On Sunday – the fourth and final day of San Diego Comic-Con – weary attendees got just what they needed at NBC’s “Community” panel: a cushy seat, loads of laughs and a big, sincere “thank you.”
The panel was, well, “cool,” as “Community’s” beloved Abed Nadir might say. “Cool. Cool. Cool.”
Set in Hall H -- Comic-Con’s biggest, most notorious meeting room -- the panel began with a superhero-inspired sketch featuring actors Danny Pudi, Jim Rash and returning showrunner Dan Harmon.
Harmon was dressed as a robot and, with assistance from Rash and Pudi, eventually busted out of his costume to reveal his true self to screaming fans.
“Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of unemployment, I’m back!” he announced triumphantly.
Harmon was, of course, referring to his abrupt dismissal in season 4 from the very series that he created. Sony fired Harmon (he didn’t go quietly), only to then re-hire him as executive producer of season 5.
But now, he assured fans at the panel, he’s back and ready to move forward with the show and Twitter campaign to make the series last at least “#SixSeasonsAndaMovie.”
The panel began with a video featuring series star Joel McHale explaining just how the heck “Community” got renewed for a fifth season when, in the world of TV ratings, it was hanging on by a teeny, tiny thread.
The answer: Fans – very, very vocal and devoted fans who took to Twitter and social media in droves to save “Community” from the chopping block.
The video thanked every fan who helped bring the show back for another season. During the hour-long panel, the cast and crew reiterated time and again just how grateful they are for the fandom surrounding "Community."
Harmon told panel moderator Chris Hardwick that he, more than anyone, is really feeling the pressure to make the upcoming season the best yet.
“These are not the final 13 episodes, but they are the most important 13 episodes in ‘Community’ history,” he said.
The rest of the panel unfolded like a “Community” episode.
It was funny, silly, strange, random and weird -- everything that makes the cult classic series so totally and completely beloved by fans.
The large, entertaining panel included actors Jim Rash, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Ken Jeong, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs, showrunner Dan Harmon and writer Chris McKenna.
Each panelist answered questions, cracked jokes and effortlessly played off one another.
For instance, Brie and Jeong shared a moment on stage where they oddly gazed into each other’s eyes and whispered sweet nothings as Pudi – in full-on “Abed Mode" – rambled on and on aimlessly as if nothing was happening right beside him.
When the cast announced the series would soon be syndicated, Pudi and Jacobs broke into a PSA-type skit explaining the meaning and importance of syndication.
Brown talked about how much she loves each and every fan, Rash brought up his secret dream of becoming a cage fighter and Jeong discussed how much love he recently got from “Community” fans during a trip to Toronto.
“I got way more ‘Chang’ than I’ve gotten in life from fans,” said Jeong, referring to the name of his crazy "Community" character.
Pudi also shared an anecdote about a fan who once tried to shake his hand at a bathroom urinal, promising Pudi that his hand was clean.
The comments from the panelists were again, random and silly, but extremely true to the essence of “Community.”
Moderator Chris Hardwick’s questions were swift and thoughtful, and kept the panel moving along until it was time for questions from fans.
Yet again, another surprise bit hit Hall H.
Former “Community” actor Dino Stamatopoulos – who played Greendale student “Starburns” on the series – lined up as a “fan” and asked the panel loads of ridiculous questions as Hall H erupted into laughter and cheering.
In the end, Harmon revealed a couple of key things about the upcoming season. There is an animated episode in the works, as well as a second “Dungeons & Dragons” themed episode.
Also, despite the ups and downs the show has experienced, Harmon reassured fans that he and his crew do their best work when the going gets tough.
“The harder it gets [for us], the funnier the show gets. I get really excited to write stories in the show that resonate with real life, so bring it on,” said Harmon.
So, six seasons and a movie? Well, no one really knows yet, but the fans in Hall H and the cast and crew of “Community” are certainly up for the challenge.