Perhaps you heard? Community fired some guy and then re-hired some guy. For many fans, this was the greatest news possible for the upcoming fifth season because the "guy" in question is Dan Harmon, the difficult-to-work-with-but-so-great-to-have-working creator of one of network TV's most innovative comedies.
Harmon made his first major public appearance as reinstated Commmunity showrunner at Comic-Con on Sunday, on the stage of the cavernous Hall H. How Harmon would "behave" was a big question coming into the panel. Would he be the cranky Harmon who's been the subject of many an opinion? Or would his time off have turned him into a kinder, gentler man? What would he say about Season 4? And what are his plans for Season 5? I attended the panel and figured I'd live-blog it, too. So let's stop asking questions, get streets ahead, and start getting some answers!
– And we're starting, only 15 minutes late!
– The opening video shows news reports about discontinued junk food being re-released (Coke, the McRib, Twinkies), and a man on the moon planting the E. Pluribus Anus flag. Then highlights, highlights, highlights!!! And then a love letter to fans who helped get the show renewed over and over again. It's a variant of a video we saw before. This one has Twitter testimonials done in the style of Star Wars.
– A mystery man comes out in a cardboard Iron Man outfit while someone off stage makes sweet sound effects. Danny Pudi and Jim Rash pull off his helmet and yep, you guessed it, it's Dan Harmon. He's shouting at us! What's he saying! Something about a Phoenix? Rising from ashes? I'm kind of scared but everyone else seems to be eating it up.
– A video from Dan's "father" is Joel McHale in black-and-white, talking about Community getting renewed. He introduces the moderator, the ever-present geek-culture Starbucks of a person, Chris Hardwick. More like Chris Hard-worker, right?
– The cast and producers come out: Jim Rash, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Ken Jeong, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs (who looks adorable), Chris McKenna, and Dan Harmon. Loud cheers to all, crescendo-ing with Danny Pudi, I'd say. No Joel McHale, no Donald Glover.
– Dan is back, what does that mean for Community? "New levels of anxiety that will trickle into the show, I'm sure," he says. He talks about the high levels of pressure, and he doesn't consider Season 5 to be the last 13 episodes of the series. He says they're the most important 13 episodes in the history of the show, and that it's time to get back to the emotional basics.
– Season 5 will have an animated episode, but Harmon says he doesn't want to make too many plans. He says Season 3 was over-planned. He wants to get back to the organic feel of Seasons 1 and 2.
– "I've never felt secure for one single second on this show," Jacobs says. But then she's all like, whatever, this is how I live. This is how I will live.
– Pudi says Abed isn't alone anymore, the journey from Seasons 1 to 5 has been rad. He says they're truly surprised they're still doing this.
– Hardwick says Community is the nerdiest show on television, and the crowd WHOOOOOS! What a bunch of nerds. (I whooooooo'd too.)
– Jeong is still a licensed doctor. "So you can still write 'scrips?" Hardwick asks. "Hey, these aren't autographs," Jeong jokes. He also says that he was in Vancouver to promote The Hangover 3 and people were asking for Chang more than his Hangover character.
– Brie said some stuff, but I was too busy taking pictures of her. I'm sure it was in English. Something about Annie maturing and not maturing? I dunno. What? Sorry. Alison Brie is like Medusa except instead of turning to stone you turn to jelly.
– Brown thanked the fans sincerely, for camping, for waiting in line, for showing love. She truly is an awesome woman. She said she saw a Shirley cosplay and was amazed.
– Rash, sorry, Academy-Award winner Jim Rash, talked about his famous moment mocking Angelina Jolie at the Oscars. He was told that Jolie and some guy named Brad Pitt thought it was "amusing." Then he talked about trying to channel Harmon when he wrote the Season 4 episode "Basic Human Anatomy."
– There are no full scripts finished for Season 5, just outlines for several scripts. So... no footage, obviously.
– Harmon compared the show to a rescue dog that pees every time there's lightning, and he just wants to give it a Milk Bone and let it know he's not going to hurt it. Yep, that sounds about right. So the first few episodes are going to be all about the characters and making them seem like they live near each other. "Get ready for grounded story work!" he exclaimed, joking and realizing how boring that sounds to an audience.
– Annie was a ripoff of Tracy Flick in Election. Britta is an amalgam of Harmon's ex-girlfriends, but she shares Harmon's politics, the girl who rants about stuff but isn't quite up-to-date on the stuff she talks about. Abed represents several different parts of Harmon. "Ken is the guy from the Hangover." Yvette is the part of Harmon who is outspoken and idealistic, and in Season 5, Harmon wants to see it get her into trouble. Jim (the Dean) is the guy who's made up of everything you think should be a secret, your hidden lives come to fruition. Harmon ends this riff with "What am I saying?"
