season 1: A gay and newly divorced man Jeff is having a text affair with when he thinks it is Britta.
Season 2: George Takei leaves a voicemail for “all you Kevins out there.”
Season 3: Senor Kevin’s Mexican Restaurant.
Season 4: Chang, come amnesia.
I think the show is trying to contact me. Email me, Gillian Jacobs. We should play tennis or something some time. Just think it over.
Kevin is a cool dude, and so are you, probably. He wants to write movies and TV one day. You should follow him on Twitter @KevinWroteThis and make sure to subscribe to Chekhov’s Gunman for any and all updates.