'Community' star Joel McHale raves about season five

Joel McHale as his flagship character, Jeff Winger, on Community, which returns for its fifth...

Joel McHale as his flagship character, Jeff Winger, on Community, which returns for its fifth season with back-to-back new episodes, Thursday, Jan. 2. (YouTube)

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:29 PM ET

Jeff Winger and Sheldon Cooper could be brothers, I guess.

They're both tall, and there are some subtle similarities to their features. And hey, brothers often are nothing like each other in terms of personality or intelligence or motivation or ambition, we all know that.

Anyway, I got thinking about those two TV characters because of something that Joel McHale said. He plays Jeff Winger on Community, which returns for its fifth season with back-to-back new episodes, Thursday, Jan. 2 on NBC and City. Sheldon Cooper, of course, is a character played by Jim Parsons on The Big Bang Theory, which is the top-rated comedy on TV today.

Conversely, the future of Community always has been in doubt, virtually from Day 1, as actual ratings for the show never have come close to matching its buzz. It turns out buzz doesn't pay the bills.

And then there were all the off-screen controversies, involving creator Dan Harmon fighting with both NBC and actor Chevy Chase. For the record, Harmon is back at the helm for season five, but Chase is gone. And Donald Glover, who plays Troy Barnes, is leaving, too, his character's status reduced to “recurring” in season five.

Anyway, in a recent conference call to promote the fifth season of Community, Jim Rash, who plays Dean Pelton, was asked if all the turmoil has been a distraction.

“I think it's partly blown out of proportion, in the sense that, we've been under the radar for so long ratings-wise that we’ve always been blessed just to be able to come back,” Rash said. “In a weird way, the drama sort of kept us out there. It would feel almost anti-Community if we were assured of anything.”

To which McHale interjected, “Imagine if we were on The Big Bang Theory, where we'd be like 'We can do this until we’re 60 if we want.' ”

Well, Greendale Community College does have students and teachers of all ages. And McHale's Jeff Winger certainly has entered a different phase of his association with the school in season five.

“I would say that this year, Jeff is once again somewhat destabilized,” McHale said. “His immaturities are exposed, a whole new set of them. There’s no doubt, though, that he loves this study group. But he has to really come to terms with how he feels about the school, ultimately. Dan (Harmon) just absolutely lays those things out for Jeff.

“The episodes speak for themselves and you don’t have to watch from the beginning to enjoy the show. You might be a little lost on some of the inside jokes. But I think these are some of the best episodes we have ever done. They stand alone. And that said, I think it’s also the job of NBC to keep pumping us out there and (saying) that this is, you know, a highly enjoyable show.”

The first episode of the new season of Community is titled Repilot. Coda or new beginning? Well, as with anything in life, and as a certain TV jingle teaches us, it all starts with a big bang.

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