Can a positive critical re-evaluation and heightening buzz help a struggling series when Emmy season rolls around? NBC is about to find out when it sees how voters respond to “Community.”
“As our season progressed, critics were starting to say nice things about our show,” series creator Dan Harmon notes.
Already, the number of critics enthusiastically jumping on the show’s bandwagon over the course of the season has helped secure the low-rated sitcom — starring Joel McHale and Chevy Chase as students at a mediocre community college — a second-season renewal.
“There wasn’t a great ratings story for the show, but increasingly, there was a lot of online chatter and critics standing up for the show,” says Jeff Ingold, Executive Vice President, Comedy Programming, NBC and Universal Media Studios, in charge of comedy development. “That helps in keeping a show strong in terms of how it’s perceived by the network. Hearing from objective third parties can keep these shows alive while waiting for audiences to find them.”
Vulture’s Emma Rosenblum talks to Joel McHale of both Community and The Soup fame about transitioning from host to actor, filming the paintball episode, and obtaining his physique:
On landing an acting part on a sitcom:
Yeah, how did that happen? No, seriously, I’d always been looking for a sitcom — that was the whole reason I went on The Soup, for it to do the same thing for me as it did for Greg Kinnear, or at least if I could have 5 or 10 percent of his career, I’d be happy. And rarely do scripts make me laugh out loud, but there were a number of jokes in the Community pilot script that did that. Actually, I was on a plane, reading the script, and there was a guy watching that movie, What Happens in Vegas, that Ashton Kutcher movie, and he was getting mad at me because I was getting loud — laughing and interrupting his romantic comedy. So I thought that was a good sign.
On making the paintball episode:
I think it took about eight days to shoot 23 minutes of footage. You’d walk into the cafeteria, and they’d turned it upside down; there was a fire in it. And it was the most physical episode I’ve done, with the jumping and the stunts; it was like a boyhood fantasy of being in an action movie. They hired a paintball company and brought them in to shoot up the place. They just kept handing us loaded paintball gun after loaded paintball gun.
On buffing up:
I just starved myself and started doing push-ups every night. I didn’t have time to go to the gym, and I just chased my kids around. It was like when Rocky chased the chicken, in Rocky I, that’s basically what I was doing with the kids. And I just started doing push-ups as much as I could, ’cause knowing I was going to be naked, I didn’t want to be embarrassed. I think I ended up losing ten or fifteen pounds. I starved myself and ate hard-boiled eggs and salad. They also spray-tanned me because my skin is nearly translucent white.
Community is a show suffused with pop culture. Almost every episode’s plot has been done by a sit-com or movie previously, but Community revels in its referentiality. Nearly everyone watching Community has spent countless hours watching other TV sitcoms and trashy Hollywood movies. The characters of Community have done the same, and aside from Abed’s encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture, they respond to clichéd show tropes in the same way you do. They know that Jeff is the cool guy, that Britta has been set up as a romantic interest regardless of the lack of chemistry between the two characters. They know that Pierce is comic relief and that they’re the center of the universe because they’re TV characters. They’ve managed to take the oldest jokes in the book and make them completely new.
MR. MEDIA RADIO has an interview with Danny Pudi; here are some of the things he has to say about Danny:
It’s a shame Lorne Michaels didn’t sign up Danny Pudi for “Saturday Night Live” before the producers of the NBC sitcom “Community” cast him as “Abed.” He is so flexible in body, mind and voice as to suggest a combination of Jim Carrey, the late Phil Hartman and a thoroughly modern Rich Little.
Pudi looks so unassuming that no matter how often you see him do his stuff on “Community,” you can’t help but do a doubletake, rewind and watch him do it again. And again.
Dan Harmon, an executive producer of NBC’s “Community,” filmed himself telling his cast that the freshman year sitcom had been picked up for a second season. We already know the good news, but here is the cast’s reaction:
At the start of the 2009-2010 fall season, critics were rooting the hardest for “Modern Family,” “Glee” and “Community.” At the halfway mark, two of those early favorites have shot ahead of the pack, while the squad from Greendale Community College is still trying to catch its breath.
