Chevy Chase returns to television in new NBC sitcom 'Community'

by Rick Bentley

McClatchy Newspapers

17 September 2009


PASADENA, Calif. — Chevy Chase, who never thought he would be involved with a situation comedy, finds himself in the cast of the new NBC show “Community.”

He’s got an explanation.

“I honestly think that the films lately aren’t as good as most of the stuff on TV,” Chase says during an NBC party in August to promote the network’s new fall shows.

In the 1980s, movies were good to Chevy Chase. The 17 feature films he made took in more than a half-billion dollars and made him a bigger draw than Burt Reynolds, Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It has been downhill since then for Chase, with theatrical clunkers like “Cops and Robbersons,” “Dirty Work” and “Funny Money.” Toss in his failed 1993 Fox talk show — it lasted five weeks — and Chase has had a long, dry spell.

Chase is leaving it to others to put his career in perspective.

“I don’t think in ‘at this point in my career’ terms. That’s sort of a cliched Hollywood thing for actors,” Chase says.

Nevertheless, at this point in his career, Chase has returned to television — the medium that made him a star with “Saturday Night Live.”

The 66-year-old Chase says his decision to be in “Community” was all about the writing.

“My representatives sent me this script and it was funny. The scripts continue to be very funny, sophisticated, intelligent. I am really enjoying it,” Chase says. He pauses and then adds, “Long hours, though. I didn’t expect the long hours.”

“Community” is about a “Breakfast Club”-type group of community college students who get together to study. Along with Chase, the series stars Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi and Yvette Nicole Brown. As the senior member of the group, Chase’s character has a ton of world experience he can share.

Ditto for Chase and the “Community” cast. Chase was doing pratfalls on “SNL” before some of his cast mates were born. The first time McHale met Chase, he could not stop quoting lines from Chase’s movie “Fletch.”

Series TV is new for Chase, but he established himself as a TV icon almost 35 years ago by being part of the groundbreaking initial “Saturday Night Live” cast.

“SNL” has become a landmark show in TV history, something Chase and the rest of the “Not Ready for Primetime Players” didn’t see coming. That first season was he was a writer who got put on the air to do his own form of political satire through “Weekend Update.”

Chase also became known for taking big falls as part of his impersonation of then-President Gerald Ford. One night, when the padding was left off a lectern, Chase landed so hard he had to spend a week in the hospital.

The political jabs and pratfalls ended soon because Chase was the only cast member signed to a one-year contract.

“I regretted later leaving after the one year because I missed it,” Chase says.

Topics: chevy chase
//Mixed media