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PaleyFest 2011: Details From NBC's Community Panel

Everybody now: Pop Pop!

Last night marked Community's second time at the annual Paley Festival and the evening, moderated by The A.V. Club's Todd VanDerWerff, was a celebration of the off-kilter NBC comedy and its cast and crew, which came out in full force (save Donald Glover and Alison Brie, who were shooting) for this hysterical and fun session.

The evening began with a screening of this week's upcoming episode of Community ("Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy"), written by Andy Bobrow, which featured guest star Enver Gjojak (Dollhouse) as Luka, a friend of Troy and Abed's with whom Britta becomes romantically involved. I don't want to give too much away about the episode--it was hysterical, after all--but I will say that it involves war crimes, kidnapping charges, Chang smoking a pipe, and Kickpuncher III, as well as Gillian Jacobs' Britta creating chaos in her wake and the pregnancy/paternity subplot swirling around Yvette Nicole Brown's Shirley.

In true meta fashion, creator Dan Harmon introduced an introduction to his introduction, before seguing into the screening of "Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy." If you've never watched an episode of Community alongside hundreds of other fans, you truly are missing out as the audience roared with laughter and seemed to love this remarkable series as much as I do.

So what did the cast and crew have to say about what's coming up on Community? Let's take a look.

Harmon was loath to spill too many details about what's ahead this season on Community, which--for shame!--still hasn't been renewed for a third season. Still, producers said that they are hopeful for a renewal. As for what's coming up...

"We are going to tell some stories," he said, in true Dan Harmon style. "Shirley's got to drop the papoose."

Meanwhile, we'll see the one-hour season finale "sequel" to "Modern Warfare" that features Lost's Josh Holloway. Executive producer/director Joe Russo said that the installment was a "Sergio Leone homage" and "almost killed" them making it. Harmon and Co. are keeping details about the episode firmly under wraps, however. "When we found out that Sawyer was coming to Greendale, it was like Christmas morning," said Brown, admitting that the entire cast are huge Lost fans.

But Harmon did tease another upcoming episode, a "memory episode," which will be Community's version of a clip show, with 75 scenes, all new, from "episodes that don't exist," according to Harmon. It's their take on the traditional sitcom clip show, but with a twist that only Community could pull off. (This sounded AMAZING.) Brown said that the episode is "rich with things in the background of each scene" and said to pay attention to the details in the scenes.

For his part, Joel McHale joked, "We're doing a parody of Small Wonder and Bridge on the River Kwai," when posed with the same question. But Danny Pudi did spill one detail, as he said that Abed will be doing a critical analysis of Who's the Boss? in an effort to determine once and for all just who the boss really was.

Additionally, he writers will address the issue of whether Pierce is in fact redeemable after his behavior in such episodes as "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" and "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking." (If you missed my take on Pierce and Chevy Chase from a few weeks ago, you can read "The Problem with Pierce" here.)

Chase said Pierce just wants to be accepted by the group and that he has the "mind of a 13 year old." "It's so close to who I am," said Chase, who said that he's just playing himself as Pierce. Semi-seriously, I think. "I get one fan letter a week now," he said. "Before I was on the show, I got 2000-3000." (But lest you think that Chase sat back demurely during this panel, that wasn't quite the truth: a gag involving his mic cord occurred within the first few seconds of the panel and a way-too-loud nose blow occurred when Danny Pudi answered a question. When the panel all praised Chase's performance in the Dungeons & Dragons episode, Chase answered, "What's D&D?")

Gillian Jacobs said that a lot of the physical humor comes from her awkwardness as she doesn't have a lot of grace. "It's been really great to go from the girl on the pedestal to 'you're the worst, please leave'!"

About the now famous Christmas claymation episode, Danny Pudi said that he wasn't concerned about all of the depressing stuff in that episode because "it was in clay." But as Pudi began to talk about how surreal it is to be sitting up on stage at a Community panel or have a special airing on Christmas Eve (the claymation episode was repeated that evening), Chase interrupted his answer with the aforementioned nose-blow. (Le sigh.)

Later, Pudi was asked about the "Brown Jamie Lee Curis" line and said, "It's so true! I never realized it!"

Joel McHale said that we will eventually meet Jeff's father, and joked that he's a centaur. But McHale also said that he hopes that Jeff's issues will be explored in Season Three of Community, which led the audience to applaud and cheer. "Much like erosion, it takes a long time for people to change," said McHale of Jeff Winger.

Jim Rash told a hilarious story about the costume fitting for Dean Pelton's recent Uncle Sam costume (or, sorry, his sister's Uncle Sam costume) and said thathe wants to see Dean Pelton's "dirty, dirty" apartment and joked his whole place would be "black-light." Harmon spun the audience a hypothetical plotline in which we'd see the study group at the start of the episode--with Shirley considering eating something else, Troy thinking of growing a mustache--and have the scene interrupted by the Dean and then follow him out and have the whole episode focus on Dean Pelton, only to wrap up at the end with Troy's mustache, etc. (Let's just say that the crowd loved the idea.)

And we will see Dean Pelton's midriff, apparently, as well as more "shirtless Jeff Winger."

There was a huge round of applause for the Community staff writers sitting in the audience as the house lights came up and the writers stood up. Harmon joked that he did a weird "Howard Hughes thing" during the first season, writing alone in his house, but this season he really used his writing staff and understood what can come from team writing and those writer all-nighters. "This season, if you like it more it's because of the writing staff," said Harmon.

Asked for their favorite current television comedies, Ken Jeong said that he loves Parks and Recreation (go, Pawnee!); Jacobs, Brown, and Pudi all love 30 Rock, and Harmon said that the show that makes him laugh the most right now is HBO's The Ricky Gervais Show.

Harmon said Jeff's recent slam of Barenaked Ladies was not a slam against The Big Bang Theory. He honestly had no idea they sang the theme song to the CBS sitcom that airs in their timeslot.

(To the audience member whose question was really just an opportunity to issue Magnitude's "Pop Pop!" I'd like to tip my hat at you.)

In the "That's nice" category, Yvette Nicole Brown's answer about the role Twitter and social networking among the cast and crew of Community. As the others cracked jokes about Brown retweeting Reverend Run quotes Brown said, "This is gonna sound corny but they're called followers and I feel like we should lead them somewhere positive."

Wait, a heartfelt moment among the laughter? It wouldn't be Community without it. Thanks to the cast and crew of Community for a fantastic evening.

Community airs Thursday evenings at 8 pm ET/PT on NBC.


Louise said…

I love your reviews.. and I was wondering If you have seen the legend of the seeker?

Would love to see a review on the series anyway..

Take care


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