Before a single second of season five of Community aired it was clearly going to be one of the greatest oddities in television history. For its first three seasons, Community largely relied upon the genius of showrunner Dan Harmon (and more so than most shows rely on their showrunners). Yet when Community was renewed for a fourth season a contract renewal for Dan Harmon didn’t come with it. While season four heroically tried to repeat the secret formula that only Dan Harmon knows to make Community run, it apparently was unsatisfactory enough to cause NBC to once again deal with the devil, Dan Harmon, for season five. As shows with showrunning changes often are (just look at The Walking Dead for an example), the first half of season five of Community was quite clunky. Yet Harmon was once again eventually able to find his magic as Community was restored as one of television’s funniest and most unique programs.
Season five of Community follows the now graduated Jeff (Joel McHale) as he decides to take on a teaching position at Greendale in order to remain with the group. While Jeff decides his future is at the college others begin to realize that their future lies somewhere else.
Community really struggled in the first half of this season. Yet considering how much behind the scenes drama that occurred between seasons (Harmon returning, Donald Glover requesting to leave the show, Chevy chase flat out leaving the show) some leeway is probably deserved. It’s also not like the first half was bad (it even has one of the show’s best episodes ever in the David Fincher-homage episode “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics”), it’s just that it missed the humor and the ability to consistently raise the bar on how crazy this show can get.
Luckily, the show finally found its groove again in the second half beginning with “App Development and Condiments”, which might actually be one of the greatest satires on society ever produced, and then followed that up with a fun-filled video board game episode guest starring Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, a sequel to the season two Dungeons & Dragons episode, a fantastic homage to G.I. Joe and a two-part finale that set up a possible final season quite well.
Obviously, season five of Community will forever leave the show completely changed. There is no Abed-Troy friendship anymore (one of the easiest go to points for laughter) with the departure of Donald Glover. Jeff actually has responsibility as a character now, which means there really isn’t much further his character arc can go, and the show is now more than ever relying on bit players (such as Jonathan Banks’ Professor Hickey and John Oliver returning as Professor Duncan) to carry entire storylines. That being said Dan Harmon still found a way to make Community feel like Community again.