With the Community Season 4 premiere less than 24 hours away, expectations — and fears — are running high. Between the worrisome news of iconoclastic showrunner Dan Harmon’s sudden departure and surprisingly rapturous early reports about the season premiere, fans are hungry for every bit of reassurance we can get that the show’s in good hands. Presumably to allay those concerns, Community‘s current writing staff faced Reddit last night for an AMA. Below, find the biggest revelations from that Q&A.
1. The main difference between Dan Harmon and Community‘s new showrunners: “Moses Port and David Guarascio give us significantly less updates on their bodily functions. Dan was very open that way,” says writer Megan Ganz.
2. You can thank the suits for the return of Chang. Asked who is responsible for his Season 4 return, after the Greendale 7 vanquished him last year, Ganz explains, “Well, Sony and NBC I guess, since Ken Jeong is under contract with the show. But I think we found a really funny way to get him back at school, considering that he left last season as a pyro-homocidal maniac. Plus, no one wanted to lose Chang. He’s the crazy glue that holds our group together.”
3. The writers were just as annoyed as the rest of us that the holiday episodes are airing months late, but have begun to make peace with the idea. “At first I was really pissed,” recalls writer Tim Saccardo. “But after a while it started feeling like a very Community thing to do. It somehow makes sense that a show that pretty much disregards all the rules of television would air a Thanksgiving episode in March. Or at least that’s how I’ve personally lemonaded the lemons.” Not a bad way to think about it.
4. Look forward to a Hitchcockian Christmas bottle episode. “I went into this season challenging myself to come up with a ‘special’ episode and see if I could pull one off without my mentor [Harmon],” says Bobrow. “I am very proud of this season’s Christmas episode because of that. It is a bottle episode and borrows heavily from Hitchcock. It’s a one-act play and I am very proud of that one. Basically because I took everything that Dan Harmon taught me, everything I learned from Community, and I worked really hard to apply it.”
5. Unfortunately, we won’t find out about Jeff’s much-discussed May 23, 2013 “unmovable appointment.” Andy Bobrow explains: “Unfortunately, when we wrote and shot this batch of episodes, we believed we would be airing from October through January. So we never even thought to plan a May 23rd thing. Then, when we were postponed, we didn’t know when we would start airing, so even if we wanted to do a May 23rd thing, we wouldn’t know which episode to put it in. So unfortunately, there’s no May 23rd shout-out. We will have to explain it away next season if there is one.”
6. Of course it was tough to fit a full season into 13 episodes. “We didn’t think it would be hard,” Bobrow says. “We didn’t think our goals for the season were that sweeping or ambitious. We wanted to explore Troy and Britta together, and we wanted to do this thing with Chang involving his ‘Changnesia’ and eventual rehabilitation. But even those two simple things, the end of the season snuck up on us. We found ourselves scrambling to tell those stories and we had to cram some stuff in, probably poorly, towards the end.”
7. Yes, Abed has a Jeff/Britta sex tape. “We have discussed this in the writers’ room, actually,” writes Ganz. “The general consensus was: definitely.”
8. The writing staff loves Magnitude as much as we do. Asked about his favorite recurring character, Saccardo says, “I personally love Magnitude. First because of the overt “one-jokeness” of his character, but I really started loving him when that was called out by Professor Kane and he started to question his life — ‘You know they’re laughing at you, right?'”
9. Here’s some dialogue that didn’t make it into the Season 4 finale: “We had to cut a bunch from the finale I wrote for season 4,” Ganz says. “I had a Leonard exchange with Annie that I really liked, but it’s on the cutting room floor. (Not literally of course, everything is digital.) It went something like.
Leonard sees Annie trying on a wedding veil. LEONARD: If you build it, he will come. ANNIE: Shut up, Leonard. I know you have a soft spot for me. LEONARD: You look like you should be tattooed on a sailor.”
10. Troy and Abed almost had a really awesome couch, but the scene got cut. “Abed and Troy had an inflatable couch filled with helium in their apartment — you know, so it could float back up to the ceiling when not in use — and the bit got cut,” says writer Maggie Bandur. “(They lost the ottoman, but then it flew back in the window at the end of the scene.) A chemist friend, Dr. Anthony Pease, had dreamed of such a couch, and I told him it was going to be in the episode, and he illegally downloaded it in England and everything, and there was no couch. But I named the creator of Inspector Spacetime after him. So, he can stop wingeing now!”
11. Battlestar Galactica fans can look forward to a guest appearance by Tricia Helfer, a.k.a. Number Six, February 21.
12. Sadly, we won’t be seeing any more of John Oliver’s Ian Duncan this season. “He’s on The Daily Show primarily, and there was a big election or something going on this year,” says Ganz. “I didn’t pay attention, but that’s what people tell me.”
