Sherlock‘s third series may have owned yesterday’s trailer buzz, but today it’s all about Community. This morning gave us our first look at the chronically embattled sitcom’s fifth season, set to return to NBC on January 2. Unlike most TV previews, the trailer’s pretty plot-heavy, setting up a season-long arc that keeps the central cast together despite last season’s resolution. In honor of both the big reveal and December 10 — forever immortalized by Yvette Nicole Brown and this GIF — we’ve rounded up everything we know about Community Season 5, which faces the tough task of living up to the series’ first three installments and living down its fourth.
Dan Harmon Is Back!
The biggest reason Season 5 is attracting real hype and not just manufactured excitement from a dwindling fan base is the return of Dan Harmon, the showrunner credited with the first three seasons’ signature brand of wacky, character-driven humor. Unfortunately, he was also credited with the show’s low ratings, so Sony fired him, giving rise to some inspiring rants about the state of the industry (his XOXO keynote address in 2012) as well as some appalling ones (that time he compared watching Season 4 to watching his family get raped on his Harmontown podcast). The important part is that we no longer have to wonder what Community would be like if only Harmon were still around; after an uneven Season 4, Sony reinstated him.
It’ll Be Short
The tradeoff, unfortunately, is that there’s a very real possibility this season may be Community‘s last. Despite lots of Internet love, the show has never been a viewership powerhouse, reflected in both Harmon’s involuntary exit and NBC’s decisions to shunt it to time-slot Siberia and push the Season 4 premiere back by several months. Season 5 currently stands at just 13 episodes, far short of the typical network comedy order, meaning NBC may well have brought Harmon back in to finish what he started. Harmon has said, however, that he doesn’t plan on treating Season 5 like it’s the end, and he’ll do everything in his power to make it to #sixseasonsandamovie.
Jeff Winger Hasn’t Left Greendale
As for the plot, the Season 5 trailer lays out a pretty straightforward inciting incident: despite fighting his way out of Greendale at last, Community‘s hero hasn’t quite been able to hack it as a lawyer out in the real world. So he swallows his pride and goes back to school – except this time, he’s a teacher! Plot twist! Dean Pelton welcomes him back with open arms, obviously, and although we don’t get much insight into what the rest of the study group is up to, most of the usual suspects make a brief appearance. Now that we have the season’s inciting incident, feel free to freak out about more micro details, like what the hell Donald Glover is doing inside a recliner.
Donald Glover Won’t Be Around Too Much
Speaking of, Troy Barnes won’t feature heavily in Season 5. Donald Glover will only appear in five of its 13 episodes; though many initially hypothesized Glover was going part-time to focus on his rap career as Childish Gambino (Because the Internet drops this month), an Instagram confessional hinted that the partial hiatus may be for personal reasons. This follows on the heels of Chevy Chase’s backseat role on Season 4, after which the actor left the show entirely. With two core members of the study group gone, Community‘s facing an uphill battle in terms of earning its way back into the fandom’s good graces.
The Guest Star Roster Is Unbelievable
Breaking Bad‘s Jonathan Banks makes an appearance in the trailer, but he’s not the only heavyweight dropping in; he’s not even the only Breaking Bad alum. Former showrunner Vince Gilligan will be stepping in front of the camera as well, and he’ll be joined by Arrested Development‘s Mitch Hurwitz and David Cross, geek sex idol Nathan Fillion, Chris Elliott, and none other than Tim and Eric. It’s a roster that cements Community’s status as a comedy for comedy nerds and opens the door for insane-sounding subplots like a follow-up to the excellent Dungeons ‘n’ Dragons episode (with Banks as a tough professor and Cross as his estranged son) and the story of Greendale’s founder (disgraced by a sex scandal and played by Elliott). LeVar Burton is even coming back, though we haven’t heard if he’s set his phasers to “love me” yet.