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Studying Humanity: An Advance Review of the Second Season Premiere of Community

I don't want to say too much lest I spoil the sheer and utter joy that is watching the second season opener ("Anthropology 101") of NBC's Community, which--like its characters--heads back to Greendale after a summer break.

There's a gleeful absurdity deep in the DNA of this winning show but also a lot of emotional resonance, as its characters tackle the larger struggles facing humanity while also managing to get involved in all manner of larger-than-life hijinx. It's a tonal juxtaposition that has worked well for the series in the first season, and Season Two--which begins on Thursday--smartly continues this trend, creating a microcosm in which the heartfelt and supremely weird hold hands on the way to class.

Given the way that the first season left off--with Jeff (Joel McHale) and Annie (Alison Brie) locking lips rather than with Britta (Gillian Jacobs)--it's only natural that the writers would deal with this new love triangle permutation early on. And that they do, in true Community fashion, complete with a Cranberries tribute band and, well, that would be telling.

What I can tell you is that the first five minutes of the episode are sheer and utter bliss, a Wes Anderson-inspired montage that depicts the characters in their natural habitats as they they prepare for their first day back at Greendale. It's an ingenuous way to begin the season, giving us a glimpse into the headspace of the characters, as well as their home lives, something we didn't get to see during Season One. Surprising and hysterical, it's a sign that we're immediately getting yanked back into this addictive comedy.

What follows after that is the stuff that smart and slick comedies are made on, as Community offers a blistering assault on CBS' $#*! My Dad Says (and the Twitter account that it's based on), sidekicks, oneupmanship, and ego. It features Abed (Danny Pudi) delivering one of the most powerful and yet simple lines of dialogue that's a verbal kick to the gut for one character.

The love triangle goes to an even weirder place than before and the characters--in particular the lovable and pious single mom Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown)--react to the new complications and twists. (Really, that's even more than I should be saying.) Troy (Donald Glover), meanwhile, has been living with Pierce (Chevy Chase), though their relationship--or lack thereof--comes to a head in this episode as well.

As for disgraced Spanish professor Senor Chang (Ken Jeong), there are more than a few surprises lined up in the first episode back. (You'll know what I mean when you see it. Shades of Gollum, perhaps?)

And then there's Betty White, the spry octogenarian who has been popping up everywhere these days. In true Community style, she plays mentally unstable anthropology professor June Bauer who gives the gang their first assignment of the new school year, one that's both eye-opening and, well, terrifying, really.

Ultimately, "Anthropology 101" is a pitch-perfect season opener, offering the color and charm of the first season of Community while taking it to a further level of self-assurance and polish. As the series seemingly effortlessly juggles humor, heart, and its own particular brand of I'm-as-weird-as-I-want-to-be peculiarity, it's tough not to fall in love with these true to life characters and this extraordinary comedy that's redefining what's possible within the context of American broadcast sitcoms.

If this is the way that Dan Harmon and Co. have chosen to begin the sophomore season, I can honestly say that we're in for a treat as this promising series just gets smarter and weirder by the day. And by that I mean that you won't get, uh, "dirt-roaded" if you opt to tune in at 8 pm on Thursdays. Your inner outcast will thank you.

Season Two of Community begins Thursday night at 8 pm ET/PT on NBC.

Comments

Unknown said…
I only skimmed because I'm rabidly spoiler-free (even for Community). I'll read it after the premiere airs.

I caught one typo though. Unless Betty White is going to play an agent on Chuck, I believe she's a "spry" octogenarian.

(Hmm. On second though, maybe someone should call Chuck's producers...)
frank1569 said…
Sorry Jace, off topic - but in case ya missed the @reply, just a coupla ideas...

http://twitpic.com/2opx5n
Ask Rachel said…
Love Community and can't wait to have it back on the air waves! (And am dying to see the Wes Anderson-inspired opening. And Betty White. And Chang as a student. And... well, you get the picture.)

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