COMMUNITY TCA Panel Recap: Cast and Crew Talk the Move to Yahoo!, Last Minute Renewal, Maintaining the Show’s Format, Cast Returns, and More

     January 13, 2015

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This morning at the winter TCA press tour the cast and creators of Community took the stage to talk about the future of the much beloved and oft-troubled comedy series, which returns March 17th on Yahoo TV.  For the panel, executive producers Chris McKenna and Dan Harmon joined cast members Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs and Ken Jeong to talk about the show’s sixth season, their last minute resurrection, how Paget Brewster and Keith David‘s characters fit into the study group, new filming locations, which characters might return, and more.  Check out what we learned after the jump.

  • community-season-6-joel-mchale-paget-brewsterThe series returns March 17th. Yahoo will air two episodes back to back before switching to a once-weekly airing schedule with a new episode arriving every Tuesday.  When asked why they were sticking with the traditional airing schedule in the age of binge viewing Harmon replied, ““I feel in my old-school bones – they are very old, these bones – so it feels to me the right way to do it.” He continued, “Maybe old school is the best school.  It is for rap.”
  • Harmon is not writing season six as if it’s the end of the series.  He explained, “This show has lived by the sword of a very intimate relationship with fans and needs to die only by that sword, so only when people stop watching it would I stop wanting to make the product.  I would never feel comfortable walking away from any version of Community.”
  • Yahoo jumped in for the renewal just in the nick of time. Harmon recalled, “It was like very last minute.  There were a lot of last-minute phone calls, including Kathy Savitt from Yahoo calling me and having a 40-minute conversation where she turned me 180 degrees by explaining Yahoo’s perspective on the whole thing and how they were going to do business.  It was all happening in the last eight hours of its legality.”
  • While Harmon is unsure how they will gauge the show’s success on Yahoo, he is thrilled to be rid of the Nielsen ratings system.  “That is going to be the coolest thing in the world…The worst part [of the Nielsen system] was where a 0.8 rating could mean the best day of your life and a 0.7 meant no donuts.  It was such an odd religion to live under.  I can’t wait to find out how it’s going to work,”
  • They’re filming season six in a basement, but that’s not as bad as it sounds.  Production relocated from the Paramount lot to the CBS Radford lot where they’re filming in a basement studio that was once a parking structure.  Harmon joked, “After years of it being figuratively the case, we are now literally underneath Parks and Rec, and physically underneath them.”  McHale was quick to point out the upside that it’s twice the size of their old sound stage and Harmon agreed “it’s actually really cool down there.”
  • Harmon says the new characters grow out their surroundings and the actors playing them.  He explained the challenge of introducing new characters, “How do you, without forcing it on the audience, make these characters feel like classic Community characters?”   He continued, “The answer was you put characters with a lot of potential in a petri dish with these guys and let them grow, let the actors grow them.  So they start as, like  they have two-dimensional roles, and then…you let the actors and writers discover very specific details about the characters that, as a whole, start to form the picture.”
  • community-season-6-joel-mchale-keith-david-jim-rashPaget Brewster’s character is there to fix problems at Greendale.  Harmon described, “Paget’s character, on the surface, her two-dimensional first act of a John Hughes movie role, is that she’s a problem-solver.  She doesn’t like things that don’t make sense.  She doesn’t abide nonsense.  She is here to help.  She’s a very effective person, and the likes of which Greendale’s never really seen, and she’s been specifically hired to wrangle the problems at Greendale and fix them.”
  • Keith David is playing a man who’s starting over after wasting his career on the development of virtual reality technology. Harmon described him as “a computer programmer in clothes – he wasted a lot of time on virtual reality technology in the ’90s, and he sacrificed a lot of his personal life at the sake of his career, and now he’s starting over.”
  • Despite the new sets, cast members, and network, Community is very much the same show.  On the matter of changes in production Harmon said, “you would be surprised how very little that changes, because a studio like Sony, they have a template for production of television.  Whether Yahoo is going to be the people that are providing it to an audience, that doesn’t really change…Nothing really changes.  You just kind of transplant.”  Harmon also noted that the storytelling elements will remain familiar because “the three-act structure has always worked”.
  • Don’t expect to see Professor Ian Duncan (John Oliver) or Professor Hickey (Jonathan Banks) in the sixth season.  According to Harmon, “John Oliver’s tough.  That’s the bad news first.  Jonathan Banks is doing Better Call Saul, so that’s another bad news.”
  • Do expect to see more of Jeff Winger in professor mode.  Harmon said, “It is a very grounded season.  Gone are the days when we were worried about why are they all staying in school; we have to keep exploring life outside the school.  It’s sort of like Greendale is the world, and it’s a grounded world increasingly.  Like, it has bills to pay…Jeff is a teacher, and he has a role with that job, and he has students, and yes.  I’m happy to report that will be coming back.”
  • community-castYvette Nicole Brown’s exit will be explained in the first episode and the door is open for her to return. “I won’t say how, because there’s a satisfaction to the consumption of it that I don’t want to spoil.” On the matter of a possible return Harmon was open and enthusiastic, “Absolutely.  Yeah.  I don’t know how much of this is our business, but there were personal reasons that she just couldn’t commit to the schedule for the show.” McKenna added, “The Door is open”, though they both declined to say if she would make an appearance this season.”  Additionally, at yesterday’s CBS panel for The Odd Couple, Brown was quick to clarify that she only booked The Odd Couple after leaving Community, and she only left Community because the hours were too tough to care for her father.
  • Harmon was very evasive about the possibility of Chevy Chase returning on the show.  When asked about Chase’s recent remarks that he would appear in the next season Harmon joked, “I think he was talking about season four.”  On the matter of Chase returning to the show Harmon initially dismissed the idea saying, “His character died,” before dancing around a confirmation either way, ““If you were to take a man and bring him back to life like that I would think you’d want to keep it a secret.  That would be god-like power.  You wouldn’t just run into a hotel in Pasadena and go, ‘I’ve created life’.  You would wait to scream that in crashing thunder at the heavens, as rain spattered on your face.”
  • Harmon is not only open to Donald Glover returning to the show, he’s praying (to heaven and hell) that it will happen.  “I pray to God every night, I light a black candle – and also pray to the devil at the same time, in case I’m missing something – that Donald Glover will come down my chimney and come back to the show.”

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