Inside Television with Alan Sepinwall

New 'Community' producers Moses Port and David Guarascio preview season 4

On losing Chevy Chase, preparing for senior year and whether, in hindsight, they'd have chosen to succeed Dan Harmon

<p>The &quot;Community&quot;&nbsp;producers are new, but the faces in front of the camera remain the same.</p>

The "Community" producers are new, but the faces in front of the camera remain the same.

Credit: NBC
In succeeding Community creator Dan Harmon as showrunners of the NBC comedy, Moses Port and David Guarascio have been placed in a trickier position than most TV producers. First, it’s not often that a writer as singularly associated with a show as Harmon was with “Community” leaves it, whether voluntarily or because they were fired. Second, when it’s happened in the past with shows like “NYPD Blue” post-Milch, “The West Wing” post-Sorkin and “Gilmore Girls” post-Sherman-Palladino, the replacements have tended to be people who had already been working on the show and watching the creator at work. Port and Guarascio are comedy veterans who most recently worked on ABC’s “Happy Endings,” but their only prior affiliation with “Community” was as viewers of the show.
 
I spoke with them back in October, when “Community” was supposed to debut on October 19 in a new Friday timeslot. Instead, it was held until tomorrow night, when it’ll be back in its familiary Thursday at 8 p.m. berth for a 13-episode fourth season that Port and Guarascio believe has a good chance of not being the end of the series.
 
When I was in LA last month, I sat down with them for an expansive discussion about the challenges of stepping in for Harmon, their reaction to Chevy Chase’s abrupt exit late in the season (and how the show will deal with it), their take on where most of the characters are heading into season 4, their reaction to getting their very own Twitter spoof account, and a lot more.
 
I’ll have a review of the new season published either later today or first thing tomorrow.
 
Everything’s been shot, but what’s left to do on the season?
 
David Guarascio: Just editing, just post.And we are more than halfway through that process. We've seen cuts of everything but a few of the episodes. It’s like end of second semester, senior year, right now as far as we’re concerned.
 
So when you’re this close to the finish line, how has this experience been overall?
 
David Guarascio: Working on the show was great and just as much fun as we’d hoped it would be. It's been weird not having it air. So there’s a little bit of that. You still feel like slightly you’re in a suspended animation waiting for that. It would’ve been nice to have been making them also while they’re airing.   But at the same time were happy they’re airing at all 'cause a little bit of that, did it really happened? Right. If no one ever sees the episode, was it really made? Those kind of existential question start to happen after a while.
 
Bill Lawrence has said that in those years when NBC would hold “Scrubs” until mid-season. He said they would always start to get really weird because they were getting no feedback, so they were just amusing themselves. Was there any sort of change like that for you? What episode were you on when they announced that it was going to be not October 19?
 
Moses Port: It must’ve been at the beginning of October.
 
David Guarascio: Which means what though like (episode) five or six?
 
Moses Port: I guess so.
 
So was there any kind of noticeable change in what you were doing after that?
 
Moses Port: No, I don’t think so.  The show was something where we’re able to do some fairly weird things relative to other TV shows to begin with. So it didn’t really affect our trajectory whatsoever. It just think there’s a little bit of anxiety still for everyone of how will it be received? It’s still the big changes, the verdict is, you know, the jury is still out and so everybody’s kind of twiddling their thumbs a little bit.
 
You guys are in this interesting position in that it’s not a regular show being held until mid-season, it’s this special show under this unusual circumstance.
 
David Guarascio: Yeah. I think if the show had aired while we were doing it, it would have just been easier. Just one way or the other, even if you’re doing it wrong you can course correct. If you’re doing it right, everyone’s like, “Yeah we’re doing it right.”
 
Moses Port: Normally, it's like the anticipation is more anxiety inducing than the actual event. So it would be nice to have aired just to clear that hurdle. For example, we knew in advance of our Christmas episode that we were not going to be airing in Christmas. And we were like, “Well, fuck it; we’re still doing our Christmas episode.” And at that point maybe the network in the studio where at first encouraging us to not do a Christmas episode. Well we did a Halloween and we did a Thanksgiving, so what’s the harm really? And its one of those funny things you know you see cable shows do it all the time. So we might as well just do a Christmas episode; it’s in the middle of summer all the time. The audience does not care. They’re willing to suspend their disbelief that it’s not actually December 25, even though they're watching it being portrayed in that time period.
 
David Guarascio: Hopefully, they won’t hold it off until next Christmas. That would be their final vengeance.
 
Initially, the order was for 13 (episodes). But I have to assume when you took the job you were at least sort of thinking, “Well maybe we might get a back 9.” That just can’t logistically happen now. Was there ever a point when you were breaking the story where you were thinking, “Well what do we do if it’s 13 and then what we do if it’s 22?”
 
Moses Port: All the way through. It wasn’t until late that we heard for sure.
 
David Guarascio: I think we sort of intuitively knew it was looking more and more like 13 once they pushed the airdate. But there was a big like scuttlebutt that we might get three or four more episodes at one point. And at that point we really planned our finale and how we get there.
 
Moses Port: So we were just probably would’ve slotted in a couple of more clearly standalone. And they were all standalone in their own way, of course.
 
David Guarascio: The show has been through that before I think in season 2, they, you know, they ended up getting 24 or 25 they made.
 
I think it was season 1 where that happened.
 
David Guarascio: Yeah, so they ended up making a few episodes that turned out to be very memorable episodes. So we were looking forward just for that thing like, “Oh, that'll be fun like, and now you can really do whatever you want because they’re telling you so late. And everyone knows you’re up against it.” You know what? I think also the feeling early on was maybe just because of the show’s history, knowing it almost didn’t get renewed, that 13 was going to be the most likely thing. And so the internal discussions were always is it more likely to get a back 9 or a season 5? And I think we always contended more likely for a season 5. So we’re half true.
 
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Alan Sepinwall
Sr. Editor, What's Alan Watching
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "The Revolution Was Televised," about the last 15 years of TV drama, is for sale at Amazon. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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