“Community” is returning for its sixth season on March 17, 2015 with its first two episodes available on that date. New episodes will be released via Yahoo Screen every Tuesday after that until the 13-episode season is complete.
Featuring new cast members Paget Brewster and Keith David, “Community” made the move to Yahoo after being canceled by NBC and a brief but heated deliberation with Hulu, who also considered picking up the Sony series. Chris McKenna, Dan Harmon, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs and Ken Jeung kicked off Yahoo’s TCA presentation by speaking to critics about what’s to come in Season 6, as well as what happened to get them to this point.
Starting with the promotional video you can see below (scroll to the bottom), Ian Moffitt, Head of Yahoo Originals, then took the stage to make the formal announcement regarding the scheduling and introduce a clip from the premiere episode. Though it’s so far unavailable online, the clip did introduce us to the first glimpse of Brewster and David, with the biggest laugh coming from the gang complaining about Greendale’s lack of reliable wifi.
“We have oxygen. We need wifi,” quipped Keith David’s Elroy, to the delight of the crowd.
Other than a slightly darker visual palette — which very well could have been a projector setting or unfinished footage — everything seemed like a classic “Community” episode, with the blocking, pacing and setting remaining just as it was. Here’s what the cast and producers had to say about the upcoming sixth season of “Community.”
“The show is still the show,” Harmon said, before discussing how he went about writing the new season. “I’m definitely not writing this as if it’s the end. That’s not happening. […] Why am I not doing that? Do I think this is my final season or the show’s final season? […] I just stick with a very sixth grade mentality, and that is [that] this show has lived by the sword of a very intimate relationship with fans and needs to die only by that sword. So only when people stop watching will I ever stop wanting to make the product.”
“There’s a lot more open air, harkening back to Season 1,” Harmon said. “It feels more cinematic. Nothing really changes, you just kind of transplant. [But] the corset loosens a little bit [being off network TV]. There’s just a tiny bit more maybe British-ness to it. It’s a little free-er.”
“And more fart jokes,” added Jacobs.
How to Integrate New Characters to a Classic “Community”
“I wanted to be careful about bringing in too many new characters to the show,” Harmon said. “If one has an eyepatch and every third word he says rhymes, and then you’d feel the plasticity of the new characters. So the tough thing is, you’ve got 13 episodes, you’re very late in the game, how do you — without forcing it down the audience — make these characters feel like classic ‘Community’ characters? The answer was you put characters with a lot of potential in a petri dish with [the existing cast] and let them grow […] And, as with the John Hughes films that inspired the ‘Community’ pilot, you let the actors and the writers discover very specific details about the characters that as a whole start to form a picture.”
New Characters – Paget Brewster
Joining the cast as Francesca “Frankie” Dart is Paget Brewster a veteran of “Criminal Minds” and NBC-guest star on “Friends” way back in Season 4 (as Kathy, Joey’s girlfriend who Chandler falls for). Harmon described her character as “something of a machine.”
“She’s a very nuanced character,” he continued. “Paget’s character on the surface — her two-dimensional, first act of a John Hughes movie role — is that she’s a problem-solver. She doesn’t like things that don’t make sense. She doesn’t abide nonsense. She’s here to help… the likes of which Greendale has never seen.”
Harmon went on to say Frankie has been hired to help fix Greendale’s many mounting problems, and she was assigned the responsibility of fixing the wifi in the aforementioned first look clip from the pilot.
New Characters – Keith David
David plays Elroy Patashnik, a cranky old newcomer to Greendale in the vein of Chevy Chase’s Pierce Hawthorne.
“Keith’s character on the surface is a computer programmer,” Harmon said. “He wasted a lot of time on a virtual reality technology in the ’90s and he sacrificed a lot of her personal life for the sake of his career. Now, he’s starting over.”
“He hasn’t bought new clothes since 1999,” McHale added.
“I’d say ’89,” Jacobs said.
