I hear it's not just me, this show is not very beloved by anyone this year. I do not have the heart or inclination to find out what their reasons are, but from my perspective, it just feels kind of...joyless. (remember that montage where baby birds died? or that same episode where we watched a guy scream at Chang like 50 times until it wasn't even vicariously satisfying?) It's too meta -- there has been a lot of "lol I guess we kinda suck now" instead of actually fixing the suckiness -- and adding more characters is just not working. Frankie, specifically. This show is surreal, and it should be allowed to spiral and revel in its wackiness instead of trying to use Frankie to ground it in reality.
That probably wouldn't work for everybody, as Chris has mentioned that it feels like the characters have become exaggerated caricatures of themselves and he sometimes misses the more "real" and heartfelt characters of season 1 that he fell in love with, but that's what would work for me. I mean, I'm still getting some laughs out of it, but the episodes feel as much longer as they are. I am usually the last person who believes in editing for the sharpness of the story, but on the other hand, Community has never felt like a show where I'm desperate for every second of footage. Cut this stuff down to the 22 minutes of yore.
I like Older Troy/Black Pierce/Male Shirley better than both Frankie and Hickey, and he could eventually fit the rhythm of the group, but right now he too feels like an outsider. And I still don't understand why the Chang is even on this show, much less just accepted as part of the group. If there's any outsider who should have been absorbed into the group, it is obviously Non-Bald Neil. But I think we'd be better with fewer people, at least at first.
I really want to run with the dynamic that is Jeff basically in charge of a trio of young people. He's always been the de facto leader, but with Shirley and Pierce/Hickey, it was more like him at the head of an inverted V, with flank support, and made the power dynamics more balanced. Now he's like the entire V, and the other three are the line of ducklings behind him (or, as I always see the world: he's become a band stallion with a couple of mares and an immature yearling colt). I'd be interested to see how his maturity level stacks up.
Now, with that griping out of the way, here is what I have laughed at so far that I can remember off the top of my head:
-Chang giving all the side-eye about how this group is suspiciously erasing its diversity (that's as far as I will allow both meta and Chang)
-Shirley's new job in a real life murder-mystery show. Best closing tag EVER. Except maybe for...
-Portuguese Gremlins trailer!! At this point in the series, I was seriously considering giving up on the show proper and just watching the closing tags as their own sketch comedy series.
-Most of the "DID WE GIVE A DIPLOMA TO A DOG" storyline. That was glorious. As was the Dean being catfished by a pair of Japanese boys and weirding Jeff out (more than normal) as a result.
-♫Gay Dean, Gay Dean, Gay De-an, Gay De-e-ean...I'm begging you to be a gay dean for the school board ♫ STILL LAUGHING.
-Ex-Convict On A Tablet attempting to push Jeff down a flight of stairs, with no effect, to the latter's bemusement. "Are you trying to murder me? You're trying to murder me."
-The tablet fight
-Also, did not laugh at but felt all the heart muscles clench at Abed repeating, "the mother won't come back." RIGHT IN THE FEELS.
Episode 5 is freshest in my mind, so I must say that it is probably my favorite one so far, not least because I really enjoyed the fact that Convict Willie is from Cougar Town. See, that's a missed opportunity for good meta, not least because Cougar Town is all about recasting people from Scrubs, sometimes as the same people and sometimes not. There is no way Abed didn't have something to say about that.
Actually, episode 3 was pretty solid, now that I think about it. I also liked the virtual reality machine in episode 2; the Britta plot dragged that episode down but the Dean's scenes were hysterical. Basically, we should just use as much technology and/or dogs as possible this season.
In conclusion, though: it's been five episodes and I have not yet come away from an episode feeling full of delight and joy. By this time in season 5 that had already happened twice, and that was a slow year.