When it debuted in September 2009, it was instantly clear that Community would be a sitcom like no other. The basic premise involved disgraced lawyer Jeff Winger (played by Joel McHale), who is disbarred after it’s revealed that his law degree is phony. In order to earn a real one, he enrolls at Greendale Community College, where he forms a study group comprised of fellow misfits in order to woo his crush, Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs).
The show was smart and sophisticated. It also displayed immense pop culture savvy. Every installment was peppered with in-jokes and subtle references. Anchored by a first-rate cast, Community broke ground, doing special episodes, like one with sections made to resemble an 8-bit videogame, an animated G.I. Joe parody, and of course, the paintball action movie parodies. Such things helped the program amass an enthusiastic cult of fans.
Sometimes you hear about TV shows where everyone likes everyone else and turning out a quality project is easy. Community is a little different. Although the stars all liked each other (mostly) and loved creator/showrunner Dan Harmon, the process of bringing this funny program to TV screens contained a considerable amount of drama. If nothing else, it represents an example of how a little dysfunction can actually help make a funny show even funnier.
Here are 15 Secrets Behind Community You Had No Idea About.
15. Chevy Chase was unhappy on the show
Community marked a chance for comedy legend Chevy Chase to revitalize his career, while also exposing his unique style to a younger audience. His initial excitement about appearing on the show was short-lived, though.
The comedian was repeatedly frustrated by the long hours of filming. Joel McHale has publicly noted that his co-star often seemed tired and “didn’t want to be there.” Chase also didn’t think the writing was funny at times, and once walked off the set, refusing to film his final scene of the “Digital Estate Planning” episode.
Most notably, he was annoyed by the direction his character took as the show wore on. Pierce Hawthorne was always politically incorrect, but became more outright racist several seasons in. When writers continued giving him objectionable things to say, his irritation grew.
14. Star-Burns wanted to explode
Aside from the main characters, Community has a stable of supporting players, all of whom add color and eccentricity to Greendale. Perhaps the wildest of all is Star-Burns, a seedy guy known for having sideburns cut into the shape of stars. The character perished during the “Basic Lupine Urology” episode when his car was rear-ended, causing the trunk to explode.
Why kill off a fan favorite? The character’s passing came at the direct request of Dino Stamatopoulos, who played Star-Burns. Stamatopoulos wasn’t an actor by trade. He was a writer and consulting producer on the show, roped into his role by Dan Harmon.
A general lack of comfort with on-screen performance coupled with an intense dislike for the rigors of acting – specifically going through make-up and waiting around between shots – was sufficient for him to demand Star-Burns’ demise.
13. Dan Harmon harassed a female staff writer
Megan Ganz was one of the staff writers on Community. Her time on the show wasn’t entirely happy. A few days into 2018, she got into a public Twitter conversation with her former boss, during which she called him out for inappropriate and abusive behavior toward her.
“It took me years to believe in my talents again, to trust a boss when he complimented me and not cringe when he asked for my number,” Ganz tweeted.” I was afraid to be enthusiastic, knowing it might be turned against me later.”
Harmon responded in an unexpected way — he listened to her, then apologized for his actions. He wrote, “I’m disgusted and sorry that I stained our show and your talent with my selfish, childish [behavior]. I get that I can’t erase it, don’t want to, but have felt sick about it.”
12. Joel McHale punched Chevy Chase
Chevy Chase notoriously had intermittent conflict with his Community co-stars. Joel McHale always seemed to have a fair amount of patience with the veteran comedian. That said, the two ended up in an unlikely physical altercation that left Chase injured.
During an appearance on Howard Stern’s show, McHale said that he would often try to cheer up his unhappy co-star, but that “when I would try, he would just try to fight me, physically fight me.”
He expanded on this behavior in his autobiography Thanks For the Money. McHale writes that his veteran colleague would roughhouse with him in between takes, which he suspected was a passive-aggressive way of expressing jealousy.
During a “playful” goofing-around session, Chase kept demanding that McHale hit him harder.