“He looks spectacular,” McHale said.
Harmon didn’t cross anyone off the list, but he did say John Oliver and Jonathan Banks’ new shows (“Late Night Tonight With John Oliver” and “Better Call Saul,” respectively) would make it difficult for them to appear on “Community” again. He did say
One of the biggest questions surrounding “Community’s” move from the strictly-regulated world of broadcast television to the largely ratings-free world of online streaming was whether or not there would be a new emphasis on coarse language or even nudity in Season 6. The answer is largely “no.” Harmon cited the need for tonal consistency with past seasons, clearly wanting to keep fans — a key aspect to the show’s success at Yahoo — as happy as possible during the transition.
Still, Harmon did give one tantalizing tease for what’s to come: “I think there’s stuff we can do that we couldn’t have done on TV.”
Another lifted limitation comes in the timing of episodes, namely if each entry on Yahoo needs to be 22 minutes (as it was on NBC) or if Harmon has been given leeway with his edits.
“We haven’t gotten to the space where we need to deliver a final edit yet,” Harmon said. “I have the same question right now because, as always, I’m looking at cuts that are 26 minutes. Usually then my job is that I absolutely have to get it down to 22, so what am I going to lose? Now the big question is, ‘Do I have to or not?’ I haven’t had that conversation yet with the powers that be. I do know that internationally, for potential syndication purposes, we still have to hold to that 20-minute unit of measure. So there’s always going to be a version of the episodes that fit that paradigm. But I don’t know if maybe the things that go on Yahoo, maybe they could be a little chubby — like me.”
“I think it would be great if they were 26 minutes long,” McHale said. “Just charge more for those extra four minutes.”
Ads, Subscriptions, and Shooting in a Honda
How “Community” will be streamed online is a big question, part of which we’ve already covered. Part of that question is how the show will be watched by fans — literally. Will there be ads? How will they be integrated into the show? Will there be an option to pay for an ad-free experience?
It turns out Harmon isn’t entirely sure. “The solution that we’ve taken is the entire sixth season takes place in a Honda,” he joked. “I know it’s not subscriber-based. You will go to the Yahoo app, and […] it’s free. It will be advertisement-supported. Whether or not that means there will be classic commercial slots placed within the playtime, I’m a little out of my jurisdiction saying that, but I know that I’m writing it as if there will be because, as a writer, three-act structures are what work for me.”
Less “concepts,” more “Community”
One of the more popular aspects of “Community” — or at least one of the major creative elements to set it apart from other sitcoms — is its use of what executive producer Chris McKenna called “concepts.” He’s talking about the show’s many homages to pop culture, sometimes within the story (the Sergio Leone-inspired paintball episodes) and other times framing it (Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas).
Don’t expect as many of those in Season 6. Though Harmon mentioned one idea they keep “punting down the road” out of fear for proper execution, the new Yahoo season of “Community” will be largely without concepts. “This year we really seem to have held the line on [the writers’ desire to focus on characters more than concepts],” McKenna said. “It really is about exploring the characters and getting to know their backstories and outside worlds, getting outside, and we haven’t gone down the rabbit hole of, ‘How are we doing ‘Highlander?'”
“I do retain hope of doing something a little more extravagant if I can manage to manage the budget so we can do something cool in the last few episodes,” Harmon said. “But so far no. We just have a bunch of ‘Community’-themed episodes.”
Season 7 with a Whole New Cast?
Though Harmon’s mentality regarding whether or not this was the last season for “Community” was well-covered, the creator also briefly touched on an interesting idea. Brought on by the rapid cast turnover these past few seasons, Harmon was asked what “Community” would be like with a whole new cast.
“Anyone who wants to leave the show should leave, and I actually believe there’s a version of this show that could work as a platform, like a place where characters go through struggles.”
It’s a unique idea, as anthology shows are all the rage, but “Community” without Abed simply couldn’t be the same show. After all, he’s the one who ties this group together, however loosely.