Community was a TV show that initially aired on the US network NBC before being moved to Yahoo! Screen. It followed a group of students at a community college based in a fictional town called Greendale.
Each episode of Community had a very different feel, as the show’s creators regularly parodied cliches and tropes from TV and movies. This led to a string of “paintball episodes” that contained skits of scenes from Die Hard, Star Wars, and other films.
This TV and movie parody element was communicated to the audience through the character Abed. He suffers from Asperger’s, which makes social situations more difficult for him, so he uses the frame of filmmaking to make sense of the world. This has led some fans to theorize that the entire premise of the show is shot from Abed’s perspective, much of which he exaggerates or makes up.
Ensemble Cast & Their Ultimate Departure
The show’s ensemble cast play a mix of characters that many consider are the stereotypical students at community colleges in the United States. Leading cast members include Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Ken Jeong and John Oliver. However, the show suffered when several leading cast members left in later seasons. One of the biggest losses was Chevy Chase. He appeared in every episode during seasons one to three, left partway through season four, and then made guest appearances in season 5. Chase played Pierce Hawthorne, a successful businessman who joined Community college out of boredom.
Pierce began as a selfish, unsociable, and arrogant outsider, but he had a strong desire to fit in with the rest of the study group. This could be seen early on in the show when he paid Britta (Gillian Jacobs) $100 to swap partners for a homework task so that he could work with Jeff (Joel McHale), who was the de facto leader of the group.
The character of Pierce began developing quite quickly, partly as a natural arc and partly because of the off-screen tension between Chevy Chase and the show’s creator, Dan Harmon. This tension allegedly boiled over and resulted in several angry exchanges between the two, including some now-infamous, expletive-filled voicemails that were left for Harmon by Chase.
After Chase began caring less about the show, he would go unseen for large parts of the episodes, appearing at the end. One of the best examples of this was in the finale of season 2, “A Few Paintballs More”. He appears in the final seconds to shoot the remaining City College Storm Troopers and secure victory for Greendale.
By season 2, Pierce was a rebellious pensioner who was joyriding, causing mayhem, and organizing underground games of Texas Hold’em, the most popular variant of poker. He also ended up joining a cult, and is left out of many of the shenanigans that the other main characters get involved in.
Season four marked a turning point for the show, with a mutual agreement between Chase and the show’s creators for him to leave. This happened while the season was still being filmed, requiring Chase to be written out of two episodes. He also appeared in the season four finale in a voice-only role. The characters appeared as felt puppets in that episode.
He did, however, make a cameo appearance in the first episode of season 5, where he showed up in one scene as a hologram. Taking inspiration from Obi-Wan Kanobi / Qui-Gon mentorship relationship, Pierce convinces Jeff not to file a lawsuit that would destroy the college.
Pierce had one last hurrah a few episodes later when his will is read to the rest of the group. They are forced to reveal secrets that start arguments between them, before being given the items left for them by Pierce.
The End of Community?
The departure of Pierce Hawthorne was one of the first events that led to the eventual demise of the show. It was very quickly followed by the departure of Donald Glover, who played Troy Barnes.
Troy was one of the most popular characters in the show, having regular side quests on his own and with Abed.
For the first few seasons, Pierce provided an additional element of comedy, often appearing randomly when you didn’t expect it and making outlandish remarks that shocked the viewer into laughing.
Unfortunately, the off-screen issues between Chase, Harmon, and other crew members ultimately led to the on-screen departures of key cast members. Pierce was just the first domino to fall.