The cult phenomenon "Community" will be returning to NBC's Thursday night comedy lineup on Oct. 19 with a parody of the hit film "The Hunger Games." The season 4 premiere will start the show off with a more broad appeal than usual, possibly as a result of the forced departure of series creator and former show runner Dan Harmon.
Entertainment Weekly posted on-set pictures from the "Hunger Games" parody.
"Fans will see these pictures and go, 'Dammit, they've tried to make this show mainstream! They're trying to steal the "Two and a Half Men" audience!'" jokes series star Joel McHale. "They're going to be like, 'What - is this an episode of "The Middle"?'"
The niche TV show has strived to be weird in the past, featuring things like alternative timelines, a zombie apocalypse, a full-scale "Law & Order" spoof, and a claymation Christmas special. Now Jeff Winger (McHale) and friends will be placed in the position of Katniss Everdeen (it's a safe bet that the Dean [Jim Rash] will be making play on that name in the episode).
Entertainment Weekly summarized the episode, saying "When the Greendale student records seem to be lost, the Dean stages a Hunger Games-like competition to determine enrollment in a class called The History of Ice Cream." From the pictures posted, fans get a glimpse at Winger dancing with a cross-dressed Dean, as well as McHale's character performing some kind of challenge for a, once again, cross-dressed head of Greendale.
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"He will repulse and arouse you all at once," says McHale about the Dean's sensual performance reports Entertainment Weekly, adding "Mostly repulse." The show's lead also says that there will be more than one pop culture parody in the episode: "It is an homage to something that kids in the late '80s and early '90s watched on Saturday mornings."
The premiere will mark the first episode of the beloved series that doesn't feature creator Dan Harmon as showrunner. Harmon announced his departure from "Community" in a Tumblr post three months ago, saying, "A few hours ago, I landed in Los Angeles, turned on my phone, and confirmed what you already know. Sony Pictures Television [the show's production company] is replacing me as showrunner on Community."
"Happy Endings" writers David Guarascio and Moses Port will both be showrunners and executive producers for the upcoming season four of "Community." Vulture notes that Harmon's replacement comes after a long period of tension between the creator, and the network and studio.
NBC and Sony Pictures Television were pressuring Harmon to broaden the show's appeal to a more mainstream audience since the very first season, which is the opposite of the direction the show took over the past three years. "Community" being the oddity that it is has brought the series some success, but exectutives still haven't been pleased with the series.
Issues also came from Harmon's defiant attitude toward the studio, network, and even the "Community" staff. "Dan is a brilliant at ideas, but he's terrible at [management]," claimed an unnamed source according to Vulture.
In May, Hit Fix wrote an article about the show's fourth season. "The cast is talented enough, and the characters delineated enough, that you can imagine a much more straightforward version of the show in which an unlikely group of friends have wacky adventures on a college campus," the publication writes.
From what the on-set photos show of the premiere, the series hasn't strayed far from its old ways. The scenario bears some resemblance to the paint ball episodes "A Fistful of Paintballs" and "For a Few Paintballs More" of season two, and "Modern Warfare" in late season one.
"The Hunger Games" is a popular subject to parody, considering that the film had the highest grossing opening weekend for the month of March. Even after grossing $408 million total reports Box Office Mojo, the film and book series still fit the quirky mold of "Community."