COMMUNITY. 8 p.m. Thursday, NBC10.

TOUCH. 8 p.m. Friday, Fox 29. Moves to 9 p.m. on Feb. 15.

AS NBC's "Community" returns for its fourth season Thursday, its title might refer as much to its audience as to the fictional (and more than slightly fantastic) center of higher learning in which the show's set.

Tight-knit and somewhat suspicious of strangers, it's a community of fans who will be watching closely to see if the departure of creator Dan Harmon last spring has crippled the comedy whose renewal for even a 13-episode season was one of those NBC miracles.

Based on the two episodes I've seen, I don't think it has. This feels very much like the show I've been watching all along.

That's not necessarily good for NBC, which probably once hoped for a less forbiddingly gated "Community," where viewers who weren't in attendance from Day 1 wouldn't feel as if they were taking a pop-culture quiz they hadn't studied for.

But as much as I want to believe there are millions of viewers not watching CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" or Fox's "American Idol" who'll wander into Greendale Community College and decide it's worth cramming on Hulu to catch up, I don't think it's likely.

Sometimes, whether you're making a "Fringe" or a "30 Rock," there's no choice but to serve the audience you already have, for as long as you're allowed.

In the case of "Community" that means assuming viewers have done enough homework not to be thrown by the shifts between the "real" show and the one playing in the head of Abed (Danny Pudi) or by the fact that much of the episode is about the main characters' efforts to win a place in a class on the history of ice cream.

Or that the dean (Jim Rash) has more costume changes than Cher. If not quite so much hair.

Abed, whose discomfort with change is a running theme, has become the central figure in an ensemble ostensibly led by Joel McHale's Jeff Winger. Like Sheldon (Jim Parsons) on "The Big Bang Theory," he's not what some call neurotypical (although he's typical of an increasing number of TV characters who are written as different-without-diagnosis).

There are lots of reasons that Sheldon is on an enormously popular sitcom and Abed on its underdog competition, but "Community's" willingness to rummage around inside Abed's head - rather than laugh at his foibles from a safe distance - might be one.

Different-without-diagnosis also applies to one of the main characters in Fox's "Touch," which returns for its second season Friday with a two-hour premiere that finds Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland) still on the run with his son Jacob (David Mazouz).

Jacob, for those joining "Touch" in-progress, doesn't speak (except in voice-over) but is obsessed with numbers, a circumstance that's caught the attention of yet another of those mysterious, conspiratorial corporations that dot the TV landscape.

"Touch" continues to display both the strengths and weaknesses of creator Tim Kring's previous show "Heroes," being wonderfully multicultural and maybe not so wonderfully complicated.

Sutherland's very moving as a father fighting to hold on to a son who was slipping away from him even before the authorities came calling, but the show still feels at times like a mashup of "24" and "Touched by an Angel."

Before the season even started, it was reported that Norristown's Maria Bello, was leaving, but she's there now, so there's no reason to start missing her just yet.

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On Twitter: @elgray