Comic-Con 2011: 'Community' blows the roof off again
For the second year in a row, "Community" took over the Indigo Ballroom(*) at Comic-Con and provided a raucous, risque, multi-media love-fest between the show's actors, creator Dan Harmon and the fans.
(*) One of the stories of this Con has been how badly Con organizers underestimated demand for TV panels and overestimated movie demand. After filling the Indigo to capacity last year, "Community" was absolutely due for an upgrade to at least a mid-sized room in the main convention center, if not Ballroom 20, and many fans were turned away.
The panel opened with a hip-hop remix of various scenes and bits of dialogue from season 2 (the Magnitude/Leonard debate remix was epic) that whipped the room into a frenzy even before moderator Michael Schneider led them in a "Pop pop!" call-and-response and the cast bounded on stage, one-by-one, soaking in the applause.
Q&A began with discussion of Pierce's bad behavior last season and his decision to leave the group in the finale.
"People had said that Pierce's character got so dark that they wondered why anyone would hang out with him," Harmon acknowledged. "So while I like his backbone and his tooth, I wanted to address that story. We're going to address that now. By the time we're done, you'll know why they'll hang out with Pierce."
Alison Brie (who's filming a movie) was the lone absent castmember - and the panel included newly-promoted regular Jim Rash - so it was left to Danny Pudi to discuss the Abed/Annie kiss from the season finale, which he shrugged off as Abed playing up "the Han Solo heroic moment."
Pudi and Donald Glover noted the orange paint they were all drenched with in that scene, and said they're not sure if it was toxic.
"We were told they weren't really sure," recalled Glover. "They said, 'Oh, it's the stuff kids paint with.' So we said, 'Oh, it's not toxic?' 'We didn't say that!'"
There was then various discussion of other past, future and potential romantic/sexual combinations - "When I was pitching the show, we had to make sure there was a chance of everyone on the show getting together," Harmon said - including some debate over whether it's sad that Chang wasn't the father of Shirley's baby.
"His family has tails, everyone!" insisted Yvette Nicole Brown.
"Being a father in real life, I'm so glad Ben Chang is not the father of any baby," said Ken Jeong. "The last thing he should f---ing do is be the father of a baby. But it's so fun playing this character going to these demonic depths of pathetic-ness."
Chang was in a position of power in season 1, and great weakness in season 2, and Harmon said season 3 would be a mix, because, "I always wanted to see what happened if Gollum did get the Ring and got to keep it. An empowered Chang is a funnier campus, I think."
Harmon explained the decision to cast "The Wire" alum (and "Boardwalk Empire" co-star) Michael Kenneth Williams as the study group's new biology teacher as being part of his ongoing campaign to win over new viewers.
"It is what it seems like," he said. "I want to add a layer of intensity to 'Community.' If the show's ever been too weird to attract new viewers, you can add water to have less flavor and hope it threatens less people, or you can threaten the hell out of everyone with the kind of intensity and flavor that people will get tired of pretending isn't awesome... If we're too cartoonish sometimes, then let's add the opposite of cartoonish. Let's add a little element of 'The Wire' to 'Community.'"
Harmon said the writers were at work on the show's latest Halloween episode, and seemed ambivalent about the idea of doing another paintball episode, even while acknowledging, "I get the feeling there are people in this room who would get mad at us if we didn't do one."
The actors were asked to list their favorite moments from the past season:
• Glover first chose Troy's birthday, but later switched to Troy meeting LeVar Burton in the documentary episode.
• Pudi enjoyed the Dungeons & Dragons episode from a group standpoint, and Abed and Jeff in "My Dinner with Andre" as a personal highlight. ("I got to give a speech, two pages of dialogue, about pooping my pants on the set of 'Cougar Town,' and I can't believe I got to do that.")
• Gillian Jacobs liked both the animated tag about Dean Pelton and also the episode where Britta dated the Eastern European war criminal and sang that terrible "Hit Me With Your Genie's Bottle" song.
• Brown loved the flashback episode, while Joel McHale rattled off a list: Shirley's photographs in the Troy's birthday episode, Troy about to be shot by dozens of paintball guns in the finale, Jeff and Britta role-playing in the documentary episode, Chang breaking Jeff's lamp with his nunchuks, "and also Chevy's performance in the Dungeons & Dragons episode, that was pure genius."
• Rash enjoyed the climax of the conspiracy theory episode, mainly because "I realized I have no ability to really die appropriately. My fall was terrible. I was like, what happened?"
• Chevy Chase went with Pierce's painkiller-induced fantasies with Andy Dick, and also Jeff pulling Pierce out of the car to beat him up, while Jeong said he cried at the end of the stop-motion animated Christmas episode.
During the audience Q&A, Harmon talked about wanting to expand the universe of the show even more - this time wanting to meet the study group's families - so that the show could survive if it theoretically gets past a fourth season and characters like Jeff start to graduate Greendale.
"All I know is there is a 4-year story that we promised in the pilot," he explained. "He either has to get his bachelor's degree or not get it. It would be unfair and gross in the fourth season to go, 'What? These credits don't count? I'll have to grow a beard and teach here!' No one's going to high-five me for that... I have to tell that story."
Rash's favorite Dean Pelton outfit was probably the Tina Turner look, and he felt especially self-conscious wearing his "sister's" 4th of July costume, because that episode featured him acting in front of a large group of extras: "You inevitably see people whispering and/or pointing."
Glover's rap alter ego Childish Gambino(**) came up, and he explained his next album would come out sometime in September or October, and that "Community" composer Ludwig Goransson, who also works on the Gambino albums, had worked a few Gambino beats into various musical bits on the show.
(**) I got to see Glover's Gambino show at the House of Blues last night, and it was fantastic. High-energy, and one of the "Community" actors later marveled that within a year, Glover had gone from "Oh, you also rap?" to someone whose concerts are packed with fans who know every word to the songs and sing along. This isn't like a novelty gig; if he wasn't known for "Community," or his stand-up, or his writing, and just had a rap career, he'd be totally credible. (Though he wouldn't have the platform to promote himself.) Very impressive.
Finally, another question for each panelist: if their characters came to Comic-Con, what costume would they wear?
• Glover: "I would dress up as Spider-Man, I don't know about Troy. Troy would do whatever Abed. We'd probably be Mario and Luigi."
• Pudi: "Or Ren and Stimpy. I would like to be the Flash."
• Jacobs: "Does Daria count?"
• Brown: "Yoda all day long."
• McHale: "I'd be copying someone because I saw it today: a really crappy-looking Ghostbuster. He didn't even try. He just had a backpack with a vacuum attachment."
• Rash: "I think the Dean would just bring a variety of costumes, mostly thinking it might be a furry convention." (Harmon suggested that Pelton would be "a Sailor Moon type.")
• Chase: "I don't know what to say! Pierce is so fuckin' dumb. I ain't got no answer."
• Jeong: "Since it's making a comeback now, Beavis or Butthead, I think."
The "Community" third season premiere is September 22; the season 2 DVD (with commentaries on every episode, multiple featurettes, bloopers, more of Harmon's cast evaluations, etc.) comes out on September 6.