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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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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
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TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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