6 Seasons and a Cake Cutting: 'Community' Celebrates 100 Episodes
It was a joke when the phrase first appeared in Season 1: "Six seasons and a movie" referred to a failed series (The Cape, for those keeping track of Community's weird obsessions) — something that Community seemed destined to be. But the intense relationship that the show created with its fans is virtually unmatched in television history. Community is now only the 11th half-hour, single-camera comedy to make it to 100 episodes.
It's an achievement so unexpected that even its creator, Dan Harmon, was robbed of his legendary hubris. Accustomed to telling his long-suffering cast and crew, "You'll thank me at the Emmys!" he attributed the show's longevity to their dedication and that of fans. "Your love of the show is charity." Yahoo TV spent a few minutes with the cast as cake and champagne were passed around to celebrate the landmark. The 100th episode is the third in the new season that will premiere in 2015 and the ceremony took place in the basement of CBS Studios where the cafeteria is now housed.
Related: 'Community' Enrolls Paget Brewster, Keith David for Season 6
What will Season 6 look like?
The show will be going back "to the look of the first season. We're going back to a more filmed look," says Jim Rash, who plays Dean Pelton and also co-directed the first two episodes of the season with collaborator (and Oscar co-winner) Nat Faxon. Not only that, but the show will be shooting on location for the first time since Season 1, returning to the campus of Los Angeles Community College. "It shows you that Yahoo cares about this show. NBC, I don't even know if they remembered we were on," says actor Joel McHale (Jeff Winger).
Will there be swearing now that it's off network TV?
There's a "longer leash. Not no leash, but significantly longer," says Alison Brie (Annie Edison) with a laugh. Boundaries are being pushed, but don't expect it to become a late-night, soft-core porn. "I don't think Dan wanted to suddenly bring in cussing; it wasn't the world we had been in," says Rash. One of the the benefits of that longer leash is the time constraints: No longer will they be forced to "have a Sophie's Choice," and cut great scenes just to turn in a 21-minute episode, according to McHale.
What can viewers expect from the new faces joining the cast?
Keith David (Platoon) plays retired scientist Elroy Patashnik and he's been blowing the current cast away. "Keith David did some takes just now — literally a half hour ago — that the rest of us… our jaws were dropping," says Ken Jeong (Señor Chang). "He's turned all of his lines into my favorite lines of the episode."
"We're all huge fans of him,” adds Brie, and whenever he's on camera, "We're all just looking and listening, hanging on every word." And though it's still to early to know the whole story, Danny Pudi (Abed Nadir) says, "There's an immediate connection with Abed and Keith David's character." Pudi also got to spend a lot of time with Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds), who plays Frankie Dart, an educational consultant: "Paget's been incredible. I got to work with her all week. It's a lot of really exploring her character and what does she mean to the study group and how is she specifically going to impact each one of us."
Brewster has already made a brief appearance on the show — as a completely different character — but that experience helped her fit in, says Brie. "She's been on the show before, so she's kind of familiar with what we do here. A lot of us have worked on The Thrilling Adventure Hour [a live podcast in the style of old-timey radio] with her, so it's very seamless. It's like inviting another friend over to come and play."
"We're so lucky to have them," says Gillian Jacobs (Britta Perry). "They're so funny and such good actors — we just look like hacks next to them."
Is there still such a thing as a "safe bet"?
McHale's experience with a creatively innovative show constantly on the brink of cancellation has colored his perspective on the business. In addition to Community and still hosting The Soup, he is also producing — E! has green lit his company's Comment Section to be hosted by comedian Michael Kosta.
"I think the safe bet is no longer the safe bet; the risky thing is the safe bet," he explains. "Instead of going, 'Oh crap, we're losing market share; we've got to put the broadest, safest thing on the air to get what's left. You have to say f--k it and go, 'We really are going to let the artist — or whoever wrote this — do their thing. And you're going to get an audience." And it seems like leaving the networks has given them that freedom. "They're huge fans of the show," says McHale about Yahoo, who gave the show new life. "Dan [Harmon] and Chris [McKenna, also an executive producer] are like, it's just kind of alarming just how happy they are about what's happening."
Which means the pressure's off. "We've been through so many ups and downs with the show. When it got the worst it could get it — which was the show getting canceled — it still has another life," marvels Brie. "So now I think we're all like, 'Well, I guess we're invincible!'"
Community returns on Yahoo in 2015.