The Study Group returns from Summer vacation (without show creator Dan Harmon) to begin their fourth year of community college only to find themselves forced to compete in Dean Pelton’s (Jim Rash) Hunger Games-themed competition to earn spots in the only History class offered this semester – The History of Ice Cream.
While Jeff (Joel McHale) tries to earn enough of Dean Pelton’s balls (your joke here) in an increasingly ridiculous series of competitions to get each of the Study Group into the last class he needs before graduating, Annie (Alison Brie) and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) attempt to perform a Senior prank involving the Dean’s car, and Troy (Donald Glover) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) get into an argument while making wishes at the school’s fountain.
Helping to fill-in sequences which weren’t shot before Chevy Chase left the show, half of the episode takes place in Abed’s mind on Abed TV featuring Fred Willard standing in for Chase for these sequences. We also get a dream version within the dream with Abed’s animated “Greendale Babies” in which Abed continues to hide from the uncertainty of the future.
As season premieres go “History 101″ is a bit of a disappointment and feels very much like the show has lost it’s guiding light. Willard is funny as the first guest-star to stand-in for Chase (other are on their way), but the sequences themselves feel forced and aren’t nearly as funny as they should be. We’re only one episode in, but for those hoping for signs that the show could recapture its former glory without Harmon steering the ship there’s not much here to put you at ease.