While the fate of NBC’s “Community” has never been certain — the comedy is reaching the end of its fifth season with no official renewal yet — creator Dan Harmon and the cast expressed hope for the “six seasons and a movie” goal Wednesday at Paleyfest in LA’s Dolby Theatre.
“It’s happening,” yelled Gillian Jacobs, on a pending sixth season to screams from the crowd. “Come on!”
“I think we know there’s going to be a sixth season since you guys will probably show up with pitchforks and torches,” followed Joel McHale, referring to the show’s ever-loyal fan base.
Harmon has been open about the possibility of a movie, expressing huge interest to make one, and only recently started to speculate on what it might be like.
“Tonight’s the first night I’ve ever put this much thought into what it would be,” Harmon told Variety. “Following the vibe I’m getting from everyone, it seems like the paintball direction might be the way to go. The actors – they want to do something action-oriented.”
Harmon acknowledged the fact that the show has struggled in ratings, making the case for a movie difficult. It would have to, according to the showrunner, “have a backbone that has action or horror or sci-fi” to work as a standalone film.
“Our TV show’s not that popular,” he said. “If we make a movie, we really have to reinvent the wheel in terms of why someone would watch a movie. My ultimate goal would be for people to watch the movie and to say, ‘I’m one of the 249 billion Americans that have never heard of this show, but holy crap, this movie is crazy and really funny and awesome.'”
The show has certainly been through plenty of changes, including losing fan favorite Donald Glover, and losing Harmon for the fourth season took a toll on the show, McHale said at the panel. The actor made it his mission to get Harmon and writer/producer Chris McKenna back together.
“It just was not the show,” McHale said of season four. “[Harmon's] brain is where it all exists. I didn’t think it was worth continuing if he wasn’t back. So I kept calling Jim [Rash] and going, ‘Am I crazy to try to get Dan and Chris back?’”
McKenna explained that he assumed Harmon would be unable to return because of his Adult Swim show “Ricky and Morty,” and that Harmon assumed McKenna would be unable to come back as well, and McHale served as mediator.
“I was getting a lot of people and agents and Joel calling,” he said. “I texted Dan and I said we should talk. I said I could absolutely come back to the show, but wait – do we want to?”
“And I literally said, yes, well let’s absolutely do it as long as Donald Glover’s on board,” Harmon joked.
Glover left only a few episodes into the current season, which had a strong impact on Danny Pudi’s character Abed, as Abed and Glover’s Troy character were close. Pudi opened up about what it was like to lose Glover, for both himself and his character.
“It was nice to actually grieve as characters and as friends,” he said. “It was hard. It was definitely hard to lose Donald, but I think in many ways, most of the characters, especially Abed, had more growth this year than all the seasons.”
Harmon even dropped a bit of trivia that Ray Liotta was originally considered for the role that would go to “Breaking Bad’s” Jonathan Banks as the tough professor Hickey. There were plenty of laughs as the cast recited a rap that Jim Rash’s Dean Pelton character unveiled in a recent episode, and gave cast member Yvette Nicole Brown a hard time for partaking in Twitter feuds. (“They always tell me to stop responding, but I feel like it’s a teachable moment!” Brown explained.)
Fans who attended were treated to a teaser of a “Community” cartoon in the form of a spoof ’80s cartoon “G.I. Joe,” as well as the first episode of the two-part season closer, in which Glendale Community College is bought out by Subway and the gang fights to save the school.
The first part of the season five finale of “Community” will air April 10, with the second part airing April 17 on NBC.