Taking their new Friday at 8:30 timeslot way too literally, the cast of Community woke up bright and early to meet with reporters still wiping the slumber drool off their mouths in San Diego this morning at 8:30 am. Perhaps they had a coffee IV or had a little too much powdered sugar on their French Toast, because the energy levels of Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, and a ridiculously hyper Danny Pudi could have powered all of neighboring Petco Park.
There was little time for formalities before talk went directly to the Dan Harmon situation (Harmon, who created the show, was ousted from his position in the off-season much to the anger of rabid fans and replaced by new showrunners Moses Port and David Guarascio). In fact, McHale plopped down at my table and before he said hello basically said, "Let's get these Dan Harmon questions out of the way..." So we did, and Brie was the first to address it.
"It's something that's out of our control, again, we weren't even sure we would have a fourth season, so the fact that we get to come back and be together is a really wonderful thing," she said, heaping sugar on bright sides and painting half-full cups with silver linings on what otherwise should be a disappointing situation.
Brown canceled all thoughts of a funeral and said, "And the thing is Dan is still in our lives, it's not like he got shipped off to Siberia or somewhere. We saw him a couple weeks ago at the art show, and he's doing really well. His words to me to share with people were, 'Don't feel sorry for me, life is really good.' He created a show, it's going to go into syndication. This is a business and business decisions happen that you may not love, but as a professional you show up and do your job. It's going to be fine."
As for the new guys in charge? No hard feelings (a sentiment shared by the Comic-Con crowd if the applause at the panel was any indication). In fact, McHale has first-hand experience working with them, something that likely factored into their decision. "I know the new guys, I worked with them on [2007 NBC pilot] The IT Crowd, and they're great," he said.
But what of the guys themselves? They finally addressed their new roles on the panel that took place later in the day, and the duo, who created The CW's heavily underappreciated Aliens in America, came off as geeky fans just like the rest of us.
"We care about keeping it the weird wonderful gem it is, so nothing is going to change," Guarascio promised, the first time (I think) they've publically spoken about Community. And in case you were wondering, Guarascio at least has the same disheveled look as Harmon, long hair, beard, and glasses contrasting Port's more close-cropped refined appearance. "When we're in the writers' room, we're actually talking about what you are going to like," he added, gesturing to the crowd. The feeling I got is that these two know they will be on a short leash, but also feel so blessed to be part of a series that they love that they don't want to make it their own but rather continue what it already is. That's a great thing. They even said that when they got the news that the job was theirs, they immediately started acting out Community scenes with each other to celebrate. Geeky enough for you? Good, let's put it to rest and just be happy that Community will be back.
Because Season 4 is still in the works, there weren't many details about what to expect. Jacobs and Pudi said that they found out what class the study group would be taking next season just five minutes before they entered our press room, but couldn't spoil it. "Some might say it's the most important class of all," Pudi teased. Home Economics? Horticulture? The History of History? With Pudi you can never be sure.
But later at the panel, Guarascio and Port did mention two storylines we'll be laughing at. We will see Pierce Hawthorne's (Chevy Chase) mansion, and it's going to be as weird as you would expect, and the study group will also be going to... an Inspector Spacetime convention. If those aren't votes of confidence for the two, I don't know what is.
With the future of the series still being worked out, I asked McHale about the study group and its relationship with the rest of the Greendale student body. We know they have admirers and enemies, but what's the general consensus from the college and how do they get away with it all?
"They must think that we're a really attractive and insane girlfriend," McHale joked as he recalled everything the group has done. "Because we seem to be the biggest problem. But we have saved the school multiple times as well. We're like an untrained really good dog. 'It's really good, it might bite you.' You'd think at this point they'd throw us out."
But then we'd have no Community, Joel, and we will revolt before we let that happen.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PANEL
– There was a great exchange about how many people have died on Community, to which McHale said, "Name another comedy that has this much murder." The moderator replied, "It's you guys and Breaking Bad." Brie tied the two together even further with, "By the way we had a meth lab explosion, too."
– Season 3 DVD details were also revealed. It'll be out August 14, there will be commentary on every episode, and there will be two special features surrounding the musical Christmas episode and "Pillows and Blankets," the Civil War episode. Plus the standard gag reel and deleted scenes. And there's an incredible freestyle rap by Brie about werewolves that's worth the price of the DVD set on its own (embedded below).
– Jacobs really played down the budding Britta-Troy romance, but Guarascio said their sparks would turn into a fire in Season 4. I'm not sure who to believe since Jacobs said she liked the realness of their relationship without it turning Community into a "relationship show."
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Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom