'Community's Joel McHale & Alison Brie Have Rousing Things To Say About the Show's Return

Community comes back Thursday, Jan. 2. It's the kind of return that in some ways is typical in television — it's a renewed TV show having its season premiere, no big deal — but it's also the return of a rather storied, heavily beloved showrunner to the show that sprang from his brilliant, idiosyncratic mind. And so in a way it's a Lazarus Rising situation — one that has theoretically not become entirely uncommon in television, but one worth paying attention to nonetheless. And so Community 's stars — Joel McHale and Alison Brie among them — have been making the rounds talking about the show's return, showrunner Dan Harmon, and what it all means to them.

Time will tell whether Community will be granted a sixth season (it's kind of a miracle they've lasted this long), but one thing's for sure: This cast is psyched to be back, especially with Harmon again at the helm.

Asked by Rolling Stone if doing the show without Harmon last year was a "going through the motions" experience, Brie responded:

Yeah, I think so. It was a strange season. Dan, obviously, has always been such a big part of the show. He is the show, basically, so to do a season without him felt really strange. It sort of felt like the constant unknown. I think when Dan is here, we don't worry about much. We know we shouldn't ask too many questions. Last year, I think it was a little stressful for everyone wondering, "How's this going to turn out? What are the loyal fans going to think?"

As for what it's like to have Harmon back:

It's great. I've seen the first episode and some of the other ones and they're just great. It's so wonderful having Dan [Harmon] back. The material is excellent. I think it's better than it's ever been, which is super strange for the fifth season of a show. Having done last season without Dan, I think that everyone was really rejuvenated to have him back and to be back at all. Every year we think that we're not coming back, especially last year, so there was general excitement just to be back and have Dan back and see what he was going to come up with. And as we shot the season, the material just got better and better.

McHale, too, has been talking, most specifically in his recent Reddit AMA. Here's what he said on the return of Harmon and the departure of Donald Glover:

Ad4mH: Hey Joel, wanted to say thanks for doing the AMA and ask a couple questions about Community. My questions are with Dan Harmon back on Community, what was different on the show during the time without him? Now that Donald Glover is departing, how do you think that will that affect season 5? Thanks!
McHale: A) you're welcome. B) Having Dan back is the same feeling you get from a Nestea plunge (absolute relief and delicious refreshment). C) With Troy leaving (Donald), it gives a ton for the incredible, amazing Danny Pudi (Abed) to deal with. Danny should have been nominated for 10 Emmys already.

And more, as well as on his character, Jeff Winger:

Shinja59: 1.) Dan Harmon credits you as being the one who was directly responsible for his return to the show. Can you shed some more light on how you managed to pull off this seemingly-Herculean feat, considering how no other show in television history has ever had a showrunner be asked to return after being previously let go? 2.) After four seasons it felt like Jeff had essentially completed his character ‘arc’, having made peace with his father, become a better person, found true friends, and graduated from Greendale. Obviously a lot of this immediately falls apart come Season 5, but could you describe what kind of place Jeff is at mentally when Season 5 begins, and how he develops throughout the rest of the season?
Joel McHale: A) This is going to be a long answer. Dan was the only way I believe we would get to a 6th season since the show is in his head. Like J.R.R. Tolkien had Middle Earth in his. And I have to thank NBC and Sony for being open and willing to bring him back. And I'm as excited as a little schoolgirl. B) I would explain it now but just watch the 2 episodes that play tonight and that should cover some of it.

All signs point to it being a great season, folks.

Image: NBC