'Community': Panel Highlights from PaleyFest
'Community': Panel Highlights from PaleyFest
Jenn Lee
Jenn Lee
Staff Writer, BuddyTV
The Greendale gang joined Community producers and creator Dan Harmon last Saturday for the annual PaleyFest event in L.A. Before the panel, there was a screening of next week's new episode (the show's return after its tragic mid-winter break) and then the entertaining bunch got to talking about everything from a possible movie concept to "the Chang tongue." Here are some of the interesting highlights from the talk.

Operating in a Vacuum
While everyone on the panel acknowledged it was "magical" to be back, they had filmed the remaining 10 episodes of this season when the official status of Community was still unknown. Harmon says they had been "so addicted to the feedback loop" from their legion fans, a "love affair" that had begun in the series' first season, that it was weird filming the remainder of season 3 in a vacuum. He doesn't think this made these episodes any better or worse--just "different" (he also joked he had started "drinking more"). The other producers agreed it gave them an ability to focus on scripts more, in addition to more time in the editing room. Joel McHale, who plays the group's begrudging leader Jeff, affectionately likened the experience to a space shuttle first entering the atmosphere--"there's that radio silence, but you still know they're there."

The Winger Influence

Speaking of Jeff Winger, the issue of his questionable impact on the study group was addressed. According to Harmon, when Jeff said "I love you" to the group on Valentine's day of the second season, he spent the second half of that season paying the price and finding himself repeatedly embarrassed by his relatively needy cohorts. In this third season, the group dynamic has changed as the reason for that core bond is brought into question (i.e. why are they actually friends?). The best example of Jeff's power on the group may be in "Remedial Chaos Theory," when it is only once Jeff leaves to get the pizza does the rest of the group seem happy and harmonious. McHale notes that while they may be happier without him, "they don't mature as much," which may be a valid point. Meanwhile, it's acknowledged that if the Dean (played by Jim Rash) or Chang (Ken Jeong) ever managed to break into the group, clothes would be "eliminated altogether" and "nothing but lunacy" ensue.

The Real Truth about Abed
While digging deeper into the show's characters, it was asked if Danny Pudi felt it was "a sad thing" to play his much-loved character Abed, who is often simultaneously the group's heart and also its outsider. In an upcoming episode, Abed is attempting normalcy while dancing with a girl, when Troy says something to turn him back into "Abed," and the girl walks away. Pudi says it was actually "fun to explore what's normal for Abed." He believes Abed is "very emotional," but that the incredibly strong "observer" side of his nature simply "supersedes" the emotions--when he interacts with people, he's so overwhelmed with trying to "frame the scene" in his mind, it's difficult to actually engage as most people would.

The Jokes in Between
Much like the comedy itself, the panel discussion went from these more thought-provoking character issues to sheer absurdity, such as Alison Brie making multiple references to "Yvette's boobs" and the cast demonstrating "the Chang tongue" - Jeong's dead expression of half-closed eyes and a flaccid tongue he uses when off camera to make the other actors break in their scenes, often successfully so (side note: tongues seem to be a common source of breaking on sets). There was also a running gag of the actors somehow under the impression that undressing (or the affectation of it) was expected of them when they each came on stage. But when Harmon was asked if the show were to actually achieve "six seasons and a movie" what the movie premise would be, he gave a surprisingly thought-out answer: at the end of the fifth season, the group embarks on some sort of grand trip and when they return in the sixth season with crazy clues (like someone wearing an eye patch), they agree to never speak of the trip again, and the movie would be the story of that adventure.

It is this kind of hilarious yet heartfelt tone that distinguishes Community, and the enjoyable panel confirmed what we all already know - we cannot wait to have these quirky and loveable characters back in our lives.

Also, in yet another effort to increase our excitement, NBC has announced the release of three short animated webisodes entitled "Abed's Master Key" (parts I, II and III, featuring the cast's voices) that will be online beginning tomorrow, with one being posted each day. Continue to check back here as well as we post more material leading up to the show's return next Thursday!

(Image courtesy of The Paley Center for Media)

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