Author: Ella Fornari
Pop Pop. 300 fans of NBC’s Community squished into a multipurpose room at Los Angeles Community College this weekend for the world’s first CommuniCon. At the root, Community is a show about a study group at a community college. Over the show’s three seasons, Community has gained a huge cult following due to the show’s quirky nature and pop culture references. Community has always been a show where anything can and will happen, including a cross dressing dean and multiple campus-wide guerrilla paintball wars.
The conference spanned two days and featured panels of writers and actors from the show, along with various fan related activities. Los Angeles Community College served as the perfect backdrop for the event since it was the shooting location for the set of Greendale Community College, the show’s fictional school. Flocks of Community T-shirts, Inspector Spacetimes and Evil Abeds lined the room.
The conference started with a Community writers panel featuring Andy Bobrow, Megan Ganz, Chris McKenna, Steve Basilone and Tim Saccardo. The panel took place at a critical time for the show, a few days after the controversial season four premiere. The season four premiere was the first since the show’s creator and head writer Dan Harmon was fired at the end of the last season.
The writers on the panel, the majority of whom wrote for season four, noted that the biggest difficulty in doing the show without Harmon was that they were trying to be Harmon-era Community but could not because that Community was constantly changing. The writers expressed that they felt the pressure of living up to the expectations of fans who, without Harmon, were just waiting to hate anything they wrote.
Throughout the conference, artists displayed and sold Community fanart. There was even a gaming station to play Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne, a fictional video game in the show (free download of Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne can be found at projecthawkthorne.com). All of these displays were, in the spirit of the conference, set up by fans for fans. The strength of the show’s fan community was clear from these artists as well as the excitement of fans surrounding the event. #CommuniCon even trended on twitter throughout the event.
Central to the conference was fans’ ability to communicate as much as possible with the people who make the show, as after every panel they were encouraged to chat with their favorite writer or character. Yvette Nicole Brown, who plays Shirley, and Gillian Jacobs, who plays Britta, made appearances, as well as minor (yet important) characters Fat Neil, Garret, Vicky, Dopple-Dean and Todd.
Harmon’s appearance at CommuniCon was described in the program as “Dan Harmon with Microphone.” Similar to the style of his live show and podcast “Harmon Town,” his talk involved a range of speeches, from inspirational to slightly depressing and free-style rapping.
Harmon mentioned he hadn’t watched the season four premiere and had spent the night drinking, a shock to fans (not the drinking part) who genuinely care about Harmon’s creative opinion. Harmon rationalized his choice not to watch by asserting that the show has been through enough trouble without his input.
Harmon later tried to lighten the mood and inspire fans.”The word community is a big joke,” he said. “The show doesn’t have to be limited to three seasons or four seasons or six seasons or a hypothetical eighth seasons, you can have favorite episodes and least favorite episodes and favorite seasons, you can have eras that you divide it into, just keep having these conventions, just keep getting together.”
Seeing and hearing the creator talk about the show instilled a sense of hope for fans discouraged by Dan Harmon’s absence. The event affirmed to Harmon and to everyone else there (or watching via the live stream) that Community is a meta title, relating to the greater sense of community the show instills in its fans. The sense of community is much more powerful than the choices NBC makes concerning Community, which certainly is cool cool cool.
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