March 4, 2012

THE SKED @ PALEYFEST 2012: “Community”

More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , , , , ,


For those who don’t know, PaleyFest is a yearly 2-week program sponsored by The Paley Center For Media in Los Angeles, in which every night (or occasional weekend afternoon) is devoted to saluting a particular television show, usually a mix of the season’s brightest new series and a few older shows.  Each presentation begins with a screening–often of a yet-to-air episode, although sometimes a “greatest hits” piece–and then features a panel discussion with the creator/showrunner and most if not all of the cast, starting with a moderator’s queries and then with questions fielded from the audience. 

In the annals of PaleyFest, few audiences can have been more jubilant than the crowd at tonight’s salute to COMMUNITY.  When the show was placed in the festival’s line-up, it had been pulled from NBC’s schedule, and it was unclear just when–or, really, if–it was going to return.  Now it’s set to come back at 8PM on Thursday March 15, and in fact the midseason premiere episode was screened tonight (and we have a review).  
All of the cast was present for the evening’s festivities except Chevy Chase (a subject raised briefly in the Q&A and quickly deflected) and Donald Glover, as well as creator/showrunner Dan Harmon and Executive Producers Russ Krasnoff, Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman. 
The evening was mostly joyous and funny–this cast doesn’t need writers to get laughs.  In fact, Greendale’s Dean, Jim Rash, is as of last week an Academy Award-winning writer himself, as co-screenwriter of The Descendants.  (What may or may not have been Rash’s actual Oscar was brought out, and even the PaleyFest videographer got into the spirit of the evening’s comedy, cutting to the Oscar from time to time seemingly on his/her own initiative to provide the occasional visual punch-line.) The chemistry among the group seemed genuine and unforced, to the extent that an event like this can truly reveal such a thing. 
What was most interesting, though, was seeing just how seriously Harmon takes what often seems like a series put together on an abstract, conceptual, episode-by-episode basis, rather than one with a consistent plan.  Asked about the effect Community‘s stay in network limbo would have on the dozen episodes left to air this season, Harmon spoke of the darkness and uncertainty that was meant to affect the characters this season in any case, and how that may have been heightened by the mood of the production as episodes were created without any idea when they’d air.  Notwithstanding this, Harmon and Krasnoff were cautiously optimistic about Community‘s chances to be brought back for a 4th season.  (Objectively, the series has one thing going against it–The Office, Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock and probably Up All Night have to be renewed from NBC’s point of view, which leaves Community as the possible Thursday sitcom without a seat–and one going for it:  Sony, the studio that produces the show, is just a few episodes away from a fully syndicable number, and would likely be willing to make sacrifices in the network license deal in order to get there.)  However, Harmon more than once spoke of his vision of the show as the 4-year journey of Jeff to earn his BA degree, which may mean that next season would in any case be its last.  He promised the final episode would not involve Abed and a snow-globe.
There was little in the way of spoiler talk:  a Law & Order parody is coming up (the old Law & Order, Harmon stressed), John Goodman will be returning, there’s an all-Dreamatorium episode that even the actors aren’t quite sure they get, an episode in which the whole gang plays a video game, and oh yes, at some point in the finale the Dean wears a mask and a costume that McHale didn’t describe, but said may be the funniest thing in the history of television.  
It was a fun 90 minutes spent with a very happy group of actors and producers (well, Harmon seemed to be about as happy as he gets), before an equally happy audience.  Fittingly, it ended with an audience member asking if she could hug Danny Pudi–and him jumping off the stage to rush into the crowd and grant her wish. For a moment, it was PaleyFest as a Taylor Swift concert.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."