New 'Community' producers Moses Port and David Guarascio talk about life after Dan Harmon
They loved the first three seasons, want to keep pleasing the fans
DAVID GUARASCIO: We were huge fans of "Community." As fans, when Sony called us to say, 'Listen, Dan is going to be off the show, and we'd like you guys to run it,' our first response was, 'Are you sure that's a good idea, not having Dan there?' We certainly associated him with the show. I think a lot of fans have. From there, we were hesitant about it. But as we started watching episodes, we landed in a place it's just a unique sandbox from a writer's perspective. There weren't a lot of shows where you could tell the kinds of stories you do on the show, and a cast as funny as any cast that's ever been on TV. WE thought it was a a once in the lifetime opportunity, and maybe we should just do it.
MOSES PORT: The first thing is, I don't think we came in here being like, 'We need to put our stamp on it.' When we came in, we made the conscious decision that we're going to check our ego at the door. We love this show and want to do what's best for the show. That meant coming in and doing a lot of catch up about how things were done. We weren't coming in and saying, 'This is a new show right now.' We had long discussions with the writers who had been here before us about the way they write stories, the way they held stories, and we wanted to continue in that tradition.
DAVID GUARASCIO: Every year of every show is different from every year that preceded it. Even on "Community," season 2 is different from season 1 and season 3 from season 2. No matter who's running the show in season 4, that would be the case, as long as you're true to following the arc that the characters have been on previously. That's where we wanted to take the show, is where it's been. You can't copy it. Only Dan running the show can do what Dan would do. What we can do is take the information and the stories that have been told over the last three years, and think with our writing staff, and our fellow producers, and our cast — they're as important as anybody in breathing life into this show and making it something that's not just on a page but lives and breathes in the medium. In that sense, honestly, we couldn't really copy if we tried. But we can keep the spirit of the television show alive.
MOSES PORT: Obviously, that paintball episode was the first thing. I remember seeing Troy's 21st birthday and the pen episode, and just being struck by how many different ways you can do the show and it can still feel like a "Community" episode.
DAVID GUARASCIO: There is something a little intimidating about it, but ultimately, it's a little more exciting than anything. That's kind of the hard work that took place before we got here. Dan and others tunneled through mountains to make sure that this show told stories in a unique fashion. Setting those ground rules, that's taken place over the past three years. That was a hard battle to fight, and a hard course to maintain. That being said, we've certainly had to face our own share of (belief that) with the change, maybe there were some sense in some quarters, maybe when the show changed direction it could get a little broader. We made clear when we took the job that that was not going to be a goal of ours. If that happens, that's great. But what's kept the show going for the past three years is a really passionate audience. Particularly with the change in day and time, we felt it was more important to keep the show as unique as it was and satisfy those viewers rather than worry about broadening it to attract other people. That being said, if more people want to watch the show, that would be fantastic.
DAVID GUARASCIO: We're very aware of it. The show has such a good dialogue with its fans, through the writers, through Twitter accounts, just the way the Internet is. We can't help but know what people are thinking and feeling, and also afraid of at times. In that sense, we're in a unique place and time where fans can influence shows to a degree, and it's so easy to let people know what you're thinking. So we're definitely aware. We did make an Inspector Spacetime convention episode, and that's a good example of something that, at first, the network and the studio really didn't want us to do, to be honest with you. But we felt it could be a great "Community" episode, it could be something the fans would want — not just to use it as bait, but to tell good emotional stories with these characters at this particular time in their lives.
MOSES PORT: Eventually, though, when you're getting down to work, you do have to tune out everything and just get to the task at hand. Everyone wants to connect with the audience, but when you're writing scripts and producing episodes, there are too many creative decisions where you can't afford to sit back and wonder, 'Will the fans like this? Will the fans like that?' A lot of storytelling involves going with your gut on what you think is good or not.
DAVID GUARASCIO: Yeah, you're relying on your instinct and that of the people making the show with you.
DAVID GUARASCIO: This is not to belittle how much passion we have for the show, but we probably don't think of it as "our show." Having created our own TV shows, that have not been on the air as long as this one has, it's whoever created it, it's their show. Everyone else is helping take care of the magic garden they planted. One of the things that really informed our thinking is that the show has always done a good job of marking time. Each new season is a new school year, and coming into this year, it's going to be the senior year for some of the characters on the show. They're not necessarily planning on being at Greendale for eight years. Some of them, like Jeff Winger, are looking to get out of there as soon as possible. We wanted to approach it as if we weren't hiding from the end of the school year, so to speak. We wanted to lean into the fact that these people are seniors, and they're going to be feeling that the end is coming, and that's going to change not just how they're thinking of what's going to happen next to them, but how they're relating to each other. There's a maturity that comes with that that may affect some of the personal relationships on the show. We're doing a little more with that this year. Troy and Britta are more of a real couple now this year, and that has a domino effect on Jeff's character, and on Annie's character. When Jeff's going through some changes and meeting his dad this year, maybe that will perhaps have an inadvertent effect on his relationship with Britta while she's in a relationship with Troy. We want to mine some of those things that have been seeded over the last three years.
DAVID GUARASCIO: Yeah
MOSES PORT: Definitely.
DAVID GUARASCIO: And for us, we liked the way it worked in a meta way in dialoguing with the fans, but it also worked within the lives of the characters in the show itself. It makes sense they would be concerned about change coming into their fourth year of college. We didn't want to put it on there just to put it on. It felt integrated into the life of the show, but it absolutely was something we were aware of. And it was a dialogue we want to continue to have as the season goes along, to some degree. But it's the most in the first episode.
MOSES PORT: Our first three episodes, we think are really strong. We're excited for everyone to see them.
DAVID GUARASCIO: We stopped trying after the first three.
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