I have to admit: in light of the circumstances of Dan Harmon’s departure, I expected a little more tension at the Community panel than there actually was. You could definitely tell that the applause for new producers David Guarascio and Moses Port died just a bit more quickly than it did for the cast and the writers. But moderator Mike Schneider was quick to nail the elephant in the room and deflate much of the tension: “It’s gonna be okay?”
Guarascio: “It’s all gonna be okay.” Throughout the panel he was firm: he and Port have always been huge fans of the show and want to keep it “the weird wonderful gem that it’s always been; that’s not going to change.” As Port said later, after talking about how the cast and writers are some of the best on television, “What I mean to say is, we’re not going to screw it up!”
There’s no question that the makers of Community love their fans—every cast member took a moment to thank the fans for their dedication—”your flash mobs, your fake beards, your blood sacrifices”, said Joel McHale. “We know there’s this Nathan Fillion guy coming later,” said Yvette Nicole Brown, “but we know you’re here to see us too and that makes us happy.”
The frequently hilarious panel ranged from the dramatic character developments of season three to what fans can look forward to in season four, which starts on Friday, October 19. There was a lot of love in particular for the Ken Burns spoof, “Pillows and Blankets,” which Andy Bobrow said started from an inside joke originating in the conspiracy episode—the blanket fort in that episode resulted from a budgetary constraint that prevented them from constructing the pillow fort originally in the script.
We also got to find out what’s going to be on the season 3 DVD, due out on August 14—”two days after my birthday!” added Brown. (“Somebody’s turning 29!” sang McHale—the dynamic between Jeff and Shirley is clearly reflected in real life by the two actors.) There will be commentaries on every episode, featurettes “Gleeful Community Christmas” and “This is War: Pillows vs Blankets,” deleted scenes, and twenty minutes of outtakes—including a ridiculous and amazing freestyle rap by Alison Brie.
And season four? Many hints were dropped—the possibility of character graduations, for one thing. We’ve been promised a glimpse of Pierce Hawthorne’s mansion and most excitingly, an Inspector Spacetime convention!
Above all, the main message from the cast and producers of Community is: we love the fans, and we don’t want to let them down. Dan Harmon has not been forgotten, not by the people making the show and certainly not by the audience, who cheered every time his name was invoked. Some fans will probably still be uneasy, the proof of the pudding being in the eating and all that, but the message from the panel is promising.