Courtesy Yahoo!
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February 17, 2015 01:00 PM

Attention Greendale, class is back in session.

When Community was canceled by NBC last summer, fans feared they had seen the last of the critically acclaimed comedy.

But Yahoo will release a sixth season of the sitcom on March 17, and PEOPLE has an exclusive first look at the new episodes.

In anticipation of the upcoming release, star Joel McHale tells PEOPLE about the new season and what it was like to be saved from cancellation at “the last hour of the last day.”

Keith David and Joel McHale on Community
Adam Taylor/Yahoo Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

Had you given up on getting the chance to return to Greendale Community College?
We’d all mourned the loss of the show. We had a commiserating dinner where we all were like, “Well, that’s that. It’s all over.” We had all moved on and had begun taking meetings other places because we thought it was dead – and then it wasn’t. I was thrilled. It was like Buzz Lightyear grabbed us by the shoulders and said, “I’m falling with style.” We were like Woody, and we were saved.

Will the new season be different from the NBC seasons?
Well, we aren’t restrained by the FCC anymore, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be nude and cursing all the time. It will be the same show – just about three or four minutes longer than it used to be. It’s more of an HBO-length comedy now. I can tell you these are the best scripts I’ve ever done. I am skipping to work each day because I am so happy about what is happening.

Yvette Nicole Brown has left the show, but you’re getting two new faces around campus.
It seems to be tradition that we lose a cast member and add a cast member every season now. [Laughs] Yvette obviously had a very good reason and we tell her all the time that we hope her dad is doing as well as he can. But [Criminal Minds‘] Paget Brewster and [Enlisted‘s] Keith David are outstanding. They are so good and so funny.

Gillian Jacobs, Keith David and Joel McHale on Community
Trae Patton/Yahoo Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

I’m so lucky to work with such an amazing group of people. Take Danny Pudi. He should have been nominated for an Emmy for best supporting actor every season. Nobody is making a character like his on television.

What does it mean to you that Yahoo! felt confident in picking the show up after it was canceled?
It was a vindication of the show’s popularity and what it meant to the people. For so long, people went, “Oh, it’s just a reference show,” which didn’t make any sense to me. Yes, a lot of references are made, but there is always a reason for everything that Dan [Harmon] writes. We’ll be watching the show and I’ll look over, and my wife will be slightly crying while laughing, and I’ll just think, “Well, this show is doing its job.”

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