11. Why Yvette Nicole Brown left
Yvette Nicole Brown plays Shirley, the de facto mother figure to Community‘s band of misfits. Shirley is a religious woman with marital problems and an insatiable desire to see the other members of her study group get along. Although perhaps the most normal of the show’s characters, Brown invests her with great humanity and enough little quirks to earn her fair share of laughs.
Many fans were left wondering why the actress didn’t return for the sixth and final season.
Her reason had nothing to do with being unhappy on the show. The reason for her departure was totally in line with Shirley’s caring nature. Brown’s father had become gravely ill, requiring daily care. She didn’t feel that she could emotionally handle long days of being away from him while shooting took place. Brown decided family needed to come first, so she exited the show to be with her dad.
10. Magnitude was designed to be annoying
Community launched several catchphrases, none more ubiquitous than “Pop! Pop!” It is the signature slogan of Magnitude, a supporting character played by actor Luke Youngblood. Viewers loved Magnitude, but that wasn’t the intention. He was designed specifically to be annoying.
The writers wanted to mock sitcoms characters that pander to the audience and exist entirely to spout catchphrases.
They concocted a scene in which an assortment of odd people crash a Valentine’s Day party at Jeff’s apartment. The idea was that Magnitude — who was nearly called Quasar, Ray-Ray, and Event Horizon — would be one of those guests, barging in, obnoxiously yelling his stupid quote, and departing.
Youngblood was so funny, though, that the staff decided to keep bringing him back beyond his initial appearance. Far from annoying viewers, Magnitude endeared himself to them.
9. Gillian Jacobs was frustrated by the ratings
Community was never a huge ratings grabber. It survived by appealing to a demographic of young people that is highly coveted by advertisers. For this reason, it was often on the bubble in terms of renewal. Every time it seemed like the show might get the ax, it somehow managed to just barely pull through.
Nevertheless, the continual worry about ratings proved frustrating to the cast, especially Gillian Jacobs, who played Britta. She openly vented to Xfinity about getting massive love from fans while simultaneously worrying about rejection from the network.
“It’s a sobering thing when you’re on network television of how antiquated and broken the ratings system is,” she said. “You do feel like, as loud as [the fans] are and as well-organized as they are, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s making any impact because they’re not a Nielsen family.”
8. Chevy Chase’s profane voicemails
Chevy Chase and Dan Harmon feuded continually during their time working on the show together. Both men have strong personalities that just happened to clash.
When Chase walked off the set on the last day of shooting for the season because he didn’t find a scene funny, Harmon didn’t forget it. During the wrap party, he stood up in front of the entire cast and crew, plus Chevy’s family, and berated the actor.
Chase, of course, was incensed. He responded by leaving Harmon a voicemail message laced with vulgarities. He called his boss profane names, accused him of being an alcoholic, and criticized Harmon’s writing as getting “worse and worse.” Twice in the message, he pointed out how embarrassing it was to be disrespected in front of his wife and daughter. “Do you think that’s the right way to behave?” Chase angrily asked.
7. Dan Harmon got fired
Everyone agrees that Dan Harmon has issues. That includes Harmon himself. Those issues caused NBC and Sony to fire him from the show he created and ran after the conclusion of its third season.
Aside from his multiple clashes with Chevy Chase that impacted the entire production, Harmon was said to repeatedly show up for work late. Other times, he exhibited perfectionist tendencies that also served to slow the process down. Allegations of alcohol abuse were made against him, which he openly acknowledged. The fact that he showed contempt for network and studio executives didn’t help, either.
Finally, there was Harmon’s penchant for falling asleep at work. The problem was so pervasive that his staff started a Tumblr account called “Sleepy Harmon” to post pictures of him dozing on the job.
6. Alison Brie’s anxiety
Despite the problems he caused, Dan Harmon was beloved by his cast. They recognized that he had a strong vision for the show and that it simply wasn’t the same without his guidance.
Alison Brie, the actress who plays Annie, gave an interview to Rolling Stone during the fifth season. The interviewer asked her if the cast was just “going through the motions” during their Harmon-less year, and she candidly admitted that this was the case.
