Joel McHale And Dan Harmon Discuss Community‘s Return, Tease Future Episodes

It’s been a long hiatus for us Community lovers. Three entire months since the hilarious Glee-parodied holiday episode aired last December. But after the long (excruciating) wait, Community finally returns tonight!

I got the chance to watch the episode early, and it didn’t let me down. Malcolm-Jamal Warner guest stars as Shirley’s ex-husband, and the episode centers around their re-marriage. Abed and Troy decide to act “normal” for the wedding (a feat almost impossible), while Britta takes over the wedding planning duties and Jeff is burdened with the awful task of writing a toast. The wedding, along with Shirley and Pierce’s side-story about trying to create a sandwich shop in the cafeteria, makes for a hilarious return to TV in true Community fashion. It won’t be a “classic” like the paintball episodes or last fall’s “Remedial Chaos Theory,” but it has seven of the most hilarious characters on television (scratch that, 8 including Jim Rash’s Dean Pelton. Who just won a freaking Oscar by the way!) so it’s automatically awesome.

Last week, creator/executive producer Dan Harmon and star Joel McHale talked with reporters about Community’s return and gave a glimpse into what’s to come in season 3.

The Nielsen ratings have always been Community‘s worst nightmare (the show averaged a little less than 4 million last year), a fact Harmon and McHale fully acknowledge. The show takes a difficult time slot that faces American Idol and The Big Bang Theory, two of the highest rated shows currently broadcasting. Harmon said that facing these shows makes their numbers look better than they do on paper.

“It’s a tough slot and I’ve always felt that way,” Harmon said. “I’ve always been proud to plant our feet there and take a kidney punch week after week. That they (NBC) would choose us to go into those front trenches and look at the whites of the enemies eyes, as long as there’s an understanding that that’s what the environment is. Maybe now our 1.5 (rating) can be looked at with a little more than a frown.”

Although a hiatus can be seen as television poison, Harmon said he hopes the long break has given people who have never watched the show before to catch up.

“It’s off the air right now, all the episodes are right here (online). Get caught up,” Harmon said. “And I see tweets and forum posts from people who are just halfway through the first season during this hiatus and going ]Uh my God, I can’t believe I haven’t seen this show.’ My naive hope is that there’s a million of those people joining us next week.”

Harmon teased about a Law & Order themed episode scheduled to air in a few weeks, which sees the return of biology professor Marshall Kane (Michael K. Williams).

“Michael K. Williams comes back for a final triumph in the Law and Order episode,” Harmon said. “The difficulty with him is schedule and pre-existing agreement based. I would have certainly loved to have him for 12 episodes if not more of the third season and base the stories around the biology class and therefore his character. But the truth is that we had to finagle and got like three episodes out of him.”

The duo also revealed television shows that they’d love seeing parodied by Community, including one regularly featured on Joel McHale’s other TV show The Soup.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen Hillbilly Hand Fishing, but these hillbillies hang in the river and then they reach into mud holes and pull out catfish,” McHale said. “And then they get people to slide their hands down on their hand and it very much sounds like they’re teaching them to jerk off. So that would be a great episode.”

“I think it’d be cheating to do it, and I don’t know how we would do it, but Gilligan’s Island would be perfect,” Harmon said. “I realized yesterday I found an old document from when I was designing the characters and I completely just ripped off Gilligan’s Island and split up the Howells and made Ginger a radiohead fan. So it would be really easy to have them be Gilligan’s Island, but I don’t know how you do that without being ridiculous.”

Harmon added, “Maybe if we – when we get a fourth season I kind of want to see if we can do a full blown Scooby Doo Halloween episode. And maybe just thinly justify it by doing an episode where you guys break down in your van and spend the night at a haunted house and solve a mystery. Seems like you have permission to do stuff like that on Halloween.”

But to get a fourth season, the show will have to impress NBC and nab a spot back on the line-up for next fall. Time will only tell whether the show’s long hiatus will help or hurt the ratings, but either way Harmon said he’s nervous.

“The hiatus is the best and worst thing that can happen to this show simultaneously. It has awakened a fandom, but what if people love this thing too much? Like what if let them down? I wake up in the middle of every night for the last two months with my stomach in knots – I’m terrified.”

He added, “What am I doing? Save it for your shrink Harmon.”

 

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