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20 Things You Might Not Know About Community

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Community began in 2009 as a smart sitcom about a community college study group. Pretty soon, the show evolved into a clever weekly deconstruction of television that also managed to keep viewers invested in the lives of its characters. The show was canceled by NBC despite critical acclaim due to underwhelming ratings, but a last-second deal is bringing the show to Yahoo! for, at the very least, a sixth season. And all of the Greendale Human Beings rejoiced.

1. THE SHOW WAS BASED ON DAN HARMON’S REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE AT COMMUNITY COLLEGE.

Harmon already had some success as a writer in his early 30s. At the time, he took a Spanish class with his then-girlfriend at his local community college. The girlfriend became an ex, but his positive experiences with his study group gave him an idea for NBC when they were open to hearing his pitches.

2. JEFF WINGER WAS NAMED AFTER JOHN WINGER, BILL MURRAY’S CHARACTER FROM STRIPES.

Harmon had always hoped that he could get Murray to play Jeff’s father on the show, but James Brolin got the role as Mr. Winger during a season four episode.

3. ANNIE EDISON WAS MODELED AFTER TRACY FLICK FROM ELECTION.

Harmon went so far as to call his creation a “rip-off” of Reese Witherspoon’s character, but Alison Brie’s acting made Annie distinct from Tracy.

4. DONALD GLOVER WAS A WRITER ON 30 ROCK FOR THREE YEARS BEFORE PLAYING TROY.

Glover initially said he based some of Troy Barnes on the cocky Friday Night Lights quarterback Smash Williams.

5. JIM RASH WAS CAST AFTER SHOOTING FOR THE PILOT BEGAN.

Rash would later become a series regular in season three and win an Oscar for co-writing The Descendants. He played Dean Pelton with a wedding ring on his finger in the first episode. The character never wore it again, and the reason wasn’t explained until season five’s “Basic Story”—it belonged to the Dean’s mother, and Pelton lost it during his first week.

6. ABED IS LOOSELY BASED ON AN ACTUAL PERSON NAMED ABED.

Abed Gheith auditioned to play Abed Nadir but lost to Danny Pudi. Gheith acted and wrote in 5-minute TV shows for Channel 101, a monthly film festival in Los Angeles created by Harmon and Rob Schrab. Gheith finds Nadir to be a “kid-like” version of himself, with less social awareness.

7. IT’S SET IN COLORADO.

For legal reasons, to avoid any rumored comparisons to actual influence of Glendale Community College in California, Greendale is located in Colorado.

8. THE WRITERS HAD AN ENTIRE STRANGE BACKSTORY FOR CHANG PLOTTED OUT.

In the eventually discarded storyline, Chang ate his twin sister in his mother’s uterus. Ken Jeong’s character’s “psychotic breaks” would have come in the form of his sister’s ghost telling him to be evil.

9. TROY AND PIERCE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THE “TROY AND ABED” OF THE SHOW.

Harmon and the writers conceived of Glover and Chevy Chase as the “new Beavis and Butt-head” of the study group. After Glover and Danny Pudi became close friends in real life, Troy and Abed started to spend a lot more time together.

10. THERE WERE NO SCENES OFF THE GREENDALE CAMPUS IN THE FIRST SEASON.

Harmon restricted himself and the other writers from writing scenes outside of the college. Similarly, every scene of the first season of Cheers exclusively takes place inside the bar.

11. EVERY EPISODE IS MAPPED WITH HARMON’S STORY CIRCLES IN MIND.

Based on Joseph Campbell’s findings of the patterns of mythological texts and Harmon's own deep studies of TV and movies, the Community creator believes that each character and story plots out in this order: A character is in a zone of comfort; they want something; they enter an unfamiliar situation; adapt to it; get what they wanted; pay a heavy price for it; then return to their familiar situation, having changed. Every big and small storytelling pattern on Community, including “throwaway gags to entire seasons,” must suit the order.

