'Community': John Oliver gets a promotion
As mentioned in my recap of the "Community" panel at Comic-Con, afterwards I did several interviews with the cast and creative team. Most of those probably won't get published until I'm done with Comic-Con and then the TV critics press tour, but I should have a video interview with Donald Glover and Danny Pudi up tomorrow, and right now I wanted to immediately share one piece of news from a long interview I did with creator Dan Harmon, coming right up (note there are some small spoilers for the season premiere, but the usually spoiler-averse Harmon wasn't bothered to reveal them, so neither am I)...
Near the end of last season, Senor Chang (Ken Jeong) was fired from his job as Spanish teacher when it was revealed he had no real training for it. Chang became a student, and as the study group finished their first year at Greendale, they all agreed to take an anthropology class the next year so they'd have an excuse to stick together.
For similar reasons, Harmon said he wanted to put the characters into a new class for season two, since the study room in the library is "like your 'Star Trek' bridge or your 'Cheers' bar."
In the season premiere, the anthropology professor will be played by the ubiquitous Betty White, but her character will be suspended by the school for her behavior in the premiere.
"Which means she might come back at any time," said Harmon, "And I would leave that up to Ms. White, pretty much. I'm a big fan."
So who will become the group's new teacher? Look no further than John Oliver as Professor Ian Duncan, whose specialty is psychology, but who will be temporarily filling in for White's character.
Harmon said Oliver was "one of my favorite things about the first season, even though you never ever get to see him, and he's one of the funniest guys I've ever worked with. I wanted to see what it might be like, just to see it, if he in fact was the so-called Chang and Chang was one of the students. Whether or not that makes Chang part of the study group, I won't address, but I wanted to see John Oliver in front of our ensemble, teaching some kind of class. The nice way to do it is to have him filling in for a suspended Betty White."
And why did Harmon decide to demote Chang from professor to student?
"I don't want people to get tired of anything," he said. "Ken Jeong is a funny dude. And the position of teacher - guy assigning homework and giving tests and being the ironically crazy authority figure - it was good for exactly one season, in my opinion... There would be a shelf life there. Ken Jeong is funny in very, very specific ways, and is a very well-received flavor in the show. I think that him as a student is going to create more opportunities for a really memorable character. I think we did enough with him standing in front of the classroom teaching bad Spanish."