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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Community enrolls in "Biology 101"

     The third season premiere of NBC's Community finds the study group enrolling in Professor Kane's (Michael Kenneth Williams, Boardwalk Empire, The Wire) "Biology 101" class. But there is no room for Pierce (Chevy Chase), who claims to be reformed and wants to join the group. That is, until Kane kicks out Jeff (Joel McHale). Unfortunately, Pierce was telling the truth about being away from the "magic" of the study table making one crazy, as Jeff soon begins to lose it. Pierce lies, looking like the bad guy, so that Jeff can rejoin his friends. In return, Jeff makes sure Pierce isn't kicked out again.

     It's nice to have Pierce back. While it was kind of fun to see him as a villain, that story has run its course, and it's time for something new. There are enough outside forces working against the study group, that there is no need to alienate one of their own to find something to fight against. Pierce's re-inclusion should not be instant, but the healing process has begun, and that's important.

     Community opens "Biology 101" with a huge musical number, claiming that they will "be less weird" this season. Perhaps that is the hope of the characters, but the manner in which they deliver the message ruins that dream as soon as it begins. Thankfully, since the weirdness and originality inherent in the series are what makes it such an awesome show. If Community were to become less weird, it probably wouldn't be worth watching any more. Gladly, there is no sign of that.

     Dean Pelton (Jim Rash, finally a series regular) is arguably the weirdest character on the show. Yet, he turns over a new leaf, growing a goatee and wearing a suit in "Biology 101." This lasts for a few minutes, until he tries to exert his authority over Vice Dean Laybourne (John Goodman, Treme, Damages) of the air conditioning repair annex. Turns out, 80% of Greendale's funds come from annex alumni donors, and now that Dean has poked the dragon, he loses his goatee and much of the school's money. This sets the character back, not an unwelcome development, but the ramifications to the rest of the series, and the college's programs, remain to be seen.

     One change that is already occurring is Chang (Ken Jeong) finding a new job and place to live. After Chang was the teacher of the study group in season one, season two found the writers sometimes struggling to come up with plots for Chang. Sure, he has an intense longing to join the gang, but they don't want him, and despite indications that eventually they would break down, they haven't. The newest development in this saga is that Chang will serve as a security guard at Greendale. Will he use his newfound power to force them to include him? Or he will he just continue to be an annoyance? Either way, at least he'll be sticking around.

     Also, Abed (Danny Pudi) goes into serious withdrawal when his favorite series, Cougar Town, is pushed to mid-season. While Cougar Town has been schedule that way since spring, and Abed would not just be finding out in the fall, it's nice that the very funny sitcom on another network gets yet another shout out from Community. They are both great shows, and any attempts to pull the two closer together is always welcome.

     Britta (Gillian Jacobs) tries to solve Abed's problem by introducing him to the "British series on which Cougar Town was based," Cougarton Abbey. There is no real Cougarton Abbey, unlike Cougar Town, but the brief glimpses we get of this "original" show are definitely worth a few laughs. Also welcome is the way the characters kill themselves after a mere six episodes, a poke at the way television shows across the pond are made completely differently. Except Doctor Who, which ran for years decades ago, and has been back on the there past six seasons. So a parody of Doctor Who is perfect for Britta's second attempt to distract Abed. And it works.

     Community also stars Alison Brie, Donald Glover, and Yvette Nicole Brown. Don't miss it, Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC.

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     To buy Community DVDs or catch up with streaming episodes, please click here.

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