12. THE COMPOSER OF “DAYBREAK” WAS WORKING FOR CBS WHEN HIS SONG STARTED PLAYING ON THE SHOW.

Michael Haggins’ music has appeared in various shows, but Community has definitely given him the most love. As of 2012, Haggins was still waiting on the checks from the show and working as a video technician for a rival network.

13. THE RUSSO BROTHERS DIRECTED CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER THANKS TO THEIR WORK ON AN EPISODE.

A Marvel executive was impressed with Joe and Anthony Russo’s direction on the two-part second season finale “A Fistful of Paintballs” and “For a Few Paintballs More.”

14. MAGNITUDE IS SHORT FOR "MAGNETIC ENERGY," AND HE IS 16 YEARS OLD.

He was originally named “Poochie.” "Quasar," "Ray-Ray," "Chronos", and "Event Horizon" were also considerations.

15. CHEVY CHASE REFUSED TO DO A SCENE FOR AN EPISODE'S ENDING.

The script for “Digital Estate Planning” as written had Abed present Pierce with a flash drive containing a modification of the 8-bit game “Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne,” where Pierce’s father happily plays a game of catch with his son. Chase was either tired and/or didn’t think it funny enough to shoot, the sets were taken down because it was the end of the season, and Harmon was very upset that the scene could not be shot.

16. ANNIE’S BROTHER IS PLAYED BY A DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS DUNGEON MASTER.

Spencer Crittenden was chosen from a “Harmontown” audience, the Community show runner’s weekly live show that is recorded as a podcast from Los Angeles, to oversee the D & D game that takes place at the end of episodes. Harmon eventually hired Crittenden as his assistant, then cast him as Anthony Edison. Crittenden is also featured prominently in the Harmontown documentary that was released last year, and much less prominently as a member of the Greendale Old Timey Photo Club.

17. JOEL MCHALE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR GETTING DAN HARMON’S JOB BACK.

Sony, the studio that produces Community, fired Harmon at the end of the third season for his management skills. After a fourth season that most fans and critics found to be inferior to the seasons before it, McHale insisted that his former boss get his job back. Longtime TV critic Alan Sepinwall noted that it was the first time in the modern era of television that a showrunner was fired and then re-hired to a series.

18. IT’S THE BIGGEST FAN OF THE LONG-FORGOTTEN NBC SERIES THE CAPE.

In a scene from “Paradigms of Human Memory,” Abed told a skeptical Jeff that the new NBC show The Cape would forge ahead with “six seasons and a movie.” (Jeff’s prediction of “three weeks” was much more accurate—it lasted for ten episodes, and there is no movie planned anytime soon.)

After Community fans used “#sixseasonsandamovie” as a rallying cry to will their favorite show into perpetual existence despite constant threats of being canceled, Keith David was hired to narrate the show’s Ken Burns Civil War parody, “Pillows and Blankets.” At the conclusion of the episode, Jeff asked the narrator if he was in The Cape, to which David lied and said no. Now, David is one of two new cast members for the upcoming sixth season as Elroy Patashnik, a “washed-up inventor.”

19. THE BEETLEJUICE GAG ALMOST DIDN’T HAPPEN.

Staff writer Megan Ganz, who now works for Modern Family, recalled that “Beetlejuice” was initially supposed to be spoken by a security guard to Chang in “Competitive Ecology,” and thought that that would be the second time “Beetlejuice” was said throughout the series. When she “jokingly warned” Harmon about the consequences of saying that name three times, Harmon remembered that in addition to the reference in the Ganz written season two episode “Cooperative Calligraphy,” the name was also uttered by Professor Slater in season one’s “Communication Studies” too. Realizing they had a potentially great chance at a sight gag, it was written out of "Competitive Ecology" and put into the following episode, “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps,” with you-know-who doing a walk-by.

20. GILLIAN JACOBS FOUND OUT THAT THE SHOW GOT PICKED UP BY YAHOO VIA TWITTER.

The internet Britta'd the news for her.

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These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years
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iStock

Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
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iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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