The debut of the NBC sitcom attracted 7.7 million viewers, but since then it has averaged 5.4 million, enough to get a full-season pickup on a struggling network, but not enough to qualify it as a hit or guarantee a second season.
“We’re No. 1 among Asian pervs,” said actor Ken Jeong, who, like the rest of the cast assembled on set this January afternoon is more interested in cracking jokes than analyzing why their sitcom is off to a slow start.
There’s every reason to believe that with some patience and promotion, the sitcom will develop into a fan favorite.
“I’m really proud of the show we’re doing,” said Yvette Nicole Brown, who portrays the gang’s den mother. “I feel like the people who were meant to find the show will find the show, and I’m glad NBC has given us a full year to find that out.”
The peacock network has made a surprising early pickup and has renewed Parks and Recreation for a third season.
The Office and 30 Rock are all but guaranteed to be renewed but there’s no word on how the Parks order will affect Community’s chances for survival. The Chevy Chase freshman sitcom typically performs better than Parks so it would seem that it’s also a lock for renewal.
However, the network has eight comedy pilots in development and would likely want to keep a Thursday night timeslot open to try one or two. The network may be waiting to look at the new pilots until making a decision about Community.
Zap2It has an article about Community star Yvette Nicole Brown. Here is the highlight:
A solid role on a sitcom gives an actor recognition and a steady paycheck as NBC’s “Community,” airing Thursdays, has done for Yvette Nicole Brown, who plays Shirley. But it took a supporting role on a kids cable station comedy to give her celeb status.
It was her stint as Helen, the loud theater manager on Nickelodeon’s “Drake & Josh,” that made Brown a star among kids.
“The greatest gift I got from ‘Drake & Josh’ is I am ridiculously famous with children,” Brown, 38, says. “If you are going to be famous, that’s the segment to be famous with. I cannot walk down the street without a face peeking out from behind a tree. It’s a ball of joy that greets me everywhere in the world. It was my first bit of steady employment.”
“Shirley is becoming me at a rate I am really afraid of,” Brown says. “I love people and am such a cheerleader.”
What seemed in early fall a rare outbreak of inspired television writing has in recent months become something rarer—not an epidemic, exactly, but a season impressively stocked with creations drenched in wit and enterprise, all unmistakably reflective of a drive toward formula busting. These things are, of course, always relative. In television these days, one quality hit a season—especially in the impossibly snare-infested comedy genre—seems a lot; two is like breaking the bank.
Yet we’re now finishing a television year that has seen both the emergence of ABC’s uproarious“Modern Family” and its less dazzling but wonderfully mordant lead-in, “The Middle,” about another kind of modern family—a brew of consistent charm and character with a bracing hint of nightmarish reality underlying its sitcom fun. Add to these the most unexpected gem of all—NBC’s “Community,” a satire set in the unlikely precincts of a community college. Its creator, Dan Harmon, was, by his own account, inspired by the semester he once spent at one in pursuit of an effort to strengthen ties with his girlfriend. That relationship didn’t work out in the end, but, happily, the same can’t be said of this whip-smart series about an improbably compelling band of adults taking classes at a sunny academic hell called Greendale Community College.
The same can be said for “Community,” which stars Joel McHale (“The Soup”) in top form as Jeff—a glib but undeniably attractive former lawyer who has gone back to school because his license to practice was revoked (he’d apparently skipped going to law school). The difference here is that the laughs derive entirely from the show’s flinty heart. There are lapses, to be sure, when its creators can’t resist the old siren call—the sitcom impulse to dump a little treacle into the brine. That way lies ruin, as most writers of satire ultimately learn. And “Community” is, despite its doses of warmth and fellowship, nothing but satire in its look at the adults in the study group Jeff runs. They’re all strivers, most of them bent on getting close to Jeff because this disbarred lawyer seems a person of stature. These characters are the product of cold-eyed observation, exquisite at its meanest, particularly when it focuses on an older student—the insufferably pompous Pierce, a character to which Chevy Chase brings considerable authority, and not surprisingly. None of this is to say the series doesn’t offer more varied targets of amusement. Its picture of the sorry lot of obsessives and other deranged types in charge of delivering learning at the college, and of the assorted weasels and buffoons serving as deans and other high officials, is priceless.
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