11 'Community' Paley Panel Highlights With Finale Spoilers
NBC's "Community" has been a fascinatingly awkward ride with plenty of nervous-making moments for diehard fans. Creator Dan Harmon's exit from and return to the series, Chevy Chase's notorious fights with Harmon that culminated with his own exeunt, and Donald Glover's surprising departure (which still allotted him a five-episode arc this past season) have been puzzling and jarring for Greendale geeks -- which is to say nothing of the show's constant on-the-bubble ratings situation. But at Wednesday night's PaleyFest panel for "Community," Harmon, co-producer/writer Chris McKenna, as well as stars Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, and Jim Rash expressed the same resilient camaraderie they've had since the show debuted in 2009.
Attendees got an eyeful, including the entire first episode of the two-part season five finale, which should leave enough open-ended storylines for an expected sixth season (Gillian Jacobs told the room to consider it official already, even if it isn't official already) and, who knows, a potential movie. The night concluded with a teaser for an upcoming animated episode parodying the '80s "G.I. Joe" cartoon, and it doesn't seem like many of the characters change too much even in their drawn superheroic forms.
Here are the 11 biggest insights from the night, including some major spoilers from the finale.
1. Greendale may be turning into "Subway University," and that means you're in for twelve inches of sandwich humor.
The gang learns that Greendale -- which is not a profitable venue for the city because it "takes money out of the education budget" -- may be transformed into Subway University. Look out for signs advertising not the library, but the "Subwayary," and a discussion about whatever the hell it is Subway calls their "buns." Because they're not buns. They're just "breads." Profound.
2. That "G.I. Joe" episode is going to be pretty cheeky.
The brief clip from the animated episode, which is still being completed, earned big cheers from the crowd. The best moment from it: Britta and Abed, as their '80s animated avatars, happen across a bad kid who is spraying graffiti on public property. The words he chose to spray? "Harmon sucks."
3. "Community" is meeting "MADtv" in the best way possible during the finale.
Michael McDonald, the "MADtv" veteran ("Stuuuuart!", et al), plays a nefarious suit named Ronald Mohammad (He's "heard all the jokes") who could ruin Greendale for good if he finds anything suspicious during his inspection of the grounds. Fortunately, he's not too terrifying considering he's essentially Greendale's answer to Dr. Spaceman from "30 Rock" -- always absurd, but austerely so. It's an excellent showcase full of cryptic one-liners for a hilarious actor.
4. Shippers beware!
Jeff, who is naturally playing it cool all episode, throws caution to the wind upon realizing the stakes at hand and does something... quite dramatic. A chill ran through the audience during this moment and I suspect there hasn't been a greater crowd chill at the Dolby since Liza Minnelli unexpectedly grabbed Lupita Nyong'o before her Oscars speech.
5. Joel McHale had an excellent, TV geeky metaphor for the show's fourth season.
Raise your eyebrow like Rod Serling, because McHale articulated the pervading gestalt of the Harmon-free fourth season with one simple metaphor. "The fourth season was like that episode of 'The Twilight Zone' where that guy realized he was on a zoo on another planet," he said. "That was not the show."
6. Dan Harmon was pleasantly shocked by guest actor Mitch Hurwitz's humor and un-scary physical appearance.
"Arrested Development" creator Mitch Hurwitz's guest role a few weeks ago as Koogler in the "Apps Development and Condiments" episode was a season highpoint. Harmon met Koogler while filming his own cameo on the Netflix season of "Arrested," and he was impressed with Hurwitz's acting talents after seeing him guest-star on "Workaholics." Still, he says, he's shocked that Hurwitz wasn't a reclusive, er, "writerly" type. "I expected him to have a beard full of squirrels," he said, calling Hurwitz a "gifted comic actor" and adding, "He's a truly affable, playful Jerry Mathers imp."
7. You can thank Joel McHale for bringing together the cast and saving Danny Pudi's sanity during the show's rougher times.
Danny Pudi expressed that he may have been hit hardest by the show's dicey days. "I was literally crying in my trailer trying to learn lines most of the year. That's true. It was a hard year," he said. "The thing about this show -- We never expected a fourth season to come. We really never expected the fifth season to come. But we still had to do it, and we still had the fans with us the whole time. If it weren't for Joel's quarterly deliveries of beer to my house, I don't know how we could do this... It's true that Joel made us all feel like we could do this." Let this be a lesson: Alcohol always saves you.
8. You won't be seeing Ray Liotta on "Community," but you almost did -- as Buzz Hickey.
Ray Liotta was in talks for the part that ended up becoming Professor Buzz Hickey (played by Jonathan Banks). In talking to Liotta, Harmon developed the idea of a gruff former cop, which is a pretty familiar Liotta type. Sort of brings new meaning to the idea of a "'Goodfellas' episode," no?
9. Dan Harmon has -- at least according to Yvette Nicole Brown -- "serious flow."
Dean Pelton's incredible rap a few episodes back that started off nerd-ily enough, gained speed, and turned into a hard-hitting NWA style throwdown featuring the line "Rap artists lootin' and the labels are dilutin' / And Barack Obama is SCARED of me" may have been delivered through Jim Rash's ingenious vocal stylings, but it's really Dan Harmon who has the rap cred on set. Yvette Nicole Brown explained that Harmon helped Rash by rapping those verses himself first. Then, in the most divine PaleyFest moment of the season, Rash, Jacobs, Brown, and Harmon recreated the rap for the audience with only a couple of lyrical gaffes.
10. Danny Pudi and Gillian Jacobs have very good advice for their own characters.
An audience member asked the cast a provocative question: What advice would each actor would give their character if they met in real life? The best answers belonged to Pudi and Jacobs. "Wear some looser pants. I want you to have children," Pudi said to Abed. Jacobs' tone to Britta was similarly sardonic. "You're a vegan and you're wearing leather coats."
11. There's not much improv on the show, but the best impromptu moment is still Donald Glover's season one quip.
One of the biggest improvised laughs in the show's history has since become a pretty big meme and you can thank Donald Glover for the magnificent ad-lib. "I remember at the end of the scene where [Jeff] tries to convince Troy that Annie is hot," Harmon said. "And he improvised the line, 'I have the weirdest boner.'"