The cast and producers of “Community” made their triumphant return to San Diego Comic-Con Thursday to celebrate the show’s unlikely resurrection on Yahoo Screen, and the transition online clearly hasn’t dampened the team’s enthusiasm for the tenacious series. TV Guide Magazine hosted the panel, which filled Ballroom 20 of the San Diego Convention Center with enthusiastic Greendale Human Beings.
“It’s season six of ‘Community’ — you’ll be watching it the way you always watched it, only now, it’s legal!” creator Dan Harmon quipped of the show’s loyal fanbase, which always seemed to find ways to watch the perennial bubble show even when it was bounced on and off NBC’s lineup.
Harmon admitted that he was initially of two minds about whether to continue the series, and that three hours before the cast’s options expired, he got a call from Sony TV to ask him whether he wanted to pursue a second life for the cult comedy with Yahoo. “Yahoo called me and they seemed really smart and cool,” he said. “I thought… ‘I cannot be the one to not do this.'”
In deference to their new bosses, Harmon also offered an extended plug for Yahoo Screen on the panel, praising its multi-platform availability. “You’re telling me I can get this on my desktop? With a click of my finger?” Jim Rash gasped, getting into the spirit of the public shilling.
Star Joel McHale said he had “no doubt we would be back… Much like a Japanese general in World War II, the only option was victory or suicide.” He joked that he would’ve done a “regional theater version of the show” because he loves it so much, and was enthusiastic about the opportunity to bring the series online. “You’re young people, you watch it the way most people do, which is on tiny little screens. And now we’re on one, so f— you, network television!”
Co-star Gillian Jacobs admitted that she “shed a tear the day that we were canceled — I cried in my car,” before recalling that she heard the news of the show’s resurrection through Twitter.
“It’s been a blessing each season to go to the next one,” Rash agreed. “To go to six and see that hashtag [#sixseasonsandamovie] potentially come to fruition is very exciting.”
When asked whether the show would be different because of its new platform, Harmon offered, “My philosophy is, [let's] attempt to make the same show and let the lack of boundaries make themselves felt instead of saying, ‘we can make the episode 49 minutes long and say the F word the entire time.'” The creator said he doesn’t want to “take the wheels off” so that the show is unrecognizable from what fans fell in love with in the first place.
Harmon has yet to start writing the new season, so admitted he doesn’t “have any big, high-falutin’ plans.” He does know that the focus of “Community” will never be on a romantic pairing — something that the series leaned into during the Harmonless (and critically derided) fourth season. “It’s not necessarily just a workplace comedy… [but] centering the show on a relationship, to me, would be the beginning of the end.”
Last season featured Jonathan Banks, who will likely not return thanks to his commitment to AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” but Harmon says he will soon sit down with the writers to discuss season six’s cast.
But who, if anyone, might occupy Pierce’s (Chevy Chase) seat in the study room now that Banks has exited? “It’s Benedict Cumberbatch,” McHale joked, drawing a round of enthusiastic screams from the crowd in Ballroom 20.
“It’s contractually possible for John Oliver to come back,” Harmon said of the British thesp’s recurring role as Professor Ian Duncan. “We’re not gonna tear him away from his amazing HBO show, but…”
“He does it once a week!” McHale pointed out.
Donald Glover exited the show last season with an emotional farewell episode (before being captured by pirates along with LeVar Burton offscreen), but Harmon hasn’t ruled out a return for Troy in season six — or beyond. “Troy’s out there somewhere — he may be in peril… that’s what movies are made of,” he teased, adding that instead of “The Search for Spock,” they might launch “The Search for Troy.”
Six seasons and a movie, indeed.