What We Want To See In The Community Movie

When "Community" fans first heard the slogan "six seasons and a movie," way back in 2011, it felt like a total pipe dream. Despite quickly evolving into the most original and offbeat comedy on TV, the show constantly faced the prospect of cancellation. Yet somehow, each year, it inched closer to the promise Abed (Danny Pudi) so confidently made about the short-lived NBC show "The Cape." And while a decade later "The Cape" is long-since forgotten, "Community" is finally on track to fulfill Abed's prophecy, as the movie endcap to its six season-run has just been announced.

With Dan Harmon on board, Joel McHale executive producing, and a Twitter post that hints that the full cast (besides Chevy Chase) may be on board despite initial reports that Yvette Nicole Brown and Donald Glover haven't officially signed on, the Greendale Human Beings are back. But what will the series look like when it picks back up in movie form seven years after its study group said goodbye? The urge to guess at the film's plot (a reunion maybe?) is strong, but Harmon and the writing team's ability to constantly surprise us is even stronger. So rather than guess at what the "Community" movie might have in store, we'll just say what we want.

A Troy and Abed reunion

Donald Glover left "Community" partway through season 5, in a move that was probably inevitable for the rising star, but still heartbreaking. In a wonderfully unpredictable send-off plot, Troy left to sail around the world in order to earn his inheritance from Pierce's (Chevy Chase) will. After a rousing and emotional game of The Floor is Lava, Troy and Abed parted ways, and the show spent its final seasons trying to rebuild some of the heart and humor it lost with Glover.

The existence of a "Community" movie has pretty much always hinged on the rapper, comedian, and "Atlanta" star's return, with McHale and others noting that the movie won't happen until Glover is on board. In 2020, the actor returned for a virtual table read of one of the show's episodes, and seeing Glover make the cast laugh again — and clearly have a good time, too — was the highlight of quarantine-era pop culture for me.

So now, if Glover is set to return, that means the #1 item on our wishlist will likely be fulfilled: a Troy and Abed reunion. The cohosts of "Troy and Abed in the Morning" are so close, they once imagined a "Human Centipede" type scenario that would conjoin them and allow them to read each others thoughts. The lore of their ultra-tight friendship is so deep and vast, it could be an article in itself. Asking for any specifics in this reunion feels like a jinx at this point, so I'll just say: please, for the love of all that is pants-peeingly funny, let's get these two comedic geniuses and on-screen besties back in the same room again.

Pop culture homages

In its heyday, "Community" offered up a wide and unexpected range of pop culture homages, often managed by movie-obsessed Abed. At Greendale Community College, you never knew when you might end up recreating the pottery scene from "Ghost," appearing in a Ken Burns-style documentary about pillow fights, or getting stuck in a "My Dinner with Andre" style scenario where Abed talks about pooping his pants on the set of "Cougar Town."

Though the most famous parody episodes are far and away the paintball games — a periodic campus event that allowed the show to spoof "Die Hard," spaghetti Westerns, and more — I'm a sucker for some of the more off-the-wall homages, like the time Abed became The Godfather but for chicken fingers, or when Señor Chang (Ken Jeong) talked himself into a noirish conspiracy plot that added up to exactly nothing. While calls for "Community" to do more of the familiar will inevitably be many, I think it's abundantly clear that it's the sort of story that fares best when it's bucking our expectations for fan service and constantly reinventing itself.

If we assume the "Community" movie will go in a new direction with its cinematic homages, it opens up a whole new world of pop culture ready to be parodied. When "Community" went off the air in 2015, we didn't have Robert Pattinson's Batman, or "Parasite," or Ari Aster horror movies. I want to see Abed fixating on the plot holes of "Tenet," or Troy doing an impersonation of Benoit Blanc, or Britta (Gillian Jacobs) screaming about the Marvel-Disney industrial complex, or Jeff playing the "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" soundtrack everywhere he goes after falling into a Cliff Booth phase. The possibilities are endless — and endlessly exciting.

Returning supporting characters and guest stars

While the latter seasons of "Community" are often maligned, I've found that the loudest complaints about them often come from people who didn't actually finish them. Seasons 5 and 6 of the series, both of which aired on the now-defunct Yahoo Screen and were made after the rocky Harmon-less season, still have a whole lot worth loving. The humor is sharp and ever-maturing despite itself, the meta is increasingly labyrinthine, and the cast members brought in to fill the holes in the main cast are way better than they get credit for.

