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<i>Community</i>: Can the Premiere’s Changes Help the Season’s Ratings?

In our pre-Season 3 interview with Dan Harmon, Community's creator wasn't shy about admitting that this is the show's make-or-break year. If it holds its own or, better still, grabs more eyeballs, it'll likely stay on at least as long as it takes Jeff, Annie and the rest of Greendale's most self-centered study group to graduate. If those ratings keep slipping, though, we may never get to see them accept their diplomas. The musical number that opened last night's season premiere openly addressed Harmon's desire to reach a bigger audience, with such pointed lyrics as "We're going to seem like a mainstream dream" and "We're going to have more fun and be less weird/Than the first two years combined." So how exactly is Greendale different this season? Here are some of the biggest developments we spotted in the premiere and whether we think they'll have an impact on the ratings:

Pierce and Jeff Are on the Outs
Despite informing his former pals that he underwent three months of soul re-zoning and is now ready to re-join the group, Jeff isn't ready to welcome Pierce back and, even at the episode's end, seems reluctant to completely embrace the guy, setting up a storyline that will likely carry on for at least the first half of the season.
Will It Help the Ratings? We think so. The Pierce and Jeff conflict will give the show an ongoing narrative hook that can fuel plenty of comedy and maybe even a touch of drama.

Troy and Abed Are Now Roommates
Our favorite best buddies are continuing their delightful bromance by moving in together and are looking to deck out their new pad with the latest in Linens & Things merchandise -- the things, rather than the linens, that is.
Will It Help the Ratings?: Community's chief timeslot rival, The Big Bang Theory is all about geeky guys that live together and it's insanely popular. So we're going to say yes.

Dean Pelton Grew a Goatee
"How do you like me now, bitches," Greendale's beleaguered Dean tosses out as he marches into the study group's lair. That confidence must come from his new facial hair, which is all part of his newfound desire to whip his school into shape. How long before he starts rocking a Kangol hat like fellow baldie Samuel L. Jackson?
Will It Help the Ratings? Doubtful, but it's actually a good look for the dorky dean. Too bad it's already been forcibly shaved off...

Starburns Has a Lizard
Starburns' hat and sideburns already make him one of our favorite supporting players, but now that he's walking around with a lizard on his shoulder, he seems more awesome than ever.
Will It Help the Ratings? If they do a buddy episode that teams Starburns' lizard with Greendale's resident thieving monkey, Annie's Boobs, it will be one of the show's highest-rated outings ever, guaranteed.

Omar Little Is Teaching Biology and Walter Sobchak Is a Vice Dean
Actually, that's just their alter egos Michael Kenneth Williams and John Goodman, respectively. Either way, both were in fine form last night, with MKW tossing Jeff out of his class for cell-phone offenses and confirming that he's seen Sean Penn's Oscar-winning role in Milk, while JG sparred wittily with Dean Pelton and bellowed like his Barton Fink hothead. We're thrilled to have both guys on board.
Will It Help the Ratings? The Wire is a beloved show, but it wasn't exactly a ratings-monster hit. Still, if even a small percentage of Wire fans follow Williams to Community, it'll represent an uptick. Goodman hasn't been on a hit show in years, but he's a guy people like, so his presence can only help.

Chang Is the School Security Officer
Having gone from teacher to student, Chang will now patrol the halls as Greendale's official enforcer. On the upside, this gives him a sense of purpose beyond forever trying to join a study group that doesn't want him. On the other hand, as the characters point out, this spells trouble for their on-campus safety.
Will It Help the Ratings? Probably not. As a character, Chang seems a little played out at this point. Putting him in this new role at least gives him something new to do, but more Chang alone won't make Community a hit.

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