By Sahil Patel
During an SXSW panel for “Community,” the show’s cast and crew talked about how, with its move to the web, a series that was already known for being pretty weird could get even weirder. “There’s not, like, a huge crazy difference, where now we’re at Yahoo and in all the episodes we’re naked,” said Alison Brie, one of the show’s original cast members. “But the things we’re saying can be as weird as we’ve always wanted them to be.”
And that might be the best way to describe the first two episodes of “Community”’s sixth season: The show is definitely weirder, but it fits the world that series creator and showrunner Dan Harmon has already firmly established.
A lot of things are different with “Community” in season six — and I’m not talking just about the platform that it’s now available on. One of the show’s original cast members, Yvette Nicole Brown, departed before shooting began, bringing the core members of the study group down to four. (In previous seasons, Donald Glover and Chevy Chase, also left.) And while their presence is missed, Harmon and the writing staff are comfortable with the world they have created — and the characters that they have filled it with — that the show doesn’t miss much of a beat.
In fact, as they have done in the past, “Community” introduces two new characters — replacements, if you will — who immediately bring something fresh to the table. Paget Brewster is an all-too-real, by-the-books type who might be able to keep the study group grounded. And Keith David follows Chase and Jonathan Banks as the old guy in the group, though so far with a lot less misanthropy than his predecessors.
What’s most remarkable about “Community,” outside of its characters and daring sense of humor, is its nimbleness. It can change (Chang?) — and has quite often over the years — and still retain the same spirit that makes people want to return to Greendale Community College time again.
I’m not sure people were actually worried about the series once it was announced that it would return on the web, and not TV, for a sixth season. All indications from Yahoo and the show’s producers were that Harmon had even more resources at his disposal — including, again, a lot more creative freedom — to tell the story that he wanted to. And of course, platforms like Netflix and Amazon have already shown that it’s possible to do a TV show, and do it well, online.
If the first two episodes of “Community” season six are any indication, there’s nothing to worry about. The jokes are faster. The editing is looser. And there’s a (slightly) edgier creative energy to a series that has routinely managed to stave off cancellation and remain streets ahead.
“Community,” produced by Sony Pictures Television, starring Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Danny Pudi, Ken Jeong, Keith David, and Paget Brewster, premieres today on Yahoo Screen. Its sixth season will run for 13 episodes, with new installments airing every Tuesday.