You’ll now have to wait a little longer than Oct. 19 to see the season 4 premiere of NBC’s Community (not cool, not cool, not cool), but you don’t have to wait another minute to read all about the upcoming action from the new men in charge, executive producers David Guarascio and Moses Port. The two showrunners – who created the short-lived CW comedy Aliens in America, served as exec producers on Just Shoot Me, and most recently worked as consulting producers on ABC’s Happy Endings – have a considerable challenge ahead of them: Replace ousted Community creator/mad comedy scientist Dan Harmon at the helm of his ambitious, idiosyncratic, self-reflexive, and obsessed-over cult comedy. EW asked Guarascio and Port (pre-postponement) to share their thoughts on joining America’s favorite community-college-set show under tricky circumstances and discuss their plan for the fourth and possibly final season (which most definitely involves Inspector Spacetime.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Before taking this gig, how big of a Community fan were you, on a scale of one season to six seasons and a movie?
DAVID GUARASCIO: I would say four and a half seasons. I remember seeing the pilot and being like, “God, wow! This guy nailed it.”
Always loved the cast. We were just big fans of the show. Part of the process of taking this job has been realizing how deep the fandom can really go. What we were not aware of was how loyal the fans have been, how instrumental they’ve been in keeping the show on the air. We were just like, “Hey, this is a really funny show that is awesome,” and would watch, but we did not re-watch stuff like a “six seasons and a movie” fan who’s watched each episode several times. So when we came on board, we went back and started our re-education, re-watching everything and reading scripts. Now we’re at six seasons and a movie. And that’s the thing about the show: the further you wade into it, the more obsessed you become with it, whether you’re a fan or someone who works on it.
MOSES PORT: Some of the biggest fans – the people who work on this show, the writers, the crew, the cast – are as obsessed with the show as any rabid fan out there. As David was saying, you drink the Kool-Aid and it tastes delicious.
Did you have any reservations about coming into a charged situation like this?
GUARASCIO: When Sony [the studio that co-produces Community] called us, honestly our first response was like, “Are you sure you don’t want Dan to do this? Because he seems really instrumental.” And we said no at first, a little bit with a heavy heart, and they said, “Let’s keep this dialogue going.” We went back and started doing some of our re-watching, and that’s when the next level of appreciation started to kick in. And also the next level of fear of taking the job. We ultimately felt like we did not want to be ruled by our fear. And as we went from that four and a half to six seasons and a movie as we were thinking about it, it just became this thing of, “This is too unbelievable a sandbox to not want to get in and play in it for a while.” The credit to Dan and everyone who’s worked on the show for the past three years is – I’m going to put all the metaphors into one, so watch this happen – they have planted the seeds and cultivated this magic garden that we don’t have to do the work of getting it to where it is now. All the fruits are hanging there and it’s like, “How do we not take this opportunity to work on this?” And so it was like, “Well, I’d rather fail at something this f—ing cool than another round of development, so let’s just go for it.”
PORT: I don’t think you can realize how intense this environment is unless you’re in it. Somebody set up a fake Twitter account for us. I don’t know that we expected something like that to happen.
Have you had any interaction with Dan?
GUARASCIO: No, we exchanged some emails when we first came on board that were really just us saying, “Your show’s awesome. We hope we don’t wreck it,” and him saying, “You won’t. Good luck. Just go for it.” And a lot of encouraging words from people who’d been here who weren’t anymore: “Just know that anything you think you can’t do, you can.”
Were you given any marching orders about opening the show up to a wider audience? Or has NBC accepted the fact that it’s just a great cult show?
GUARASCIO: I think that they’ve accepted that it’s a cult show. When we came on, we said to them, “Look, if we’re going to do this, there’s no mandate to turn it into anything else. That’s just not going to work.” This show is its own breed of animal, and to try to make it into something else would fail. Even as a business decision, why would you want to do that? You have this successful business model with the show the way it is, which came back to our question of: “Are you sure you want to get rid of Dan?”… We hope to grow an audience, but we are much more focused on wanting to please the people that have loved the show over the last three years. If we find new viewers, great, but our goal is to keep the people happy who’ve really cared about the show.