Still weird. Still funny.
Though the weirdness is probably what's kept "Community" from becoming a bigger ratings hit, its offbeat humor continues to delight its devoted fans. And tonight's premiere on NBC at 8 p.m., as well as what series creator Dan Harmon has planned for the whole third season, should do nothing to alienate fans from Jeff Winger and company.
Picking up where they left off last spring, Jeff (Joel McHale) and his Greendale Community College study group pals wonder if their old friend Pierce (Chevy Chase) is going to return to the fold, since he stormed off after their second big paintball battle.
Then Jeff ticks off his new biology teacher, Professor Kane ("The Wire" alum Michael K. Williams), and gets kicked out of class. With Winger getting the boot and Pierce's status unknown, will the study group endure? (Answer: Yes.)
Meanwhile, the Winger-crushin' Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) approaches the new school year with a renewed enthusiasm after spending his summer vacation at Dean Camp, but the universe, or rather recurring guest star John Goodman, is going to mess with his plans. Goodman plays Vice Dean Laybourne, the head of Greendale's Air Conditioning Repair Annex, and he and Dean Pelton tangle.
Harmon has said the third season's overall storyline will revolve around self-involved attorney Winger finding out that, now that he's fully started to care about people other than himself, there's a price to be paid for having friends. And that price is that he's going to be pulled even further into their lives, shenanigans, and problems.
As for guest stars, which the show has always employed to clever effect, "Freaks and Geeks" star Martin Starr will play a political science professor who oversees the gang's Model UN project in the Sept. 29 episode; Jerry Minor returns as the janitor from the season two finale; and "Deadwood" star Larry Cedar (Leon!) will play Cornelius Hawthorne — Pierce's papa — despite the fact that Cedar is more than a decade younger than Chase.
Since its timeslot competition includes CBS' much more mainstream "The Big Bang Theory," it's probably a safe bet "Community" can't count on a big ratings uptick this season. And the Emmy folk are probably not going to suddenly shower the show with nominations.
But those who already know and love the quirky little cult fave should be very happy about the new school year.