Tag Archives: Community

Harmon-y restored as Community begins Season 5

'Community'' kicks off ifs fifth season with two back-to-back episodes tonight on NBC.

Sleazy lawyer Alan Connor (Rob Corddry) urges a depressed Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) to assist him in a suit against Jeff’s alma mater in the Season 5 premiere of ‘Community,’ tonight on NBC.

For a show with a title that suggested people pulling together, the NBC sitcom Community has had a rocky run during its first four seasons. While critics largely praised creator Dan Harmon’s sharply written comedy set at a downscale community college, mainstream audiences never flocked to the show, despite its knockout ensemble cast that included Joel McHale (The Soup) and Saturday Night Live veteran Chevy Chase.
To make matters worse, Harmon and Chase – whose character, bored millionaire Pierce Hawthorne, was hardly a fan favorite – had a fairly tense working relationship that occasionally spilled over into social media. After three seasons, Harmon was unceremoniously removed as show runner for Community. Season 4, during which Chase finally quit, was just so-so without Harmon’s lunatic vision and ended with all the remaining members of the main cast graduating from Greendale Community College.
Season 5, which begins tonight with two back-to-back episodes, finds Harmon back at the helm, and as a result, Community feels once again as subversive and funny as it did in its first two (and best) seasons. The season premiere opens in a dark place, as Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) watches his career as a crusading attorney crashing and burning. Jeff is so depressed that he’s easy prey for his sleazy courtroom nemesis, Alan Connor (guest star Rob Corddry), who urges Jeff to reconnect with his inner shark and assist Alan in a devastating lawsuit against Greendale. “Jeff, I once saw you convince an arson victim that he liked his home better burnt!” Alan reminds him.
When Jeff shows up on the campus of Greendale (motto: “Ranked America’s Number 2 Community College by Greendalecollege.com”), the smitten Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) instantly jumps to the conclusion that Jeff has returned to save the day and, shortly thereafter, Jeff’s study buddies rush to his side to help, not aware that he is working a secret agenda. We soon learn that, like Jeff, the rest of the group also has seen their dreams denied in the months since they graduated.
Tonight’s first half hour is called “Repilot,” and in the show’s self-referential style, Abed (Danny Pudi) explicitly comments on how it’s a reboot of the series (“This could be like Scrubs, Season 9!”). By the time the first half-hour is over, Harmon and co-writer Chris McKenna have come up with a comical and fairly credible way to keep Jeff and his former study group at Greendale for another 13-episode season (although Donald Glover’s Troy is being written out for several episodes to allow the actor to focus on a new project for FX). An upcoming – and absolutely hilarious – episode scheduled for Jan. 16 also explains why Chase’s character will not be returning to the show.
Although Harmon has worked a near-miracle in resuscitating his beloved sitcom, it seems likely this fifth season will be the show’s last hurrah. Then again, even the most ardent among us fans never truly expected to get a fifth season of a show that seemed to be wrapping itself up very efficiently with last season’s graduation-themed finale. If there’s one thing this dementedly funny show has taught us when it’s at its best, it’s that we never should assume anything where Community is concerned.
Jeff Winger (Joel McHale, center) reunites with his old study buddies tonight on NBCV's 'Community.'

The study group (from left, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie and Donald Glover) reunites in tonight’s fifth season premiere of NBC’s ‘Community.’

HBO’s ‘Getting On’ finds laughter in dark places

Laurie Metcalf, Alex Bornstein and Niecy Nash star in HBO's new dark but very funny sitcom 'Getting On.'

Laurie Metcalf, Alex Bornstein and Niecy Nash (from left) star as prickly staff members at a medical facility catering to patients who are ‘Getting On’ in years.

In tonight’s first episode of Getting On, HBO’s adaptation of a British comedy hit, nurse DiDi Ortley (Niecy Nash, Reno 911!) reports for her first day of work at the Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit of Mt. Palms Hospital in Long Beach, Calif. The facility is dedicated to improving the lives of its elderly charges, who are “getting on” in years, but DiDi soon begins to wonder whether she’s wandered into an asylum by mistake.
The first red flag pops up when DiDi notices that one of the senior patients has had an accident in one of the TV room chairs. Her immediate instinct is a very logical one: Grab a piece of tissue, remove the offending “souvenir” and flush it in the nearest restroom. Unfortunately, she hasn’t reckoned with the red tape and politics that clog the cogs at any contemporary American medical facility.
Her senior colleague, nurse Dawn Forchette (Alex Bornstein, MADtv’s resident madwoman), is reluctant to allow the matter in question to be collected and removed until someone fills out the required “incident report” paperwork and tested the collected sample to determine which patient was responsible.
Meanwhile, temporary medical director Dr. Jenna James (three-time Emmy winner Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne) has a completely different agenda. She wants the matter collected for a “prestigious fecal study” she is currently working on for the New England Journal of Medicine.
That may sound nuts – and it is – but Jenna is a walking raw nerve who refuses to admit that her once-promising career is now in a death spiral. She may be telling anyone who is listening that she is merely filling in temporarily until a permanent medical director can be found, but in truth, Jenna has been exiled to this unit from the main facility since she had a breakdown and started waving around a scalpel and “allegedly” menacing some of her colleagues.
In its first six-episode season, Getting On follows these three prickly women as they struggle to do their jobs under very challenging conditions, including a rapidly cratering rating for their level of care.
Still, nothing bonds adversaries like a common enemy. In this case, that would be newly arrived supervising (male) nurse Patrizio “Patsy” De La Serda (Mel Rodriguez, Community), who refers to patients as “customers” and favors motivational posters and New Age-speak like “Don’t go through life. GROW through life.” He also plans to improve the facility’s rating through a cruise ship-based strategy that includes having a fountain and pianist on the premises.
Complicating the staff chemistry even further, “Patsy” is more than a little confused about his sexuality. He’s secretly having no-strings sex with Dawn, a woman with no personal boundaries and a bottomless hunger for approval, yet he’s eager to file a grievance against DiDi when she makes a harmless sexual joke to defuse a tense situation with a patient. Moreover, he and Jenna are engaged in a constant deathmatch over which of them is actually running the unit.
Clearly, Getting On is drawing on a mother lode of character quirks to drive its storylines and all three of the stars turn in rich, quirky performances. If I single out Metcalf, it’s only because I had forgotten how much I miss seeing this extraordinary actress on a weekly basis, and she brilliantly takes a brittle character and fills her with pathos, complexity and, every now and then, a glimmer of real compassion.
Getting On is certainly not your run-of-the-mill sitcom, nor is it for viewers with delicate sensibilities. It takes a lot of worthwhile risks, however, and in doing so only makes us admire healthcare workers more than ever, even as we observe them comically at the end of their ropes.