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
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And in that finale last year, Jeff more than anybody made peace with all of this. It wasn’t just, “I’m okay being here,” but “I’m actually happier being here than I was in my old life.” So when a character reaches that point, what do you do with him?
David Guarascio: Yeah, that was a tough one; that was hard. That’s the thing about doing episodes that you want to be season enders, but could be series enders. Jeff being that position, Chang trying to murder everybody, these were things to deal with creatively. For Jeff, it’s a little bit of a —
Moses Port: Personal journey.
David Guarascio: Yes, it’s the personal journey of this theme that’s been out there, what set up in the finale from last year of his father, what that means for him. Are you defined by the journey or defined by the relationship? What happens when that’s done? And also what happens when you come to that place of understanding that he does at the end of season 3 and then realize, now it’s actually ending. You may feel very comfortable in your college environment and whatever that may be but it actually doesn’t last forever. So what does it mean for you and how do you handle that as you see that approaching end? And some of that really is as much about next year perhaps, and maybe I’m tipping a little bit of where we go this year, but we’ve always said we want to be true to the fact that this is college and it can’t last forever for everybody. Because of the kind of college it is, it allows everyone to take courses at their own rate. Doesn’t mean were all graduating on the same day. You do need to move people on to be true to what the show is and that reality.
So you have plans in mind for a fifth season if a fifth season happens?
David Guarascio: We have - yes, we are ready to approach a fifth season if it should come. The finale is not something that should suggest that the show is over. Even though, if God forbid, the worst thing happens, we feel like we have a finale would be a great way to go out.
And being in this vacuum all this time, are you more confident now, less confident, the same in terms of whether it continues?
David Guarascio: More confident. I would make the bet now that there is a season five.
Moses Port: And I would make the bet with him.
David Guarascio: And I would take it from two angles. One is I think the show holds up as being, this is still “Community” and it’s still a funny and neat show with great characters and we’re telling interesting stories. And I think there will continue to be an audience for it. Two, frankly the bar for how much of an audience you need seems to get slightly lower every year, which helps returning shows in particular. And the network is losing two shows next year. They're losing “The Office” and they're losing “30 Rock,” so just from a business standpoint, and no one's paying us to think about it this way, but I just think they're going to want something that has some familiarity to it. Because with development, you’ve got 15 hits on your hand in January and then in May you have a couple and then in October you have one or zero. And something that has been on the air, that has an audience and has a loyal following, you’re going to want in your corner. And I think this show can do that.
And being held until February and back in the old timeslot was probably ultimately better for you than if you debuted October 19 on a Friday; that’s a better night and other things have had more time to show NBC what they're doing and where the bar should actually realistically be set.
Moses Port: There’s something about that that feels like just might be true. It’s just airing in February, doing almost 13 straight. We’ll have a couple reruns in the middle, hopefully keep our momentum going as we get going and…
David Guarascio: Yeah, it’s tough to tell. There was a period of time where it seemed like (losing) October 19 was the loss of that. Somehow it was even worse than not being on the beginning of the fall. It was like, “It seems right to be this show to be on a Friday.” Somehow I’d talked myself into that being the perfect time period.
Moses Port: Being on Community is really a matter of continually talking yourself into the idea that whatever obstacle has been put in front of you is really for the best, and you’re going to make it work.
When we talked back in the fall, one of the things you said was it’s different coming in to a show that somebody else has been doing for a while, but you also had three years worth of being able to see what Donald can do, what Alison can do. You don’t have to go through that learning curve where you’re figuring out strengths and weaknesses. How much of an advantage was that and was it just easy to always say, “In case of failure have Donald cry,” something like that?
David Guarascio: I mean, it’s an advantage because the show found its voice and both the writers who’ve returned and the new writers (knew it). Because every new writer loved the show and this is everyone's favorite show. Among writers, this is not always but often one of their favorite shows. And certainly everybody who came to work on it, they knew the show inside and out. And of course, the cast that knows their voice of their characters, backwards and forwards, That what the part that made it easier. For everything that’s easier about it there was an obstacle on the other side.
So what were some of the things that were harder then about doing this?
David Guarascio: I think the collective anxiety of not having your leader (Harmon) anymore was the biggest thing. And the reason why that’s hardest to deal with is there’s no tangible thing you can do. All of this is faith. And then seeing the material and getting it and trusting it, that is a hurdle to get by. Sometimes you could go through the beginning and you could be on a run on a few good episodes and then we can hit one that we find something hinky in, which happens every year on every show including this one. I think everyone always thought, “Well there’s a little bit wrong, but Dan will figure it out,” but he’s not here. So then what happens, the rest of us (have to).
Moses Port: One of the bigger challenges of what we’re talking about before is where Dan left it at the end of season 3. First off the challenge of coming in, even though there is a voice, it already had three years of storytelling. You’ve used up three years of stories and they’ve been great stories. Memorable stories. It’s not like people are going to like, “Oh, I forgot they did that.” They will remember — especially with these fans. And the idea that we left Chang as a psychotic, we had to come back from some of these things.
David Guarascio: It really did seem like there was some finality to that end of year where Jeff was, or Chang. Making it something organic, believable, without just saying, “Oh, we're not even going to think about that.” That was difficult.