– Now we're telling Dan Harmon we love him because he essentially asked for it.
– Community is going into to syndication this fall. Starting September 16, the show will air on one of your local stations five days a week. Starting September 20 it'll also air from 9pm to 11pm on Fridays on Comedy Central.
– The fan giveaway was a non-disposable red Solo cup, you know, like the ones you used to get drunk from. Yesterday. By the way, please cut back on your drinking. You're embarrassing yourself.
– Jacobs made a crack about the Community gag reel, saying it was from her film Choke. You know, like choking and gagging. And it fell kinda flat but adorable just like you'd expect a Jacobs joke to do.
– The gag reel was set to Brie's freestyle werewolf rap. Lots of people laughing. People blowing lines. You know. Gag reels.
– And just a reminder, Season 4 DVD will be out on August 4.
– FAN QUESTIONS! These might be weeeeeeeeeeeeeeird!
– First question: What was your favorite piece of fan art or fan video? Harmon likes the music tribute videos, Brown liked some nesting dolls.
– The second fan question comes from Dino Stomoopopolpolopolis (spell check?), who plays Starburns. He says first of all we can change the hashtag to #UnfuckSony? Then he asks what the writers smoke when they write the show. Then he promotes some of his stuff. And this might be going on a little long. But someone from the show asks if Starburns is coming back and he says he doesn't know. McKenna announces that Dino will be writing full-time on the show.
– "What's your favorite moment from the show?" Brown: Law & Order and the puppets. Rash: "Remedial Chaos Theory." Pudi: He liked being a vampire and approaching women as different versions of himself, and his conversations during "Critical Film Theory." Brie: Oh jeez, again, I missed what she said. She liked a deep conversation with other characters. [Ed. note because Jen was there too and Joel McHale wasn't around to distract her: Brie talked about the last scene of the Troy's birthday episode, can't remember what it was called at the moment, when Annie and Troy kind of bond as he's dropping her off at home, and how it really hit her that they were creating real emotion on a network comedy.] Jeong: Loved "Modern Warfare." Harmon asks what their favorite moments from Season 4 were... haha. Jacobs loved "Paradigms of Human Memory." Me too, Gillian! McKenna says he loves the Dungeons & Dragons episode. Me too, Chris!!! "There's definitely a spot on the whiteboard that says 'D&D2'," says Harmon.
– Dino texted Dan while the panel was still going on and asked him to correct some of the promotional shilling he'd rambled off earlier. Southwest corner, not Southeast corner.
– Harmon says the harder it gets behind the scenes of Community, the funnier the show gets.
– Harmon takes a moment to clarify his comments on Season 4, saying he didn't mean to hurt feelings and that it was part of his weird little potty-mouthed podcast. He says he makes the show to make up for "the despicable person [he is]." He also says, "I am a creepy jerk."
– A fan tells Hardwick he's her idol, and he's the most kickass moderator. Hardwick says, "Well this just got interesting."
– The conversation shifts to the production team. Boring! Just kidding. Harmon notes that the hallways of Greendale are covered in bulletins that have all sorts of details on them. Pudi says the pillow forts have been exceptional.
– A fan talks about meeting Jacobs at a Wilco concert. And now things are getting a litttttle creepy. Someone run this guy's plates? Can we get extra security for her? But then he segues into a question about fan interaction and getting recognized. Pudi talks about the time a fan met him while he was peeing at a urinal, and the fan tried to shake hands with him. And then oh boy, that dude's friends are actually here at the panel.
– A Greendale Human Being is roaming around the audience.
– What do you guys want to see your characters do this season? Something different? Rash wants to see the Dean get fascinated with something new to unravel some of his demons. Brown wants to meet Shirley's sister, who she apparently doesn't have a good relationship with. She knows her character pretty damn well! Brie wants to see Annie be empowered in some way and find some ambition. Jeong wants to do whatever Harmon wants him to do. Pudi is—there's a nose-picking contest going on between Brie and Jeon I think? Or maybe it's flirting? Oh they're licking their fingers. Annnnnd Brie is sucking on her finger and looking into Jeong's eyes, and now she's sticking her finger in Jeong's mouth, and now she's giving Pudi a Wet Willie. Wow. And all along, Pudi is ad-libbing what he wants Abed to do, but who knows what he's saying?
– McHale could NOT make it here but he really wanted to. He's shooting a movie, and his work could not be rescheduled. Brie shouts out to Glover, but no reason is given for his absence.
– And it's over. Enjoyable, but we didn't get many new details about Season 5. Doesn't matter that much, though, because this cast is incredible and they know how to work WITH a crowd instead of just how to work a crowd. I give the panel a B-plus.