From the second Britta says to Abed, “I hereby therapize you,” we know we’re in for a wild journey through the recesses of Abed’s never-ending imagination on the Season 4 premiere of Community. It’s the perfect way to return to Greendale: by experiencing it through a ‘90s multi-cam sitcom lens, and later through an even simpler ‘90s cartoon lens. If we can’t have Dan Harmon, lord please give us some Abed.
We open on Abed’s happy place, and to Britta’s dismay, it’s not the babbling brook she taped a picture of to her notebook, but an evenly-lit three-walled version of the study room. Each of our favorite characters are boiled down to their bases essences, especially Jeff, who literally tells the room “congratulations” when he comes in. It’s a dream we didn’t realize Abed had, but when he replaces Pierce with Fred Willard, it all makes sense. Much like fans of TV’s remaining multi-cam giggle-fests: this reality is simply easier to take.
The dark Harmon edges may be missing in this fourth season of Community, but the smart pop culture commentary mixed with the heartfelt antics of six best friends (and Pierce) delivers enough to keep us happy.
And while Abed’s Happy Community College Show on Abed TV may poke fun at the multi-cam sitcom, it also shows a great reverence for the format as an essential component of TV’s ability to act as an escape, a way of soothing us when life is simply too much. Community is not that same simplistic escape, and it’s a shame that an easy multi-cam show like The Big Bang Theory continues to crush it in the ratings, but they both have a spot on television. Abed says so.
When we come back into the “real” world, it’s the first day of senior year, Annie is “doing senioritis,” and Jeff is actually doing his best to help the whole group get into the overbooked history class: History of Ice Cream.
He’s even sending away cute, ditzy girls obsessed with Instagramming themselves (low hanging hipster jokes, ahoy), but there’s a catch: the Dean has set this whole thing up. He’s “forged” his own course cards, claiming his foolproof system of pink notecards and sharpies has been “hacked.” Oh, Dean. You’re not even trying to hide it now. (We missed you.)
Then we’re in it: the games the promos have been teasing for weeks. The Hunger Deans are a game that pits all the students against each other for a chance at ice cream (and that history credit for learning about the history of said tasty treat). It turns out Jeff took summer classes and he needs this class, which is the only history credit this semester (suspicious much?), to graduate early. “I want us to take the class together I just wanted it to be the last class we take together,” he says to the dismay of the whole group.
The notion that college is almost over, and that that day may come sooner for Jeff than the others, plays games with everyone. Annie, who’s busy executing senioritis by not sayin’ her Gs, is suddenly terrified of the boring future she’s been working for. But it’s Abed who takes this stimulus as an excuse to retreat to Abed TV, where the Dean has lost the MS Paint file that stored the school records, forcing the friendly friends to stick around for three more years to play catch up.
When Jeff throws down his Jobs magazine to chase from freshman hotties, Abed is totally comfortable, back in the glow of the reality he thinks he knows best.
Jeff, convinced he’s “New Jeff” and not “Old Jeff,” who’s self-serving and addicted to texting. He dives headfirst into the Hunger Deans, nabbing six unforgeable balls (damn that Dean’s bite-mark system!) so he and his friends can take the ice cream class together. He won’t do it without them, but he really wants that credit, so he’s going to spend all his energy getting those balls. (Don’t worry, Pierce knows there’s a joke somewhere in all this.)
Jeff sexy tangos the Dean into submission and gets the truth: the Dean took away all the history classes and set up this elaborate ruse thinking Jeff wouldn’t participate in order to keep him at Greendale longer. Jeff doesn’t seem all that upset by it.
But when Britta and Troy return from their pseudo-erotic couple fight in the fountain after Britta fails to play by Abed’s rules for wishing in the fountain, Abed’s happy place has become a real problem. Abed’s Happy Community College Show characters, like all sitcom characters, have found a sudden way out of their problems: a safe, shaped like a rubber ball that contains backups of their school records. Huzzah? Not for Abed.
