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“Community” Biology 101

Salomon Fuentes |
September 22, 2011 | 8:43 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Jeff isn't having a good day on NBC's "Community"(Creative Commons)
Jeff isn't having a good day on NBC's "Community"(Creative Commons)
For my money, there hasn’t been a better comedy on television the last two years than “Community.” Its cast is perhaps the most talented and versatile on television and its creator Dan Harmon, has managed to find a way to create a world where being funny and being serious are not mutually exclusive.

The third season of “Community” kicked off Thursday night on NBC and it’s not a bad time to get into the show if you’ve never watched it. But if you’re in need of a basic primer, you have a group of misfits who form a study group at Greendale Community College and hijinks always seem to ensue. The gist for last year was that Pierce became the group’s pariah and he decided to leave the group even after he made amends for his various misdeeds.

Of course, Jeff puts it very differently: “Yeah, we have parted ways with our closest, oldest, craziest, most racist, oldest elderly friend. And he’s not coming back.”

On cue Pierce is back and the group, minus Jeff, is ready to have him back. One problem: there’s no room for Pierce is the group’s biology class. But Jeff doesn’t think this is a big deal: “Aren’t we just actual friends now no matter where we are?” And with that Pierce is relegated to “See you when I see you” status. 

The two big additions to the cast this year are John Goodman (“The Big Lebowski”, “Roseanne”) and Michael K. Williams (“The Wire”). Goodman is Vice-Dean Laybourne who runs the air-conditioning program at Greendale and it turns out his program (wealthy alumni in the A/C biz, apparently) is the reason Greendale stays afloat. He’s there to challenge Dean Pelton’s authority, though that’s actually incredibly easy. If Laybourne is pulling the strings at Greendale, expect to see a lot of him, though I'm not sure how much humor the show can get from him beyond terrifying Dean Pelton.

Williams is there as Dr. Marshall Kane, PhD, and my immediate concern was that he would mirror his fellow “Wire” alumni, Idris Elba, who did not fit into “The Office” as Michael Scott’s foil, Charles Minor. You see, Dr. Kane kicks Jeff out of his class for being disruptive and given Williams’ lack of comedies under his belt it makes it easy to dismiss him no matter how good he was on “The Wire.” But fortunately, this isn’t the case. The show seems to have a direction for him and by the episode’s end, I was reassured.

But what of Jeff? When he is kicked out of class, it’s Pierce who gets in. Jeff finds that being away from the “magic table” where the group meets, makes him an outsider looking in and in a perpetual state of looking and sounding like Señor Chang. “Community” has a lot of fun with this with a pretty cool homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

The show even has an amusing C-plot tonight with Abed, who has just moved in with Troy. They’re just friends folks, but it hasn’t stopped them from registering at Linens and Things (“We have plenty of linens. We mainly want things,” Abed tells the group.) Abed is deprived of “Cougartown” but fortunately Britta finds a worthwhile replacement in the “original” British version, “Cougarton Abbey,” which has an hilarious incident involving hemlock. Also if you're a Dr. Who fan, there's totally a joke here for you, too.

It never ceases to amaze me that “Community” is able to fit so much into 22 minutes. You owe it to yourself to watch this show because it really is that good and if don’t, well, you’re permanently “streets behind.”

Reach staff writer Salomon here

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