Community Showrunners and Cast Discuss Season 4: Will Jeff Leave the Study Group?
October 19 is here - again!
Four months after Community's fourth season was initially supposed to air, the comedy is finally re-opening the doors to Greendale Community College on Thursday at 8/7c on NBC. But how will the delay affect this season? With creator Dan Harmon out, will the cult hit maintain the same niche voice? Should we get our hopes up for a Season 5? And what the frak happened with Chevy Chase? New showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port and stars Alison Brie and Gillian Jacobs talked to TVGuide.com to help answer all our Community burning questions.
Maintaining the Series' Signature (Surreal) Tone
When NBC pushed back Community's premiere, fans weren't the only ones upset, but the delay isn't without a silver lining. Instead of its originally scheduled Friday timeslot, Community will be returning to Thursday nights, "which is ultimately what we wanted," Guarascio noted. "I think the only other regret was that we didn't air while we were in production," Port added.
Since the entire season has been shot, that means the executive producers will be unable to tweak anything throughout the season. "I think we're all a little anxious," Guarascio said about hearing the reactions of the notoriously passionate fanbase. "But I think it's easier to be anxious as it's looming far away. Now that it's here, it's almost like a relief."
Guarascio and Port might have a small case of the nerves, but fans have no reason to. Not only is the show as delightfully weird as ever, but despite the delay, Community's fourth season will air exactly as planned, holiday episodes and all. "We did get some pressure, just for example, to make our Christmas episode not our Christmas episode because we hadn't shot that yet," Guarascio told TVGuide.com. "We just sort of felt like we're already doing a Halloween and a Thanksgiving episode; we're not fooling anyone by not doing it."
That's not the only time the showrunners stood their ground to maintain Community's signature (and often surreal) tone. The had to fight to do the anticipated Inspector Spacetime episode, as well. And for those who feared they wouldn't defend Community with the same passion as Harmon, both of these anecdotes come as a great relief.
In addition to InspecTiCon and the holiday episodes, Season 4 will begin with a Hunger Games parody. The series will also spoof The Shawshank Redemption and the original Freaky Friday later this year. Sadly, neither Guarascio nor Port would confirm whether that meant actual body-swapping would be involved.
Emotional Times for The Greendale Seven (Plus One!)
As a whole, Guarascio called Season 4 "a year of change," both in the show and behind the scenes. With graduation for some of The Greendale Seven fast approaching, the study group is at a crossroads. "I think Jeff (Joel McHale) kind of has his eyes on the prize of getting out of Greendale and resuming his career as a lawyer. And others don't want to leave and are just sort of finding out what we want to do in life," said Jacobs, who plays Britta.
Does that mean our favorite Ryan Seacrest impersonator could really be leaving Greendale behind him? Not only is he one credit shy of graduating, but in Season 1 Jeff did mention an "unmovable appointment" on May 23, 2013 (which is a Thursday, we might add) to celebrate becoming a lawyer again. If that does happen, would the study group be able to continue on without him?
This is one of the questions that deeply troubles Abed (Danny Pudi) in the premiere, but he isn't the only one having a hard time adjusting. "Annie's definitely on her own little emotional rollercoaster," Guarascio said. He explained that, very much like Abed last season, Annie (Brie) will have to work on separating fantasy from reality, especially with her relationship with Jeff. "Annie's kind of crazy," said Brie. "You think she would let it go after so long but the fire's still lit inside her."
While Annie tries to decipher her relationship with Jeff, Troy (Donald Glover) and Britta's relationship takes a big step forward. When the will-they-won't-they pair finally go there, the couple's romance isn't without consequences. But once again, it might not be the typically stagnant Abed who's the most thrown off by the changes. Now in his first real relationship, Troy will hit a few snags in accepting his newfound maturity. (And we already know how well Troy deals with feelings).
"The real question is, can any two people be closer than Troy and Abed?" Guarascio asked. "That's kind of a hard thing to surpass and something Britta might have to face, as well." But never fear, Jeff and Britta fans! The couples aren't set in stone. "I would definitely say there is a chance to see shaking up," Guarascio said.
In a season of such uncertainty, be ready to expect the unexpected when it comes to Chang (Ken Jeong). After the fall of the Chang Dynasty, the former Greendale dictator resurfaces - as Kevin? And now that he's suffering from "Changnesisa," prepare to see El Tigre Chino like you've never seen him before. "He's basically trying to almost burn them all to death at the end of last season, so there's a lot of making up he has to do," Guarascio said. "There is redemption, but in a unique way." That being said, "Kevin" might be a changed man, but it still doesn't erase what he did. So how does the study group react to his return?
Or to put it in words, "Shocked and appalled," according to Brie. "Horrified, terrified, mystified," added Jacobs.
The Future: Six Seasons and a Movie (Minus One Human Being)
But no matter what happens with the characters (and NBC) this season, Guarascio and Port are prepared either way regarding their chances of renewal. When writing the fourth season finale, the producers made sure it could feasibly function as a series finale, if necessary. "If it did turn out to be the last one, we wanted to go out with the right kind of bang," Guarascio said. On the other hand, if Community does get a fifth season, the pair has a few story options in mind already. But Port reassured, "The study group and Greendale have always been characters in the show, and if there is a fifth season, they'd continue to be."
However, if NBC were to pass on another season of Community, the producers and writing staff have a few ideas for continuing the show, one of which is to forgo traditional networks completely. When discussing Season 4, Guarascio mentioned a desire to release all 13 episodes simultaneously. "We would love if everyone could consume it all at once, Netflix- and Amazon-style, and just appreciate it that way," he said, "but obviously we can't do that." Though if NBC decided not to renew, the show could find life again online, much like another beloved cult hit, Arrested Development, which will air new episodes on Netflix. "I think there's a lot more stories to tell, and the cast is unbelievable. When you can collect a cast like this, you don't want to stop prematurely. So there's a lot more to do, so hopefully we get the opportunity," Port said. "If not NBC, then hopefully somewhere else." Though the pair did add that NBC remains their first choice.
If we're lucky enough to get five seasons (or maybe even six seasons and a movie), Greendale will sadly be down one Human Being. It was announced in November that Chevy Chase, who plays millionaire Pierce Hawthorne, was leaving. "It happened right toward the end of the season so it was surprising, I guess, more than anything," Brie noted. But contrary to previous reports, Chase will appear in the fourth season finale. And while Chase had very public issues on set and with former showrunner Harmon, Guarascio and Port denied ever having similar problems with the actor. "Chevy had a really great year here creatively, and the show's gonna miss him," Guarascio said. "The show, while being very out there sometimes, also has this grounded sensibility of what happens in life can happen in the show. And people move on and do other things, so I think the show could go on brilliantly without him."
Are you excited for Community to return Thursday at 8/7c on NBC?
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