It’s funny to me that we ended up bothering to do that in the foreground with one of our main characters [later on], when we proved that you can do it in four beats and in the background.
On the disappointing reception to the spaceship episode:
[…] it was like, “We’re doing an Apollo 13 homage,” and I did not get the applause I wanted because it was not an understandable thing. I can’t remember the circumstance of it linguistically, but it seemed weird. It didn’t seem like something you would go, “Oh, how exciting, I know exactly what you’re talking about.” It was also inaccurate. It’s not an Apollo 13 homage; that’s just the way I was trying to get it into five words. And more importantly, it was a terrible, terrible idea to incite the fan community with anticipation of a blank-themed episode. I’ll always be gun-shy about that for the rest of my life.
On developing Shirley’s character:
So my impulse was to start doing to her what I was doing to Britta in the first season in response to people saying, “We don’t like that character. We’re not responding to that character.” My response was to start pulverizing that character, putting pressure on her, saying, “You’re not supposed to like her. It’s all part of the show. Have you ever not been liked?” And slowly but surely, this Britta character went from being perceived as a mistake to being perceived as an achievement and numerous people’s favorite character, including mine, frankly. I want to always make sure that all of these characters can all be worlds and universes in and of themselves. And I just felt obstacles there with Shirley, and I felt like I just wanted to make her human. So I had her make out with Chang in the bathroom.
The most important part of your college life is shedding your high-school skin, going through these outwardly childish experiences. You stop learning very quickly, after the first couple years of college. Your personality is set. All kinds of crazy shit’s gonna happen to you, but it’s gonna be crazy shit happening to some guy. It’s not gonna be a person forming, coming out of this chrysalis. And Annie and Troy are different from the rest of the cast in that sense. They’re changing every week. Not only did Troy envy grown-ups in the beginning and end up driving them home and parenting them, but he walked his “sister” to the door and was capable of being attracted to her, appreciative of her, and responsible for her, all without any objectification of her. It was an epiphany. Those are the kinds of things that happen in good summer teen movies from my youth, too. Even movies with titles like Fraternity Pussy Paradise always had some weird third act where the guy from Fright Night has a monologue about how hard it is to be unpopular or something, as the sun comes up behind him. Bachelor Party with Tom Hanks had an odd energy to it in the third act, where the sun starts to crest the horizon and there’s, like, solitude.
The best part of all was Jeff and Britta making out and then Abed sitting there. [Laughs.] I can’t think of a better show than that. And like, somebody’s sleeve or elbow flicks against his face and he’s just sitting here. And then there’s the pause, and he says, “They were making out.” And you think, “Oh, we’re gonna make a ‘will they, won’t they’ situation out of this,” but “No, fuck you.” He just tells them. And they yell at him, like, “Why would you do that in front of me? I’m not a coat rack.” [Laughs.] There’s not a single person in that car who’s a hero or a villain. There’s nobody in that car that’s a sidekick. There’s just a bunch of people in that car getting closer and closer and more and more tangled and realizing there are all these different hats that you have to wear all the time. Troy’s driving Jeff’s new Lexus, and Jeff is saying, “Happy birthday. You’re a man, now,” and it’s like handing a curse off to him. Britta is sort of attracted to him. He’s nutting up and maybe she’s making out with the wrong guy, and it’s all through that Vaseline-coated lens of drunken stupor. I love it.