There was a lot of buzz about "Community" openeing the season with a musical number, one that proclaimed the show would cut down on some of its trademark "out there"-ness this season. Both of those things worried me, since the uniqueness of "Community" is what made me fall in love with the show this summer, but after watching last night's season premiere, I have to agree with the show that everything's going to be just fine.
First, the musical being Jeff's daydream in response to Annie asking "What are we gonna do without Pierce in the study group this year?" was inspired AND managed to set the tone for the rest of the episode. And because all the proclamations of a "less weird" year came in a daydream -- one that won't come to pass, since Pierce IS back -- then we probably don't have too worry too much about the show going "mainstream." See Jim Rash (who's been added to the opening credits) may proclaim, "this is the kind of National Lampoonery that's coming to an end this year," but by the end of the 30 minutes, the viewer gets the sense that "Community" is going to be just as wacky as it always has been, which is a great thing.
I thought the A-story, with Jeff getting kicked out of biology class, then the study group, then becoming "the new Pierce", complete with pathetic look and casual racism, was phenomenal. It called back to Jeff's insecurity about that exact thing in a previous episode, and led to a great "2001"-referencing dream sequence that was as meta as anything "Community" has ever done. And we got two solid Winger speeches right in the premiere, which puts us well ahead of next year's pace.
I'll admit that the Abed storyline -- where he tried to find a new TV show to replace "Cougartown", which has been pushed to midseason -- was amusing, but the nit-picky part of me was bothered by it. I just don't see how there's any way Britta would be aware of TV shows that Abed didn't know about, even if they were British. Abed's shown an affinity for shows like "Farscape" in the past, and that was an Australian show, so I don't see him being unaware of "Inspector Spacetime", the "Doctor Who"-esque show that Britta eventually found for him. I did love the joke about British shows ending abruptly, because I've found it to be so true with shows I've watched (aside: there was one show a few years back that I started seeing ads for. It was running on BBC America, so I decided to catch the first episode. I liked it a lot, then found out that not only had it already run in England, but it had already been canceled, after something like 18 episodes. I never watched another episode. Stupid British TV).
The additions of Michael K. Williams and John Goodman to the cast both worked incredibly well in the first episode. I'm definitely interested to see how they integrate Goodman's vice dean with the rest of the cast going forward, since we really only saw him with Dean Pelton in this episode. Williams's Prof. Kane could be a great mentor for Jeff's growth, along with Rich (remember that story thread that got left untouched last season?). He's like the anti-Rich. Oh, and I can't forget Chang. He was as madcap as ever. As long as he's around, the show will never go too mainstream, which is great.
Now, for the top five lines of the night:
Jeff: Dude, Sean Penn called. He said to dial it back.
Jeff: Sean Penn is an actor...
Prof. Kane: I know who Sean Penn is! I've seen 'Milk'!
Troy [to Britta]: You are human tennis elbow. You are a pizza burn on the roof of the world's mouth. You are the opposite of Batman.
Shirley: I can't believe Jeff attacked a table with a fire axe and still only managed to be the second craziest person in the room.
Jeff: As someone who's been on the other side, I can tell you it is a scary, lonely, Chang-filled world out there.
Chang [after getting hired as a security guard]: Hey, hey, hey. Keep it down. There's a new sheriff in town.
Jeff [after Chang walks out]: Oh, interesting. So this is the year we all die.