But fortunately, Greendale isn’t ready to go full-normal just yet. As we learn in the season premiere, Britta has taken over Shirley’s sandwich shop even though she’s a horrible cook (she claims her cooking is a “crushing blow to a gender stereotype”), but underneath the shop is a secret speakeasy (where Britta is a horrible bartender). It’s a nice little intro back into Community‘s world, where anything that seems normal is always a little bit weirder.
There’s much more of this in Episode 2, “Lawnmower Maintenance and Postnatal Care” featuring Keith David (who will be a very welcome regular this season) as Elroy Patashnik. Elroy is the inventor of the virtual reality machine that Dean Ambrose bought and subsequently (immediately) becomes addicted to — even though the “power” of building “worlds upon worlds” is really just moving a bunch of file folders around. It’s this quirkiness that Community was built on, and that will stick with the series until its end — which may be farther into the future than many of us thought; I can’t imagine Yahoo canceling the sitcom after this season. The episode balances the Greendale insanity — there are numerous sequences that take place inside the virtual reality machine and the graphics are intentionally, amusingly dated — with the Greendale realness and depth that anchor the sitcom, as the B-story focuses on broke Britta, who learns that the awful parents she has rebelled against have been secretly supporting her financially through the study group. (Hey, there’s the answer to one of Abed’s questions!)
The first two episodes of Season 6 aren’t perfect, but Community has rarely been perfect, which is one of the show’s many charms. It’s a messy, ambitious, and rebellious sitcom. It’s a sitcom that antagonizes its home, that shoots for impossible highs — and often hits them, but even remains funny when it completely misses the mark — and that has basically forced its continued existence through sheer will and simply refusing to stay down. But it seems like Community has figured everything out, free from ratings pressure and NBC’s demands, and on a site where it’s wholly comfortable. The only thing stacked against it is the question of where it’s going to go from here, especially since so many of the once-over-the-top characters seem to be calming down. But, in true Community fashion, it’s even self-aware about this. As Jeff asks, “How much can you improve Greendale before it stops being Greendale?”