Paleyfest 2013: Community Panel

For the fourth year running, Community had a panel at Paleyfest filled with main cast members and executive staff. In attendance were executive producers Andy Bobrow, Tristram Shapeero, Russ Krasnoff, Moses Port, and David Guarascio; representing the cast were Jim Rash (“Dean Pelton”), Alison Brie (“Annie Eddison”), Yvette Nicole Brown (“Shirley Bennet”), Danny Pudi (“Abed Nadir”), Gillian Jacobs (“Britta Perry”), and Joel McHale (“Jeff Winger”).cast with puppets

Featuring a full table read of “History 101,” a moderated discussion period on the fourth season led by Mike Schneider, an audience Q&A, and an exclusive sneak peek at an upcoming episode, the Community panel managed to be both very extensive and surprisingly coy. No doubt it’s hard to get a straight answer out of such a comedic group of people. Check out the highlights from the entire panel below:

  • The cast — minus Chevy and Donald — breeze through a table-read for “History 101.” The table read script has minor differences from the final televised version — Jeff’s entry, for example, is “I brought…this awesome tan,” rather than “congratulations, it’s me.” This draft also has Jeff remarking on the “obvious age gap” between Troy and Britta, which causes the rest of the group to groan. Rash and McHale do an improvised version of their tango to huge applause.
  • This Thursday’s episode features James Brolin as Jeff’s father. McHale describes things as “quite intense” and “heavy.” Meanwhile, Jacobs says Britta considers this a “feather in her cap,” though Britta has a ways to go before becoming a therapist.Joel McHale and Danny Pudi
  • Asked about Troy and Britta’s relationship, Guarascio warns that while Troy and Britta aren’t inherently doomed, Jeff’s breakthrough with his father might resurrect some of Britta’s feelings for Jeff.
  • The episode written by Rash, to air later in the season, focuses on Troy and Abed’s relationship. McHale calls it “one of the best we’ve ever done.” Rash describes the writing process as “awesome and stressful,” and hints that it will be an homage to Freaky Friday and feature some body-switching. Pudi calls the filming experience for that episode very fun.
  • On the topic of “Changnesia,” the producers and cast are coy — is Chang faking his memory loss or not?
  • An upcoming episode will be an “origin story,” a la comic books. Guarascio says this felt like a natural fit, to see the other characters through Abed’s eyes.
  • Future guest stars include James Brolin as Jeff’s father, Malcolm McDowell as the history professor, and Adam Levine.  McHale jokes about other imaginary cameos, including Cher, Justin Bieber, and the entire cast of Twilight. Rash and McHale joke at length about how they each bonded with Malcolm McDowell by insulting the other. “He pulled me aside one day and asked why Moby was always on set,” joYvette Nicole Brown, Gillian Jacobs and Alison Briekes McHale.
  • On the subject of Chevy Chase’s departure and how it will be handled in the show, the panel hesitates to give a firm answer. Shapeero eventually admits that it won’t be addressed in season 4 — Pierce is simply absent in two episodes — and says that if and how it will be addressed depends on whether the show is renewed for a fifth season. Is it possible Pierce will simply be played by another actor, like Fred Willard? “Wait and see. Let’s just try and get to season five first.”
  • Brown says Shirley is starting to become eager to get back to her family life, now that her marriage is back together and her sandwich shop has opened.
  • Discussing the Harmon-shaped elephant in the room: Guarasico says that while Harmon was a great creative talent, the heart and soul of the show is the cast, who allowed the show to stay true to itself. He says they had to fight hard against the network and studio for 4×01 — which let them know they were on the right track.
  • Regarding the possibility that this will be the show’s last season, Brown says it’s hard as an actress to think of four seasons as “too short.” A regular role on a show that makes it to syndication and four seasons is “the gravy years.”
  • Will there be a Back to the Future episode? Jacobs says Donald Glover is eager to “crack that.” but admits that it may be impossible since Community can’t use magic. (Weren’t we just discussing a body-swap episode?)
  • A member of the audience takes one for the team and asks if Brie and Pudi would be willing to read a few lines she’s brought from a Doctor Who episode, in honour of “Inspector Spacetime.” Unfortunately the moderator interjects, and it’s on to the next question.
  • Does James Brolin being Jeff’s father make Richard Castle Jeff’s half-brother? “Next season we all end up on Serenity,” jokes McHale.
  • Which character would you like to add to the study group? McHale: Magnitude. Jacobs: Professor Duncan. Brie: Neil.  Everyone: Professor Professorson.
  • What is happening with Shirley this season, and might we find out the origin of her bag? Brown admits that Shirley’s purse really contains all of Brown’s belongings. In the Thanksgiving episode, we’ll get to see Shirley’s house and meet more of her family and “find out more of why Shirley is the way she is.”
  • Are there any biases or stereotypes that the show would like to discuss but hasn’t yet? Guarasico says there’s no agenda to that sort of thing, it just comes out naturally in the storytelling.
  • Are there any storylines you wish could have been put into the fourth season, given the uncertainty of a fifth season? McHale says he’d like to see John Goodman return. (His character died, Joel!)puppets
  • Is it possible we’ll ever get a third paintball episode? Guarasico hints that there may be a little paintball, but not an entire episode.
  • Any upcoming mutli-season jokes like the Beetlejuice one? Unlikely, since the first one was an accident. Bobrow encourages fans on Twitter to let them know if they ever accidentally have “almost all of a set.”
  • Is the study group going to graduate this season? “Stay tuned,” says Guarasico.
  • To complete the panel, they reveal an exclusive clip from an upcoming episode, set to the soundtrack: the study group as puppets! Brown says this is her favourite thing the show has ever done.

That marks the end  of the Community panel. You can watch the full panel in its entirety on Hulu in the US. Photos courtesy of the Paley Center for Media.