PaleyFest was tailor-made for shows like Community, whose dedicated fanbase packed Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre for its Wednesday night panel. Hosted by TV Guide Magazine’s Michael Schneider, the cast Q&A session was bookended by a screening of the first episode of the two-part season five finale and, at the end of the evening, a short preview of next week’s much anticipated G.I. Joe-themed episode, both of which were huge wins for the crowd. This is Community‘s fifth straight PaleyFest appearance — it’s one of the few shows that has appeared at the event for every one of its seasons — and joining Schneider on stage were cast members Joel McHale (Jeff Winger), Jim Rash (Dean Pelton), Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley Bennett), Danny Pudi (Abed Nadir), and Gillian Jacobs (Britta Perry), along with returning showrunner (and creator) Dan Harmon and writer/producer Chris McKenna. For those of you who missed out, here are some of the highlights:
1. Will Britta and Jeff get back together?
There was some speculation that the one-time odd couple might end up together again, and the relevant parties responded:
Harmon: “If Community has been adamant about anything, it’s that relationships mean nothing. Emotions mean everything, and sometimes those emotions get exacerbated by other people, and you never know when you love somebody and when you don’t. So who knows?”
McHale: “All I’m trying to do as Jeff is try to be as good in bed as Troy was.”
Jacobs: “And I, as Britta, have let him know that he’ll never be able to do that.”
2. Joel McHale felt like a zoo animal, and Danny Pudi cried a lot
McHale was hailed as the glue that kept the gang together and the man who played an instrumental role in bringing Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna back to Community. When asked about it, he had this to say:
“Well, I really like money. I did a lot of standup to make up for the pain. After the fourth season, which was not this show — it was like that episode of Twilight Zone when the guy realized that he was in a zoo on another planet — it just was not the show. [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 and going, ‘Am I crazy, that we should try and get Dan and Chris back?’ And Jim was like, ‘I won a f***ing Oscar, a**hole.'”
Danny Pudi added:
“I was literally crying in my trailer trying to learn the lines most of the year. It was a hard year. We never expected a fourth season to come. We really never expected a fifth season to come, but we still had to do it, and we still had the fans the whole time. We still had to make the show. I think if it weren’t for Joel’s quarterly beer deliveries to my house, I don’t know how I would have done it. It’s very true that Joel made us all believe that we could do this.”
3. How is Abed handling Troy’s absence?
Pudi: “I think, well. I was so happy and thankful that Dan and Chris came back, just because no one speaks Abed’s voice like them. That was just something, for me, that was such a gift. It was awesome. And to have Donald for at least five episodes was the best, because we could at least really send him off in a good way. And we had five great episodes; we had a hot lava episode. And it was nice to actually grieve as characters and as friends on set as well. But 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 in all the seasons, because they had to take that. And I think Dan and the writers took it upon themselves to use it as a challenge.”
4. Dan Harmon: The Search for Spock
Harmon joked early on about Donald Glover cackling and flying off in a UFO after the season five contracts were signed. When later pressed to talk a bit more about Glover’s departure, he said:
“Sometimes people go away that you don’t want to go away, and it doesn’t mean that they’re bad people, and it doesn’t mean that your life worsens. It’s just, absolutely half of life is stuff that you don’t want happening, happening. So we knew that, on one hand, this was something we didn’t want to happen, and we knew on the other hand that there was going to be energy coming from it that we’d have to tell stories with. You’ll never be able to replace Troy; you’ll never be able to replace Donald. I think it’s just a perfect setup for our “Search for Spock” Community movie.”
5. Gillian Jacobs has the skills to pay the bills
Referencing this season’s ninth episode, Mike Schneider mentioned that Dean Pelton’s payday rap was one of his favorite moments, then asked if any of the cast members knew the lyrics by heart. Without missing a beat, Jacobs launched into the routine and proved she could throw down in a cipher.
6. “Six Seasons and a Movie”
Community‘s unofficial mantra inevitably came up in discussion, which gave us:
Jacobs: “It’s happening. Come on!” [cue Jacobs enthusiastically reenacting an inappropriate Ken Jeong moment from The Hangover]
McHale: “I think we know it’s going to be six seasons, since you guys would probably show up with pitchforks and torches.”
Harmon: “The movie, yeah. If we get a sixth season, they owe us a movie, right? …We’re in our fifth year of near-cancellation. The only thing weirder, at this point, than getting a sixth season would be not getting a sixth season. That would be really weird.”
7. Jonathan Banks was almost Ray Liotta
Harmon: “Although we didn’t want to replace anybody — we didn’t want a new Chevy, we didn’t want a new Donald — we did want a new Baby Boomer at that table. And Chris and I always felt that dramatic actors — if you get the right ones — they’re funnier than anything. I think without realizing we were doing it — it wasn’t so systematic — unconsciously, we wanted to go blue collar with this new Baby Boomer. We also knew it wasn’t going to be a female, because the only two guys we had lost were male, so if we had brought in, you know, Susan Sarandon, the show would have taken on a strange… ‘It’s Joel McHale and Danny Pudi and the Isle of Amazons!'”
McHale: “We could have gotten Susan Sarandon?”
Harmon: “Yeah, Susan Sarandon’s just waiting for our call. So we knew “dude,” we knew “Baby Boomer,” and now that the season’s over, and we don’t have to worry about offending him because he’s doing Better Call Saul, we can say a bit of trivia: I think we really, initially, when we were writing the character, we had Ray Liotta in mind, and we were talking to Ray Liotta on the phone.”
8. False alarm!
Towards the end of the program, as Yvette Nicole Brown was describing how she and Dan Harmon were both starstruck when Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan made his cameo in this season’s ninth episode, an usher quietly walked on stage and handed a card to Mike Schneider. As Gillian Jacobs gasped, “Uh-oh, uh-oh,” Joel McHale seized the opportunity to announce, “We’ve been cancelled!”
9. What advice would you give your character?
McHale: “Push the dean away sooner.”
Rash: “I was just going to say, I would tell mine, ‘Get closer.'”
Brown: “Shirley, stop being so judgmental. People aren’t that bad.”
Pudi: “Wear some looser pants. I want you to have children.”
Jacobs: “You’re a vegan and you’re wearing leather coats.”
Harmon: “Keep getting fired. Your house keeps getting bigger.”
10. The Abed-Shirley Romance
During the audience Q&A, one fan asked when Jeff and Shirley were finally going to make out. Yvette Nicole Brown pointed out that Jeff and Shirley had kissed in the bar mitzvah episode and ribbed the fan — “You miss that?” — before Danny Pudi piped up and suggested Abed and Shirley should hook up. And that’s when the magic happened. The excruciatingly awkward magic, as evidenced below.