“Dan is the show, basically, so to do a season without him felt really strange,” Brie elaborated. “It sort of felt like the constant unknown. I think when Dan is here, we don’t worry about much. We know we shouldn’t ask too many questions. Last year, I think it was a little stressful for everyone wondering, ‘How’s this going to turn out? What are the loyal fans going to think?'”
5. Donald Glover’s meltdown
After becoming a breakout star on Community, Donald Glover decided it was time to move on to other projects, including his Childish Gambino musical persona. He consequently appeared for only a limited number of episodes during the fifth season.
Despite his desire to go forward, Glover seemed publicly conflicted about the decision.
He had an Instagram meltdown in which he posted a hand-written litany of insecurities and worries. “I’ve been sick this year. This is the first time I’ve felt helpless,” he wrote. “I feel like I’m letting everyone down. I’m afraid people hate who I really am. I’m afraid I hate who I really am.”
His rant specifically addressed his popular television show, as he said, “I’m afraid of the future. I didn’t leave Community to rap… I’m afraid Dan Harmon hates me.”
4. The move to Yahoo cost $42 million
After five seasons, NBC pulled the plug on Community. It simply wasn’t generating the kind of ratings the network desired. However, the show maintained an ardent fanbase, so the producers lobbied to find another outlet that would be willing to pick it up.
As it turned out, Yahoo was preparing to launch its own streaming service, called Yahoo Screen. The company realized that a high-profile show like Community could help it make a big splash, and so agreed to give it a sixth season.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go well. Glitching made watching any Yahoo Screen shows difficult. It also struggled to compete with other, similar services. An overall inability to generate revenue was yet another reported problem. As a result, Yahoo cancelled Community after just one season, shut down Yahoo Screen, and was forced to take a $42 million write-down.
3. The Troy/Abed “bromance” was unplanned
Troy and Abed are the scene-stealers of Community. Played by Donald Glover and Danny Pudi, the best friends are frequently shown mutually obsessing over pop culture and engaging in various other sorts of hijinks, including hosting their own fake “morning show.” In many respects, they became the heart and soul of the program during its run. Their bromance, however, was completely unplanned.
In Harmon’s original conception, Abed was very much a loner.
Troy was supposed to have kooky buddy interactions with Pierce, the character least likely to have anything in common with him. Glover and Pudi clicked on-set, showing an ability to humorously feed off one another. Harmon and the other producers realized that what the actors had would benefit the show if this transferred to the screen, so they gave the pair more scenes together, incorporating some of their real-life chemistry.
2. Chevy Chase’s racism
Chevy Chase made several racist remarks on the set of Community. In one well-publicized incident, the comedian loudly expressed his displeasure about the jokes that were written for Pierce. During his outburst, he said the character might as well use the N-word — which Chase said in front of Donald Glover and Yvette Nicole Brown, the show’s African-American cast members.
More recently, Glover revealed in a New Yorker interview that Chase would make racist cracks to him in between takes, including “people think you’re funnier because you’re black.”
Glover denied being offended. “I just saw Chevy as fighting time. A true artist has to be okay with his reign being over,” he said. “I can’t help him if he’s thrashing in the water. But I know there’s a human in there somewhere. He’s almost too human.”
1. “…And a movie”
One of the running jokes on Community was that “six seasons and a movie” was the ideal scenario for any TV show. That ended up becoming the program’s mantra, repeated by fans and cast members as the show clung to life each year. When all was said and done, it did indeed crawl its way to six seasons. So what about that movie?
The dream is alive and well. In late 2017, Dan Harmon told The Wrap that a Community movie could still happen. The stars — Chase aside — are all said to be up for it. Just as important is that executive producers Joe and Anthony Russo have gained a lot of juice in Hollywood as directors of the Marvel movies Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Harmon claims they’re on board with helping to bring a film to fruition.
Which episode of Community is your favorite? Which character do you like the best? Hit us up with your thoughts in the comments.
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