Community's Dan Harmon talks cheating death at Yahoo!, cast shake-ups in S6

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Mar 11, 2015, 10:51 AM EDT

The crazy tale of Community is one of the weirdest and wildest in television history — and it's about to add the zaniest chapter yet.

The geeky sitcom survived the bubble for five seasons at NBC, and even saw the ouster and return of creator Dan Harmon before the network finally pulled the plug. But that wasn’t the end. Just when it seemed like the fan cry of “Six Seasons and a Movie” was dead in the water, streaming service Yahoo! stepped up to back a sixth season, with the potential for even more.

TVInsider chatted with Harmon about the show’s pending return in online form, and asked him about a meta nod that comes early in the sixth season that finds study group leader Jeff (Joel McHale) lamenting the fact that everyone is leaving around him — and he worries he might be the last man standing. Harmon couldn't help but acknowledge the parallel:

“Joel or me? Joel and I are similar in that way. Both of us have other options; neither of us can turn down work of any kind. Least of all, Community. And obviously if Joel stays, I have to stay, because he got me my job back. It's funny, I hadn't thought about the meta-quotient on my part. But maybe it's the sudden realization that after being the guy that wasn't supposed to have a show, the guy whose show was supposed to be canceled, the guy who got fired from his own show and then the guy who got rehired on his own show, Season 6 does have this strange twist of 'OK, I am the only thing that can go wrong now.' It's my show and I can't be a rebel anymore, I'm going to be the last one here…”

Harmon also addressed the elephant in the room, specifically the fact that half the cast has already left and they're working hard to redefine the dynamic with new characters in the mix. Original cast members Chevy Chase, Donald Glover and Yvette Nicole Brown are all gone this year. In their place, Paget Brewster and Keith David have been added to fill the void. Surprisingly, Community has actually thrived in recent years by reworking the cast, and Harmon said he believes it's just a metaphor for what the show itself is about:

“Even when we did have everything that we now recognize as Community for three years in a row, i.e., the whole cast, I was always taking things that could have stayed the same and actively changing them. I'm always incredibly terrified of growing dependent on things that are not within your control. You can control if your show is well written, you can control how you're telling stories, you can control a million things, but you can't control actors' contracts and you can't control the weather. I get nervous when the show is perfect, but if Alison Brie gets a cold we're completely screwed. I always felt more comfortable than someone should about the idea that we're in season 6 and we have half of the cast that we started with. Because I always planned for that. You just deal with the reality…

There are two ways of looking at it. One way is we have been pared down to the absolute minimum. Alison Brie, if she needs to be unavailable for an extra hour a week, our show just deflates like a balloon across the room because we've lost Donald, we've lost Chevy, we've lost Yvette and we've got these amazing actors left but if we lose one muscle from one of them, that's it.

But the show itself is about people in transition that are lost and never know what's going on. It's a post-television, post-sitcom television sitcom. There is another way of looking at it: Once you've died this many times and come back to life, what are the rules? Is there such a thing as a bad version of Community, if we audition a bunch of new people and do some strange Law & Order spinoff using the same sets and sensibility? The answer is in the audience's mind. We can't make that decision. We will find out on March 17 how Community fits into pop culture now.”

Community makes its Yahoo! debut March 17. Will you be watching?

(Via TVInsider)