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TCA: A ‘Community’ of sitcom performers, old and new

CommmmPOSTED BY JON WEISMAN

For those obsessed with all things “Arrested Development,” one of the next links in the chain is NBC’s upcoming fall sitcom “Community,” which has “Arrested” alums Joe and Anthony Russo aboard as executive producers and directors of the pilot.

As with the much beloved Fox comedy from earlier this decade, extra effort was placed in forming the cast of  “Community” alongside lead Joel McHale (“The Soup”) and supporting actor/Bizarro-world father figure Chevy Chase.

“The last time we did something like this was ‘Arrested Development,’ and this cast has a similar quality,” Joe Russo said at the “Community” panel at the Television Critics Assn. gathering today in Pasadena. “It’s tricky when you try to define the voice of each  the characters.”

“We walked this tightrope of complete adherence to lack of conviction,” show creator Dan Harmon (“The Sarah Silverman Show”) added with a laugh. “We’re either so arrogant or so humble that we never had a problem changing our minds. … and like a town looking for a missing child, hand in hand, systematically circled in on these people who were perfect.”

The ensemble includes a mix of relative knowns and unknowns such as Alison Brie (“Mad Men”), whose character’s mission Harmon describes as “because she didn’t get into Harvard, she’s going to turn Greendale (Community College) into Harvard,” and late addition Ken Jeong (“Knocked Up”). Jeong plays an Asian Spanish teacher with a chip on his shoulder because … he’s an Asian Spanish teacher.

As for Chase, he hasn’t exactly been a regular on the network comedy circuit since his hallowed “Saturday Night Live” days thirty-odd years ago, but the pilot script by Harmon turned him around.

“Films lately aren’t as good as most of the stuff on TV,” said Chase, who was very much his wisecracking self during the press session. “I never thought I would be involved in a situation comedy until I read the script.”

Harmon partly based his creation on his experience as a 32-year-old community college student, and says he isn’t looking to make fun of the setting.

“I compare it to Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree,” Harmon said. “Its ambition exceeds its grasp, and therefore it’s heroic.”

Harmon couldn’t say what happens if a series based in a locale where students typically come and go gets a long run, but McHale quipped a hint.

“We do get off the island,” McHale said.

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