Long time, dedicated fans of NBC’s “Community” — wherein “long time” means “three years” and “dedicated” means “tweeting and/or tumblring about the show to excess” — have always known that Chevy Chase’s membership in the cast was fraught, at best. He loved the pilot script but quickly came to hate his character, his storylines, his schedule, creator/ex-showrunner Dan Harmon, and he eventually revealed just how little he thinks of sitcoms as a viable comedic format. Meanwhile, he appears in Old Navy commercials that rape our collective childhoods, if that were actually an appropriate analogy to make.
So it’s not surprise that Chase finally quit the show last week. The still as-yet-to-air fourth season was practically done shooting, with only two episodes left, and considering his presence (or lack of) in certain past episodes of the show, his absence will most likely not be felt. However, should “Community” come back for a surprising, probably bastardized fifth season, there will be a notable Chevy Chase-sized void in those episodes. The racist, sexist, clueless Pierce Hawthorne isn’t to everyone’s taste, but to not replace his spot in the study group is to imply that the performer and the character offered nothing to the series, and I’ve written before about how that is totally streets behind.
If “Community” does return, something will have to be done and, since this is NBC we’re talking about, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they simply looked at other, more financially successful TV series that needed replacement actors and just copied them. As uninspired as that usually is, it isn’t always a bad idea. Though it often is, especially when the actor is playing the same character. As much as the term meta gets thrown around in regards to this show, even it is grounded in something akin to our reality and couldn’t withstand the commentary while maintaining it. Sure, there was a “zombie” episode but the characters didn’t turn into the walking dead, they had rabies and the story was told in the zombie movie milieu. The claymation episode was all seen through Abed’s psychosis, just like the multiple timelines are only in his imagination, and poor Jerry Minor had to clean up all that paint before the start of the new semester. Like “Lost,” everything that happened on “Community,” happened.
So, below are the Good, the Bad, and the Obviously of who could fill Chevy Chase’s clown shoes should season five become a thing. Behold!
Billy Connolly as Pierce’s Scottish cousin, who thinks getting a green card requires at least some college-level education. He may or may not be a hitman trying to hide from the federales. The racism is funny because of the accent.
Experience: One season as the replacement teacher on “Head of the Class”
Jeff Goldblum as Pierce’s wacky, prickly personal accountant, who is attending Greendale in order to finish Pierce’s degree. Don’t want any of that family money to go to waste, right? The racism is funny because he’s Jewish.
Experience: One season as the replacement quirky detective on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”
Charlie Murphy as the half-brother of Pierce’s half-brother, Gus Fring, who, instead of the accountant, is hired to finish Pierce’s degree while trying to get an education for his own purposes. The racism is funny because he’s black.
Experience: One season as the replacement co-host on “Chapelle’s Show”
Woody Harrelson as Pierce’s other half-brother, who was totally disowned by their father due to his penchant for smoking the reefer and dabbling in the non-straight sexual arts. He comes to find Pierce but sticks around because why not? The racism is funny because he’s high, and maybe a little gay.
Experience: Nine seasons as the replacement bartender on “Cheers”
Sarah Chalke as one of Pierce’s step-daughters, who having just lost her mother to canceraids set out to find the only father she ever knew but instead finds an all-new family in everyone’s favorite prime time network sitcom study group. The racism is funny she’s adorable.
Experience: Four seasons, on and off, as the replacement Becky on “Roseanne”
Ted McGinley as the current husband of one of Pierce’s ex-wives, who has been tricked into finishing the degree with the promise that the creepy phone calls at night will stop. But they will never stop. The racism is funny because he’s just so darn handsome.
Experience: One season as the replacement Ron Howard on “Happy Days” and six seasons as the replacement annoying neighbor’s husband on “Married… with Children”
Jon Lovitz as Pierce’s “guy,” as in his “suit guy” or his “exotic/illegal animal guy,” who only joins the group because after the Dungeons & Dragons debacle Pierce decided he needed a “chair guy.” The racism is funny because he is also Jewish.
Experience: One season as the replacement Phil Hartman on “NewsRadio”
David Spade as one of Pierce’s ex-wives, who recently underwent gender reassignment surgery and is looking for a new start in life. The medical bills totally wiped him/her out so community college is all she can afford. The racism is funny because who does s/he think s/he is?
Experience: One and a half seasons as the replacement John Ritter on “8 Simple Rules”
Ashton Kutcher as Pierce’s step-son, another disbarred lawyer who develops an unhealthy infatuation with Winger that doesn’t sit well with Dean Pelton. The racism is funny because he’s really dumb.
Experience: One and a half seasons as the replacement Charlie Sheen on “Two and a Half Men” (so far)
Charlie Sheen as Pierce’s co-partner in debauchery from their youth, who comes to Greendale to honor what his old friend started and continue to remind Jeff of the person he doesn’t want to become. The racism is funny because it’s not.
Experience: Two seasons as the replacement Michael J. Fox on “Spin City”
Richard Erdman as Leonard Rodriguez. He fills the hilarious old guy spot. He makes up for any lost group dynamics by maintaining a mostly antagonistic relationship with the group. He likes this post. Plus? No more racism.
Experience: Three seasons and counting on “Community”
Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. Actually, if they wanted to say that Abed re-cast Pierce in his mind’s eye as a beautiful, hilarious blonde woman, he would love to see Sarah Chalke take the part.