School’s Out: Where Does the Cast of ‘Community’ Go From Here?
Last week NBC announced that Community was dead — for real this time. Community was actually done, canceled, kaput. The show almost died once; when series creator and mad genius Dan Harmon was forced out after the brilliant but low-rated third season (arguably the most outrageous and postmodern of Community‘s five seasons), the show stumbled around for a fourth, zombified season, offering lame rehashes of running jokes and dishing out lifeless episodes that left an acrid taste in the back of the mouth, like a microwaved gas station burrito.
Community had a strange run, accruing a fervid following but never managing to rise out of the ratings doldrums. An abysmal fourth season didn’t help. There was just one decent episode in the fourth season, and it is, of course, a high-concept episode: the gang is depicted as puppets (a cloying gimmick that feels forced, but “decent” is better than “awful,” yeah?) as part of another poorly-conceived Dean Pelton plan, though this one feels more like something John Oliver’s psychologist would scheme. The gang trips on some psychedelic berries with Jason Alexander, and they all reveal fairly tame secrets to one another. It remains the sole memorable moment from the Harmon-less season.
Harmon came back for season five (yay!) and things got back on track, though enough irreparable damage was already done; Chevy Chase’s character Pierce Hawthorne was killed-off (Chase and Harmon famously feuded on set, with Chase claiming he didn’t understand the show’s appeal) and Donald Glover left after just five episodes. Breaking Bad alum Jonathan Banks does a good job in the new role of Professor Buzz Hickey, who bears traits of Pierce’s grumpy old man and the ingenuity of Banks’s Breaking Bad character Mike.
The first post-Glover episodes feel a bit off, but they should: The gang openly discusses how much they miss Glover’s immensely likable Troy. But the season, and the show, ends with a string of great episodes, especially a vintage-looking G.I. Joe episode replete with Harmon’s postmodern touches and the emotional wallop he always manages to slip in when we think we have his number.
Community was too clever, too articulate, too quick and too erudite for most viewers. There’s no other explanation for its failure in the ratings, while The Big Bang Theory scored around a 5 in Nielsen ratings (Community’s season five finale scored a 1.0). NBC deserves a handshake for allowing the show to live as long as it did, as the network was losing a lot of money with each episode aired (whereas the similarly brilliant and esoteric Hannibal costs them very little, thus negating its minuscule ratings).
But there’s no reason to mourn Community. It gave us a few great seasons and myriad quirky characters to remember. Its main cast is extremely talented and should have no trouble finding work post-Community. (Well, except Chevy Chase, who is notoriously awful to work with.) Donald Glover has been concentrating on developing the loosely autobiographical FX show Atlanta and his music, performing under his alias Childish Gambino. Pitchfork may not like it, but he’s doing all right for himself.
Gillian Jacobs is the first of the remaining alum to land a gig: She’ll be playing a recurring character on Lena Dunham’s Girls, according to Variety. Jacobs’s energetic style and her Community character’s histrionic social advocacy should make for a fun new friend for Dunham’s existential 20-something characters.
Joel McHale who’s long-time gig at The Soup earned him a huge following before Community was even an idea, has been mentioned as a replacement for Craig Ferguson, who’s departing the Late Late Show next year, Now that McHale isn’t under contract for Community, he could very well be the prime candidate. His roast of Obama and his scorching of CNN at the White House Correspondents Dinner this year went over well, and his time at The Soup has proven that he has the chops to go off the script.
Yvette Nicole Brown, though arguably underused in the last two seasons of Community (her character was never as developed as, well, anyone else, even Chang, or Annie’s Boobs), has had an impressive run of gigs, appearing on Family Guy, Sleeper Cell, Boston Legal, Girlfriends, Chuck, Entourage, Rules of Engagement, and she was a successful talk show co-host for The Jeff Probst Show. And, according to The Hollywood Reporter, she recently signed with Innovative.
Alison Brie has been on Mad Men since 2007. She plays the wife of Pete Campbell. The less said about her character right now (we’re in the final season, remember) the better. According to Cinema Blend, Brie will co-star with Jason Sudeikis in Sleeping With Other People.
Jim Rash, who plays Dean Pelton, is a wonderfully talented writer, and when given the chance, he stole every scene of Community. The episode where the study group reflect on how the Dean goes to extreme measures to show favoritism for them (i.e. telling them there’s a fire in the building before he sounds the alarm or tells anyone else) is one of the most moving episodes of the show. Rash won an Oscar for his Descendants screenplay in 2012. He also hosts The Writer’s Room and is providing voiceover work for the animated film Yellowbird.
Chevy Chase will appear as the repairman in Hot Tub Time Machine 2, reprising his role from the first film. He’s also rumored to be watching his DVDs of Community over and over, trying to understand why anyone watched the show.