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article imageReview: 'Community' limps back to life, but can still flourish Special

By Michael Thomas     Mar 18, 2015 in Entertainment
Right off the bat, the first things most viewers will notice about the new season of 'Community' is the absence of almost half its original main cast.
(Warning: Spoilers for the first two episodes)
The trailer for the new season put it best: "Everything is new, but nothing has chang-ed." Though maybe everything is new and everything has chang-ed.
The what-seemed-impossible sixth season of Community premiered Tuesday exclusively on Yahoo Screen with two new episodes, "Ladders" and "Lawnmower Maintenance and Postnatal Care."
After a brief re-introduction to the school. the title credits are a sad thing to behold — no more Chevy Chase, Donald Glover or Yvette Nicole Brown. The show quickly addresses this emptiness with Abed (Danny Pudi) wondering what happened to Shirley (suggesting she was "spun off). Mere minutes later, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) introduces the "new Shirley," Francesca "Frankie" Dart (Paget Brewster).
Frankie is by no means a Shirley replacement, however — she was hired to oversee Greendale's sagging expenses, and as such she comes across as a slightly uptight businesswoman that the group immediately distrusts, save for Abed. "Ladders" is essentially an introduction to Frankie's character, as the study group sets up a speakeasy to flout her new rules on alcohol on campus.
Not surprisingly, things come to a head and Frankie leaves. The group realizes they need her, and this cements her as a new group member for at least the rest of the season (Community could extend beyond this season).
The first episode is notably light on laughs, though the frequent, self-aware use of montages is pretty funny, especially as Jeff (Joel McHale) and Abed present a montage of apologies to Frankie in an attempt to win her back.
Speaking of self-awareness, the conversation between Franke and Abed on change is a point to consider for loyal viewers. This Community is not what what we saw in season one, or even season five. The "study group" is no longer just students, and there's less and less emphasis on when everyone will graduate or move on. Looking outside the story lines, the episodes themselves are 27-28 minutes, and theoretically provide more room for story lines. But after these first few episodes, the show needs to make a better case for the extra minutes.
"Lawnmower Maintenance and Postnatal Care" is noticeably funnier, in part thanks to the series' comedic MVP, Jim Rash. In this episode, Dean Pelton dishes out $5,000 of the school's money for a clunky virtual reality headset. As he gets into the suit, he starts to get grandiose ideas and refuses to come out, believing he is a god and continuing to use the phrase "Jesus wept."
Jeff and Frankie can't convince the dean to return the gadget, so Jeff visits the creator of the VR device, Elroy Patashnik (Keith David).
Meanwhile, Britta, shown to have fallen on noticeably hard times and failing at making sandwiches for Shirley's sandwich shop, moves in with Annie and Abed before realizing that her parents have been essentially paying for numerous things in her life without her knowing. It forces Britta to grow up a bit and realize she's far from the person she was when she ran away from home at 17.
Despite the upheaval that seems to dog Community every year from season three onward, it's heartening to see it's still managing to be inventive and creative (the Portuguese Gremlins "trailer" at the end of the second episode was particularly inspired), though I hope it aims for more laughs in future episodes. It hasn't quite been the same without Troy.
Still, with Dan Harmon still at the helm, there are likely some pleasant surprises in store for the rest of the season, and David and Brewster should prove themselves to be smart new additions to the cast.
More about Community, community season six, Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, alison brie
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