I remember when you guys did the Comic-Con panel, I was in the back of the room and at the start of it, I was thinking, “I don’t know how this is going to go. Is the audience Q&A just going to be 20 minutes of people yelling at the two of you?” And instead, you were basically irrelevant; it was just, “Danny, we love you; Joel, we love you; Gillian, we love you.”
David Guarascio: Yeah. As a writer, you tend to know that with the evolution of a TV show, in the beginning that writer/creator is most important. But at some point, it’s you walking and talking on its own a little bit also, this baby that you created. And it takes on a life of it’s own. And the thing that’s unique about this of course is the fans are so informed about walking and talking over time because there was this immediate dialogue with the fans: what they liked and what they didn’t like was consciously and unconsciously informing decisions that are made in the writers room.
Moses Port: That spoof of us was the first moment — I mean, we’ve been fans of the show and knew and understood that it was a rabid fan base. I don’t think until that moment I had an idea what the fan base was really like. Seeing that, my wife looked at me, like “Holy shit.” It was just this crazy group, like it is its own entity, like nothing else I’ve ever been around. That was a little bit of a – I don’t want to say wake up call but it was just an introduction to realizing this is a different set of group of fans. They have more passion about this than anything I’ve ever been a part of.
So given that they haven’t seen the episodes, you haven’t been able to do it the way Dan did in the early seasons where people were watching and he was taking feedback from that. What responses were you getting from them in the early stages that wound up informing what you did? What were you hearing and seeing that made you say, “Okay, we’ll try that”?
Moses Port: Pretty early on, we weren’t having a direct dialogue, but I think just that Comic-Con was a nice moment, for instance, when we mentioned the “Inspector Spacetime” episode. We knew we were on the right path, that was nice, feeling such a big reaction from that group of 5,000 people, because that had been a big argument, a big discussion with the network and studio, them not wanting to go there and us feeling like we really want to do this. It just felt validating.
David Guarascio: Even though Dan had a dialogue with the fans, I can't imagine him — Who knows? He could probably answer it better than me, because I don’t actually know him — but I’m sure the fans love of the show and reaction to the show can’t help but, in an osmosis kind of way, inform some creative decisions and stuff. But how it directly affects it is kind of hard to say. I don't know if that’s been there necessarily.
Moses Port: My understanding of it from when it was on the air, it would be like, “Here’s what we like,” or, during the episode, “We love this!” You could tell that moments seem to work or not work, or liking this relationship or not. Even still, I can’t imagine that anyone was like, “Well, the fans like it so we’re going to do, it was never that conscious.
But just as an example, I think Dan was very aware that people really didn’t like Britta and that whatever was in his head about who the character was supposed to be, it wasn’t coming across. So then he steered into it and said, “Alright, she’s the worst and that’s the joke now.”
David Guarascio: That’s true.
Do you feel like for those people who are acutely aware of the behind-the-scenes stuff, maybe you’re going to be held to an unfair standard? Like, even if the show was exactly the same as a Dan episode, people are going to be like, “Ah, they're just imitating Dan. It’s missing something.”
David Guarascio: Yes.
Moses Port: For some people.
David Guarascio: There are some people I’m sure who, for them, the show’s done and it’ll never be the same, and they didn’t want to change in that. It’s the way we are as humans — we're aware of all the information and we don’t always know how that affects our perception. And we often wondered if we had Dan write the premiere, and if he wanted to and if he did that and we shot it and aired it, I’m sure there’d be some people saying, “This blows. This is nothing that would of happened before.” It’s just inevitable that would happen.
Moses Port: If they didn’t know he wrote the premiere.
David Guarascio: If he ghostwrote every episode, there'd be people who do not like it, yes. And the truth is, even season 1, season 2, season 3 are different from each other. They are held together because it’s the same cast, same people, but the show grew and changed. Hopefully this will be another step in that but it will be different than any other — every year that was before, even with Dan, was different.
You said that when you went in, you weren’t maybe quite aware of the nature of this particular fandom. If you had known that, if you had known like that the show was going to wind up in limbo until February, if you had known Chevy was going to leave, if you had known all the issues you were going to be dealing with, do you think you still would have taken this job?
David Guarascio: Oh, definitely, yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s been an unbelievable year.
Moses Port: It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
David Guarascio: It’s really been that way and so I feel nothing but lucky for the opportunity.
Moses Port: We were big fans of the show and we thought we were fortunate to have been asked to do it. But we said no a couple times. I don’t think we would of said no the first time — we realize how fortunate we are to have been (given this job)
What was the reticence that led to the first couple of no’s?
Port & Guarascio, simultaneous: All of the things we just talked about!
David Guarascio: Yes. Just a little bit of, “Why do you want to mess it up?” We said all the things that the fan said we said at some point.
Moses Port: In the first breaking down of it, it just seemed like a lose/lose, and obviously now we look at it as a win/win.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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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, "TV (The Book)" about the 100 greatest shows of all time, is available now. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com