NBC has gone and done the unexpected and renewed cult fave Community for a fifth season. The beloved comedy was barely hanging onto the bubble as the Upfronts approached, but its chances continued to improve throughout this week as NBC slowly axed nearly all of its other comedies.
The decision comes the day after Community‘s Season 4 finale jumped up in ratings, all the way to a 1.3 rating. Yeah, that’s not good by any means, but it’s a positive sign that NBC was hoping for from one of its veteran comedies. Community joins Parks and Recreation on NBC’s extremely short list of returning comedies.
Community executive producers David Guarascio, Moses Port, Russ Krasnoff and Tristram Shapeero joined several cast members of the NBC comedy at PaleyFest on Tuesday to make an announcement: A puppet episode is coming later this season!
The story finds the study group taking a wild balloon ride that crash lands in the woods and forces them to spend a little time with a friendly mountain man (played by Seinfeld‘s Jason Alexander). The gang gets immortalized as puppets when Dean Pelton encourages them to talk about their adventures.
Also on tap for this season: More paintball fun, a Freaky Friday tribute and, in this Thursday’s ep, the introduction of James Brolin as Jeff’s dad and Adam DeVine (Pitch Perfect) as his brother.
“It is quite intense between Jeff and his dad,” previewed Joel McHale. “Thank God for Gillian [Jacobs] and Adam, who knock it out of the park. It gets pretty heavy.”
As for whether the identity of Jeff’s dad makes him half-brothers with Castle‘s titular writer, whose dad is also played by Brolin, McHale joked, “Let’s just say, if there is a Season 5, we end up on Serenity.”
Other topics touched on during the PaleyFest Q&A:
SWITCHING PLACES | The Oscar-winning writer who brings Dean Pelton to life, Jim Rash, penned “an episode with Troy and Abed that I think is one of the best we’ve ever done,” raved McHale. Added Rash: “It was an awesome and stressful process. … It’s sort of a Freaky Friday homage with a little body switching, and it’s very important” to the boys’ friendship.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN | An upcoming origins episode will reveal how the superhero-like study group “really came to be,” teased Guarascio.
UNLIKELY LOVE | What does the future hold for the odd pairing of Britta and Troy? The romance is “not doomed,” said Guarascio. “A lot of the year is the resurrection of Britta. … Who knows, maybe that will lead to something we’re not quite expecting.”
CRAZY SHIRLEY | “We’re going to see her house in the Thanksgiving episode,” previewed Yvette Nicole Brown. “Shirley likes really weird wallpaper.” Viewers will also “find out why Shirley’s the way she is,” and it has something to do with her in-laws. The actress also offered up this cryptic tease: “There’s something bigger coming than Malcolm-Jamal Warner playing my husband.”
GRADUATION DAY LOOMS | Will the Greendale gang be leaving school behind at the end of this year? Unlikely. “Everyone’s on their own pace as is often the case in community college,” said Guarascio. “So stay tuned.”
MORE COMMUNITY TALES? | Will the beloved, but ratings-challenged comedy be back for a fifth season? “It’s one of things where no one ever lets you know those things in advance,” replied McHale. “Believe me, I hope so.” As for stepping in as showrunners this season following creator Dan Harmon’s exit, Guarascio admitted that it was “hard” for him and Port. But “the cast is just so fantastic and the heart and soul of the show becomes the people who are performing it,” he continued. “We really need to listen to them because they’ve been doing the show the past three years and they know it inside and out.”
In news that should shock pretty much no one, Chevy Chase is leaving Community, TVGuide.com has confirmed.
Chase, who played millionaire Pierce Hawthorne since the show’s premiere in 2009, has amicably parted ways with the show effective immediately, as first reported by Deadline. Community‘s fourth season still has at least one more episode to shoot, in which Chase will not appear.
The 69-year-old actor has had a rough relationship with the NBC comedy, once calling his participation in the series a “big mistake.” “I think the reason I have stuck around is because I love these kids, the cast – they are very good. It’s not like I am working with the great innovators of all time, but at the same time, they are my friends.”
That wasn’t the first time Chase has stirred up controversy about the show. His previous feud with fired showrunner Dan Harmon resulted in Harmon cursing at Chase during the show’s wrap party and putting angry voicemails from the actor on public display.
This season, production on the sitcom was briefly shut down after Chase dropped the N-word on set after becoming increasingly frustrated with the direction of his bigoted character. Though his African-American co-stars Yvette Nicole Brown and Donald Glover were with him at the time, the epithet wasn’t directed at either actor or at any person in particular. Nevertheless, production was temporarily halted until Chase formally apologized to the cast and crew.
A source says it’s unclear whether Chase’s departure will be addressed on the series.
Community is slated to return Thursday, Feb. 7 on NBC.