PaleyFest, an annual TV fan festival in Los Angeles, brings show runners and cast members together before a live audience—this year at the Dolby Theater, home of the Oscars—to talk about shows, and sometimes, spoilers.
NBC’s comedy Community has always been the little-show-that-could. Despite its low ratings, it has defied the odds and is now finishing up its fifth season. Last Wednesday night at PaleyFest, Community creator Dan Harmon—along with actors Gillian Jacobs (Britta Perry), Danny Pudi (Abed), Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley), Jim Rash (Jim Pelton), Joel McHale (Jeff Winger) and executive producer Chris McKenna—were on hand to discuss the show’s recent ups and downs and its diehard fanbase (which is now not only calling for a season six, but a Community movie as well).
The power of the cult of Community was evident in the event itself, as the evening marked an unprecedented fifth session for the show at PaleyFest (which never happens). In return, those in the audience were treated to a few special screenings, including the first part of the two-episode season finale and a preview clip and a PSA of sorts from the upcoming animated G.I. Joe-themed episode. (If the preview clips were any indication, the G.I. Joe installment is going to be awesomely epic.)
While Harmon and the cast were letting the one-liners fly throughout the evening, keeping things light for the most part, they did also manage to answer some serious questions about behind-the-scenes changes.
Here are 10 of our favorite moments/lines/insights from the Community panel:
1. On a season six…
While nothing’s been decided about the fate of the perpetually on-the-bubble Community, Jacobs enthusiastically told the crowd, “It’s happening, come on!” She then did a a few hand “gesticulations” in honor of a cast member not in attendance: “I’ll do the Ken [Jeong] since he’s not here.”
2. What song did the cast bust out on stage?
Dean Pelton’s “Peanut Payday Rap” (or at least the lyrics they could remember). Rash’s mad skills were much discussed throughout the night. He talked to us in the press line about that scene: “I think I was most fearful of rapping this year. It was literally the very first scene [at rehearsal], and we just started reading it. I hadn’t seen it, and so I tried to get the best run at it at the table. It was terrifying because I wanted to do it really well.” By all accounts, he succeeded. The proof is here.
3. On “shipping” Jeff and Britta…
Said Harmon: “If Community’s been adamant about anything, it’s relationships mean nothing.”
4. Who is Harvey Hollywood?
Dan Harmon’s channeled a studio suit several times during the panel. “Harvey Hollywood” was lewd and crude, riffing on topics from TV to blogging and the Internet and more, with gems like: “I want a monster and tits in every episode.” (Maybe Harvey should be a recurring character if season six gets picked up?)
5. What’s Ray Liotta got to do with Community?
Harmon revealed that they originally had Ray Liotta in mind for the character of Professor Buzz Hickey (played by Jonathan Banks of Breaking Bad). That’s where the idea of an “ex-cop with a nervous energy” began.
6. On a certain video Yvette Nicole Brown has on her phone…
Brown said that Harmon “has a nice flow,” and she has a video of him rapping on her phone. The fans in the audience asked her to put it out on Twitter, and she agreed. Speaking of Twitter, Brown talked about getting into a Twitter fight with someone recently that turned into a “heated exchange.” (He’s now blocked.) She started lecturing the audience on Twitter etiquette. “I feel it’s a teachable moment,” she said. “Don’t be rude. You need to be better to each other….”
7. On Dan Harmon’s return and Donald Glover’s departure…
Moderator and TV Guide’s Los Angeles Bureau Chief, Michael Schneider, asked Harmon and McKenna to talk about coming back to the show for season five. (Harmon was fired after season three, and McKenna departed at the same time). It was a “comedy of errors” and miscommunication, said McKenna. “He was busy doing Rick and Morty, and I was busy having my pilot not picked up.” Thanks to intervention by McHale (who told the crowd, “I didn’t think it was worth continuing if [Harmon] wasn’t coming back.”)—the two returned for the current season, but only to have Glover leave.
“We looked at the Donald situation and met it head on,” said Harmon. “Sometimes people go away that you don’t want to go away.” He added that if there were a season six, maybe then “Donald will have tired of his ‘Donaldness’ and want to come back.”
8. On a choice to replace Troy on The Troy and Abed Show?
“We’d audition Annie [Alison Brie] for a little while,” Pudi said on the press line, comparing the process to the host search for Regis’s replacement on Live with Regis and Kelly. “But I know Yvette Nicole Brown would be amazing. She’d actually be really, really good. I don’t know if I’d audition her because she’d immediately get the job.” He thought about it for a second, and added, “I guess it would be a little bit of a battle.”
9. Jacob’s thoughts on a final episode…
We asked Jacobs a hypothetical question in the press line about what she thought the last episode of Community should focus on: “It would have to be the end of the world. It would have to be the apocalypse … high stakes.”
10. On a conceptual episode that Community hasn’t tackled yet….
We asked Brown on the red carpet what conceptual episode she’d like to see. “We haven’t done a romantic comedy, yet. I’d love the colors of the show to turn into pinks and yellows. And I want there to be rainbows, and I want it to look like While You Were Sleeping or When Harry Met Sally. I want it to be really colorful and girly.” Who would be the lead? “Shirley, of course,” she answered. And who would be her romantic partner? “Ryan Gosling. Dream big, America!”
Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based freelance pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.