He retreats further into his happy place within a happy place: a shameless rip-off (or homage, depending on how you look at it) of Muppet Babies called Greendale Babies. It’s an even easier, more infantile version of escape and Abed is stuck there when he plays out the gang’s motto about playing together FOREVER.
Troy realizes Abed is not f-y-n-e, but f-i-n-e (which is code for “not fine”), and Britta admits she told Abed to go to a happy place in his mind. It takes all of Troy’s patience to not lose it on his new girlfriend (or something), and has the whole group hold hands with Abed so they can incept him out of his multiple dream levels. But it doesn’t work. They need Jeff, who must choose between Abed and the last Hunger Dean ball.
He ultimately makes the right choice, and Abed’s imagination gives cartoon baby Jeff a speech to deliver about change and how it’s difficult, but necessary.
It’s a speech we can’t help but feel is directed at us. We’re resisting the change of a Harmon-less Community, and one whose final season may be flashing before our eyes right now. But as Abed says, everything he loves about the group was once the future.
So what’s the point in trying to stay in the past? Where’s the potential for finding the real life happy place with a group as perfect as the study group if we’re always insistent on stayi ng in the past?
There couldn’t be a better way for Community to come back to us. The dark edges brought by Harmon are gone, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come to find value in this change and this new future. And who better to teach us this lesson than Abed? (Besides, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have listened to anyone else.)
Of course, that doesn’t help the fact that in addition the Dean living next door to Jeff this semester, we’ll also have to deal with that naked, slimy Kevin with “Changnesia” next week. And just when we thought that whole battle for Greendale last season scared him off once and for all.
Grading on a Curve
Abed was supposed to be envisioning a babbling brook for his happy place, but he pulled in layers of their world, something he knows will upset fans of the babbling brook, but he thought the initial universe was a bit limiting. +50
Abed has Jeff and the study group reading “Jobs” magazine while Pierce is reading “Coffins.” +60 Abed's reality TV show ad on Abed TV: American Sword Cooks +10
Troy and Abed living out a Bosom Buddies parody in the tag. +15
"I'm trying out the hipster look. It's cool, but also not." -Troy on his new hipster glasses +10 “Last year we wished for Osama Bin Laden and the Dorito taco.” -Abed "Yeah, but Obama got credit for both" -Troy +30
"F-i-n-e or F-y-n-e? We made one of them a code for 'not fine'" -Troy +35
"Why do I like this?" -Troy, being strangled by Britta +15
Shirley is the one with real prank ideas even though Annie didn’t think she could handle “doing senioritis”: they fill the Dean’s car with popcorn. Yes, because that is an actual prank. +30
Shirley making her "Oh lord, no" a sassy catch phrase in Abed’s multi-cam sitcom. +50
Annie’s prank on the Dean is sneaking into his office so he’ll have the sneaking suspicion that someone was there. Okay, she’ll move his stapler. -15
"Yay hospital administrator! I can't wait to be buried alive under a pile of paperwork hoping to summon up the courage to talk to Dr. Patel, the gorgeous Indian neurosurgeon who doesn't even know I exist." -Annie while pranking the Dean. Woo, senioritis. Killer fake future backstory though, bro. +30
“Is that blood on your shirt?” “No, it's cool, it's Leonard's.” - Jeff during the Hunger Deans +25
"Here's the deal, Jessica Biel" -Britta to Abed -5
"It's progressed, but it hasn't progressed progressed. It's progressing. It's progressive" -Britta, on her relationship with Troy -100
Britta does the wishing all wrong and wishes to “end all wars.” -50
In Abed's happy place Pierce is played by a man who got caught jerking off in a movie theater instead of Chevy Chase. -1000
"If you want something you have to work for it or use a spell" -Pierce on Abed and Troy’s wishing well tradition +15
“There’s got to be a ball joke in here,” -Pierce, holding Jeff’s balls and failing to see that that is the joke -15
"All these balls. So close I can taste it.” -Pierce holding Jeff’s balls -20
"Gay balls! Nailed it!" -Pierce -1000
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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