Paget Brewster's Frankie Dart is the best of the bunch: she's a consultant brought on to improve Greendale in the show's sixth season, and unlike other late-run supporting characters, she sticks around until the very end as an honorary part of the former study group. Frankie is a fun character, designed to both comment on the incomprehensible dysfunction of the main cast and of Greendale itself, and to slowly get pulled into the force field of its wackiness.

Along with Frankie, other post-season 4 characters who could pop up include Keith David's inventor Elroy Patashnik and criminology professor Buzz Hickey (Jonathan Banks). While Buzz may or may not have died between seasons 5 and 6, many other memorable professors and guest stars live on. The list of "Community" faculty and staff alumni is long, including roles played by John Oliver, Malcolm McDowell, John Goodman (whose character also died, but that won't stop me from wishing he'd return), and John Michael Higgins. My personal favorite Greendale teacher is Kevin Corrigan's Sean Garrity, who takes the group down an endlessly Hitchcockian rabbit hole in "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design."

Musical moments

If you sit in the same room with me long enough, history shows, I will eventually turn on the Christmas musical episode of "Community." The extremely 2011 outing "Regional Holiday Music" isn't on the short list of the show's most-loved episodes, but the Taran Killam-led story about a singing contagion that slowly turns each member of the study group into cheesy-smiling, regionals-obssessed members of the Greendale Glee Club is number one on my list.

"Regional Holiday Music" stands out first and foremost for the songs, wildly catchy tunes tailored to each individual character's archetypes and idiosyncrasies and performed with the verve that only a peak "Glee" parody could provide. From Glover and Pudi's rap about pretending to be Christian for Santa to Shirley's evangelical anthem to Annie's (Alison Brie) performative sexpot parody of "Santa Baby," the episode is chock-full of songs that will get stuck in your head.

It's also not the only time "Community" went musical: the third season premiere opened with a daydream dance sequence designed to catch the attention of new viewers, one that hilariously promised things that were never going to happen, like, "We're gonna have more fun and be less weird than the first two seasons combined!" In short, "Community" is great at making hilarious original songs, and it's an under-recognized talent I hope the movie takes advantage of. Or, if not, I at least hope it gives Michael Haggins' "Daybreak" some more airtime.

Meta-humor as a gateway to sincerity

"Community" had real emotional stakes not just in spite of its endlessly wacky humor, but because of it. The show was meta from the start thanks to Abed's penchant for seeing the world through the lens of pop culture, but it really started to explore the full potential of its self-referential streak in season 3, when "Remedial Chaos Theory" introduced the idea of multiple timelines. It introduced Darkest Timeline Abed, a bearded character who started as a spoof of Star Trek's Mirrorverse but ended up being an outlet for fans' angst as the show constantly skirted cancellation.

While "Community" used meta and pop culture references to help fans through its roller coaster of a run, it also became the prism through which each of its characters were able to achieve personal growth and better understand themselves. Abed may have introduced the idea of working out one's feelings through parody and imaginative play, but everyone else picked it up too, and it became integral to the emotional heart of the story.

It's tough to imagine where the constructive meta-commentary of "Community" will go after its finale, "Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television," perfectly voiced the characters', fans', and writers' feelings about the end of the series. But if there's one thing "Community" is even better at than endlessly layered meta, it's using that meta to help us make meaning of tough concepts like loss, change, and rebirth. The fact that the real world itself has changed so much since 2015 means that "Community" will have to take on the herculean task of processing the past seven years — for its characters and viewers — through its own uniquely meta-filtered lens. I can't wait to see what the writers come up with.

Dean Pelton's wild outfits

Look, I know I've already said that "Community" thrives on reinvention and therefore likely won't give into fans' desires to clap for familiar running bits, but I think we can all make an exception for Dean Pelton's (Jim Rash) wardrobe. The Dean of Greendale Community College seemed to be running the school on a $10 budget, but he had the clothes of a RuPaul's Drag Race winner and used every excuse in the book to show them off to Jeff and friends.

Like the movie homages and meta elements, Dean's outfits evolved into an impressive and daunting attempt for the series to continually top itself, and each look's debut was wilder and more ridiculous than the last. Whether the Dean was dressed as the inoffensively generic December holiday mascot Mister Winter, grayscale Donna Reed, or Lady Justice, his announcements were always among the best parts of the show.

Guessing the punchline of each Dean entrance also became a hilariously impossible game to play, as he dressed up as "the duali-Dean" to deliver good and bad news about the group's class, or threw on a Catwoman costume for Feline AIDS Awareness Week. The dean chilled out on the outrageous outfits during the show's last two seasons, but I hope the movie brings back his fashion spotlight moments in a big way.