'Community' Season 5 Shocker: Dan Harmon Explains the Surprise Premiere Cameo

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'Community' has delivered enough miracles to last a lifetime, whether by its renewal for second and third seasons, a Dan Harmon-less fourth, and, of course, a fifth season with Harmon's critically-lauded return, but last night's premiere once again pulled off the impossible. Find out how the Greendale gang managed the surprise premiere cameo of one of 'Community''s biggest stars!

You're warned of spoilers from here on out, but for those who caught the first half of last night's 'Community' season 5 premiere, "Repilot," it seems the oft-discussed animosity between showrunner Dan Harmon and controversially-departed series star Chevy Chase had cooled somewhat, allowing for Pierce's brief return. Chase didn't appear on set, mind you, but rather in a separately-taped "hologram" performance that inspired Jeff (Joel McHale) to return to save Greendale.

IGN caught up with Harmon before the premiere to learn the surprise circumstances that allowed for Chase's return and, perhaps even more shockingly, how it had been kept under wraps until the January 2 debut:

What the story needed was someone to turn [Jeff], and I did picture Pierce immediately because if he was still on the show, that's exactly how we would use him, and it's a greater fact that he was always at his best as this sort of hapless Obi-Wan or a cautionary tale or unintentional mentor - trying to be a mentor in one way, but actually inspiring in a different way. It just seemed like one of those big moments where it was like, "Man, I really miss having that Pierce character," and I literally pictured him in my head like this Industrial Light & Magic ghost that would appear in front of Jeff and say, "Don't do this. Go back." Then I thought, "Okay, then how do we actually make that happen, logically?" The answer was, "Well, actually what you're describing could just be a hologram, because it doesn't need to be having a conversation with Jeff. He just needs to say something. He just needs to be a vision." He can't be a literal ghost, but he could be a hologram, because Pierce has money, and that seems like the kind of thing you associate with Pierce -- that whole Baby Boomer/Sharper Image kind of technology for its own sake kind of thing. And actually, that would work perfectly, because it would allow Chevy to come back to the show without panicking Sony legal, because he wouldn't be on the set.

I wasn't there when Chevy departed, but I know he had a specific agreement with Sony in which the terms of his departure were contractual and there was an agreement on both sides. I don't really know more details than that except to say that simply bringing him back would be a contractual issue. So I was able to say to the studio, "What if we weren't bringing him back? What if we were shooting him on a separate stage with no other actors around. Would that be allowable?" And they said, "Yes." So it became this idea. I knew Chevy would be on-board because he's an arch character, but I know that at the end of it all he always loved doing the show and would be more than willing to come back. He's very passionate about making people laugh. So I texted him, and he said, "Absolutely, I'll do it."

We don't mind telling you that the season 5 premiere certainly won't be the last time Chase's presence is felt over the coming run of episodes, though as introduced with the season's second episode, "Introduction to Teaching," 'Breaking Bad' star Jonathan Banks' new professor character Buzz Hickey more than fills any void left by Chase's departure. Hopefully, we'll be able to say the same of Donald Glover's Troy by the time his five episodes have elapsed.

Well, what say you? Were you surprised by the big 'Community' season 5 premiere cameo? Do you wish Chevy Chase had settled his differences with the cast and crew, like Harmon before him? Read our review of the premiere, and tell us what you thought about the cult comedy's return to form in the comments!

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