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Cutting Class

15 Aug, 2011 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Community: Season 2

‘Community’ creator shares the best of season two and what’s to come in season three

Dan Harmon had an idea for a show, following a real-life stint at a Los Angeles community college, and ran with it. The result of his harebrained scheme is “Community,” the NBC ensemble comedy heading into its third season on Sept. 22.

“I thought I was sort of selling out by pitching this show,” said Harmon, “Community” creator and executive producer. “I thought that I would do something very low-key and mainstream, and not have a lot to do with it creatively, and maybe make some money for my retirement and then go back to making weird stuff. At some point in the first season, it became the most important thing to me.”

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Sept. 6 releases Community: Season 2 as a four-DVD set ($45.99). The study group at Greendale Community College survives one wild (learning) experience after another while inadvertently bonding during their sophomore season. Joel McHale stars as group leader Jeff Winger, Chevy Chase as antagonistic Pierce, Ken Jeong as unstable Señor Chang, Gillian Jacobs as buzzkill Britta, Danny Pudi as pop-culture junkie Abed, Donald Glover as jock-turned-nerd Troy, Alison Brie as straight-laced Annie, and Yvette Nicole Brown as sensitive gossip Shirley.

“The characters are so beloved, and the more episodes you do with them, the more they come alive, which means the less you have to do with them to create a connection,” Harmon said. “Despite its reputation, it’s not really an idea-driven show. … I’m not too worried about topping myself because I don’t know if [viewers are] watching the show for those … spectacle episodes, as much as I think they’re watching the show for the stuff that happens in between.”

The season two set contains 24 episodes, including the two-part paintball season finale, “Anthropology 101,” with an appearance from Betty White, and the popular “Cooperative Calligraphy” — a favorite of Harmon’s — in which the study group attempts to catch whoever stole Annie’s pen.

“It’s a solid show about these characters, and it never leaves that room, and yet it does feel entirely unique,” he explained. “It still feels like a special show. That episode to me, in combination with all the other ones, is the one that demonstrates during that season that we can really do anything if we want to. …

“People like [‘Community’] because you can sense that the writers are writing for themselves, which is another way of saying they’re writing for an audience that they consider to be equal,” Harmon added. “We obsess over the show the way fans do on their blogs and Twitter feeds.”

Acknowledging that the DVD is about “rewarding the fan,” Harmon said it was important to pack the season two set with as many extras as possible. It includes uncensored bonus material such as cast and crew commentary on every episode, deleted scenes, outtakes, season two cast evaluations, “The Paintball Finale: From Script to Screen” featurette, a “Creating Wonderland” featurette, animatics and more.

Harmon said he’s partial to the commentary, which also is a fan favorite. Comedy gold happens when the cast and crew, in varying combinations of four, review the episodes while enjoying their favorite adult beverages.

“Some of us get a little bit drunk because they have Coronas, margaritas and stuff [available]. You can never quite predict when it is that somebody’s going to be completely drunk because we don’t actually record the commentary in order,” he said with a laugh. “You might be watching the second episode, then all of a sudden someone is just clearly off their rocker, then on the third one they’re normal.”

As class resumes, Harmon said viewers can expect a little more darkness — “hopefully in a good way” — in season three, as Jeff works toward his bachelor’s degree, finding that he really is attached to the study group.

“Community” also will welcome some new faculty members. John Goodman will play the new vice dean of its school of air-conditioning repair, and Michael Kenneth Williams, known most for his role as the thug Omar on “The Wire,” will be the group’s way-too-intense biology teacher.

“It would be symbolic of the fact that we’re keepin’ it real this season,” Harmon joked.

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