13. The writers would love to spend more time on Greendale’s many minor characters (but it doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen this season). “We always wanted to do an episode like this,” says Ganz. “Actually, for a while we discussed having the Star-burns wake episode be a tribute to the background characters, who are really foreground characters in their own story (a world in which our group would be considered background). It didn’t come to anything but it’s still a good idea.” Tim Saccardo adds, “Somewhere I have like 60 pages of notes about this from when I thought this was the episode I’d be writing.”
14. You know that great D&D episode, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”? It almost didn’t happen. Ganz recalls that NBC tried to put the kibosh on it, but “Dan rejected their rejection.”
15. Here’s the story behind “Remedial Chaos Theory,” according to Bobrow: “The idea of multiple timelines had been talked about from time to time. I remember [former Community writer] Hilary Winston and I were really obsessed with trying to do a Sliding Doors kind of episode, where everything changes based on whether Annie gets a good parking spot or not. We still may try to tackle that one. But in between seasons 2 and 3, Dan had some kind of drunk brainstorm, which I believe he texted to Megan. Basically it hit him that you could use some kind of simple mechanism, like a game night, and explore different realities based on which character wasn’t in the room. Dan, Megan and McKenna I think were the driving forces in breaking that story from there. They are Gods in my book.”
16. Jeff may be typing on his phone all the time, but he’s not texting anyone. “Joel put forward the theory that he’s just composing texts, not sending them. I’d agree with that,” says Ganz. Showrunner David Guarascio hints that we’ll learn more about that in the Thanksgiving episode.
17. A fifth season is more likely than you might think. “i’m bullish on a season 5. nbc’s ratings are so low. do we really have to do that well to get more episodes? long live the low bar,” says Guarascio. Writer Gene Hong agrees: “I’ve heard industry gossip cover the entire spectrum, from ‘no way we’ll get more episodes’ to ‘it’s a coin flip’ to ‘for sure we’ll get more!’ If I were a gambling man, AND I AM, I’d probably be willing to bet Andy Bobrow’s house on us getting more episodes.”
18. In fact, the finale was rewritten to ensure it wasn’t necessarily a season finale. “I’ll spoil a teeny bit, but nothing that actually ended up in the episode,” writes Bobrow. “Early on, we had this vision, a really heartfelt tearjerking montage that we knew we wanted to do if it was the season ender. A kind of flash-forward, but way more than that. It was going to make you all cry rivers of tears. And we wrote a version of it. Then, two things happened. One, we realized that to do it right it would take like five whole minutes, which we really couldn’t spare. And two, NBC just didn’t want to do a final FINAL montage because what if there’s a Season 5? It’s a weird moment as a writer when you find yourself wanting to do an ending but being told, well this might not be the ending. Anyway, point being, we did not end up doing that tearjerker montage. But we did do a kickass finale. One that could be a very satisfying end to the whole journey, but one that also could just be the end of another year at Greendale. You’ll see.”
19. And yet, as great as the Season 4 finale is, Ganz isn’t 100% satisfied with it. “I wish I could redo the finale of season 4,” she says. “I had to write it in a bit of a pinch, during a period of upheaval on the show. I wrote it too long (like… 6 minutes too long) and we had to cut a ton out of it in the edit bay. Part of me fears I was too freaked out to do my best work on it, because I wanted it to be a finale worthy of a show it could never be worthy of. Finales are generally terrible, and I am expecting that people will say this one is trying to [sic] hard, because it is. Because I was. God was I ever trying too hard on that one. My hope is that you’ll all love the Halloween episode and forgive me for the finale. Maybe you’ll like it. I have no way of knowing anymore.”
20. Because of his sudden departure, Chevy Chase had to be hastily written out of the show midway through filming the finale. “There are a couple episodes where we had to cover his untimely absence, but his departure is dealt with in the finale. It might be a bit quick and possibly unfulfilling, but I had exactly one day to come up with something to cover it (mid-filming),” Ganz says.
21. Oh, and Guarascio says two versions of the finale were shot.
22. Ganz may be leaving for Modern Family, but she certainly won’t disappear from the Community fold if the show is renewed: “I’ll do whatever they let me do. I’ll come to the office at 6pm and empty the garbage cans. I’ll write an episode under the psuedonym ‘Andee Bob Rowe.’ But mostly, I’ll just drink with the writers and swap old war stories.”
23. If Community doesn’t get picked up for a fifth season, we can always hope for Dan Harmon’s dream Troy-and-Abed spin-off: “I hope I’m not stepping on his future development, but I think Dan always pictured them opening a detective agency,” Ganz reveals. “With Annie and her chloroform, of course.”