There's a new cast member on Community - Jonathan Banks. I couldn't be happier.
Banks is replacing a very well-known person on the show: Chevy Chase. That's not an issue, though since many people still remember him as Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad. That's his main cachet now. Well, he's playing a slightly more vulnerable version of him in this show - a man who is not afraid to admit that he hasn't given up on his dream of cartooning. His doing this is like Andre Braugher doing Brooklyn Nine-Nine. A usual dramatic actor doing comedy, though Banks has stepped out that zone more by doing shows like Parks & Rec, Two and a Half Men and voiceover work on Axe Cop . He's the second Breaking Bad alumn to make the switch - Betsy Brandt did too. I always like seeing actors do things counter to what they are known for, so when I see them in their regular role, I can remember things like this.
Banks' character, Professor Buzz Hickey, has already had several memorable scenes in his three-episode arc, including trying to find the "Ass-Crack Bandit" and ragging on perpetual student Leonard Rodriguez (Richard Erdman). He's already fit into the mediocrity of the Greendale Community College faculty, though he has enjoyed the cafeteria-line cutting perks that the professors enjoy.
His deadpan style is perfect for the zaniness of the other people on the show, especially with Dean Pelton (Jim Rash). There's even a running joke about his replacing Chase on the show - John Oliver's Professor Ian Duncan called him by Chase's character's name, Pierce, and snarked that he was glad that he got rid of the hairpiece. I hope they keep building him up on the show and maybe give him a really big subplot in a later episode.
It's a pity that Community and Brooklyn Nine-Nine are on separate networks. I would love a crossover between the two shows, where Banks could match up against Braugher. Then again, with how much they command the screen, the film might just be all chewed up.
Still, I'll enjoy this run of Banks on Community for as long as it goes on. I just hope they don't do something like have Hickey get shot and stuffed into a barrel of hydrofluoric acid.
You'd better sit down for this one.
You're speeding along through Netflix's newest original series Orange Is the New Black. You're really investing in the ups and downs of anti-heroine Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a white collar criminal adjusting to life in a New York prison. By now, despite all her flaws, you've come to love Piper. You wonder if she'll turn it all around and abandon her proclivity for bad choices. You wonder if she'll earn the trust and friendship of her fellow inmates, many of whom have not taken kindly to her uppity sensibilities. But you also wonder, on the other hand, if the prison will take her down, bury her beneath the dark rubble that exists within her. Well, wonder no further; it doesn't matter. Because she doesn't exist.
If you've made it to the 11th episode of Orange Is the New Black, you might have taken note of a gift bequeathed upon a group of downtrodden inmates by one Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley): a bag of Let's Potato Chips. An innocuous sight to many. But to Community fans, the Let's brand will jog a few memories.
Memories of Leonard "The Human Raisin" Rodriguez (Richard Erdman) proclaiming his delight with the snack food on his YouTube channel. Of Dean Craig Pelton (Jim Rash) paying an unannounced visit to students Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) and Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), munchies in tow. Of Troy and girlfriend Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) squabbling over the quality of the product... although that was a Season 4 episode, so we don't have to talk about it. Yes, while Let's may not be a real potato chip syndicate, it exists with quite a fervor in the Community universe. And, apparently, in the Orange Is the New Black universe. Which means, quite inarguably, that these two shows exist in the same universe.
And, of course, it doesn't stop there. Not even close.
If you're an Orange Is the New Black watcher, then we must assume you are a subscriber to Netflix. And if you are a living human, then we must assume that you're a fan of Arrested Development. In said case, you might have caught a glimpse of GOB munching a few Let's Potato Chips while chumming around with his newly acquired entourage. Does this mean there are three shows that fall into the mix? Hell no. It means there are about a thousand.
Back in the days of Arrested yore, fans were treated to a scrapbooking seminar taught by undercover detective John Munch — Richard Belzer's character in the Law & Order franchise. Belzer, as Munch, had a series of other one-off cameos (The X-Files, The Wire, Sesame Street, 30 Rock) and appeared on Homicide: Life on the Street... a show linked by the Alfre Woodard character Roxanne Turner to none other than St. Elsewhere. St. Elsewhere famously concluded by revealing (spoilers!) that the entire six-season reality existed inside the mind of an autistic child named Tommy Westphall. And with this reveal, it would be only logical to conclude that Homicide (due to the Turner connection) was also concocted by young Tommy. As well as every show linked to that one by John Munch... and every show linked to every one of those shows. It gets pretty extensive.
This is old news, of course. Many have spent years calculating the mass of victims of Tommy Westphall's insatiable imagination. And now, we can welcome Orange Is the New Black into this community. Also Community.
So next time you're watching Litchfield's psychotic world unravel around the hapless (or nefarious?) Piper Chapman, fearing you might no longer be able to bear the treacherous events crafted by Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, take relief in the simple fact that it's all just the daydreams of some kid staring into space in 1988.
But take heed: the Tommy Westphall universe is forever growing, striking down the veritability of people and places everywhere. You might be next.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter | Follow hollywood.com on Twitter @hollywood_com
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UPDATE: The project has officially been greenlit, though none of the stars are attached to return. So, woo?
Looks like Summit Entertainment thinks the world needs a little more old men and women with big guns teaching all these young ‘uns how they used to do it back in the day.
The studio has commissioned Red’s original scribes Jon and Erich Hoeber to pen a sequel and if it likes the script then they may go along with the follow up. Of course, the film would need its original cast back, which means fatter pay checks for Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Mary-Louise Parker. What’s that? Why didn’t I mention Morgan Freeman? BECAUSE HE DIED IN THE MOVIE. Oh yeah, spoiler alert.
And, this being a sequel means the producers are going to have to up the number of old people with guns. May I make a few suggestions? Geoffrey Rush with a bazooka. The guy Leonerd from Community (Richard Erdman) with ninja stars. Judi Dench with a katana. More of Mary-Louise Parker doing the possibly NSFW pie baking thing seen here. Just no damn Betty White!