The creative team behind Community may not know when its upcoming Season 4 will start, but it is certain that all Human Beings will want to see the various fates that await Greendale’s beloved duos (romantic, bromantic or otherwise).
Here, TVLine chats with the quirky NBC comedy’s new executive producers David Guarascio and Moses Port about what Senior Year has in store for the study group, including potential attractions new and old, the second coming of Chang, Annie’s life dilemma and much more.
TVLINE | Now that you’re settled in and well into production, how are you guys feeling about the new season?
DAVID GUARASCIO | So far, so good! We’re shooting our seventh episode this week, and we’re anxious to get to our premiere date. It’s been fun.
TVLINE | Were you able to start fresh-ish given that Season 3 wrapped things up to an extent?
GUARASCIO | We’re definitely not picking up [the season] like this is something new. Each season has stayed true to [it being] the first day in another year of college, so we just approached it that way. Some of the things that were maybe set in motion through last season — particularly in the last episode — we wanted to pull through into the season to keep the continuity as much as possible. It’s taking Troy and Britta having a relationship one step further; it’s Jeff continuing the pursuit of his father, which we get to in our Thanksgiving episode; and it’s Abed trying to deal with the notion of change in our senior year… So, we just mostly looked at it not as a new starting point, but as a point of continuation.
TVLINE | Is there one overarching theme this year?
GUARASCIO | Part of it was connected to last year, which is, “OK, now that you’ve had to grow, how do you manage your life from what your learned?” So, that informs Season 4. But particularly the notion that takes place when you don’t necessarily have control over things — and that plays into the real-life universe of the show, with [creator] Dan [Harmon] leaving and us coming in. When you’re in the middle of college, there’s no beginning and there’s no end; you’re in a bit of a bubble, where the real world falls away. And then you get to the end toward your senior year — which some of our characters are in this year — and the reality of what comes next can be exciting at times and frightening at times, so that notion of change and everything must come to an end eventually — hopefully not too soon [Laughs] — plays into the overall theme this year.
TVLINE | You mentioned at Comic-Con that some, but not all, of the study group would graduate. Is that still the plan?
GUARASCIO | Yeah, but we’re holding the ending very close to our vest for now, as far as what we have planned. [Laughs] But Greendale is sort of the last member of the study group in that sense, so the campus will always be an important part of the show. We don’t want that to ever change.
MOSES PORT | Even though there’s a nod to the fact that life has to happen beyond school, we’ve realized that we can move slower and not push them out the door. [The Simpsons‘] Maggie Simpson should be college right now, but she’s in diapers still. [Laughs]
GUARASCIO | It’s not that we’re putting the brakes on moving them forward throughout their collegiate experience this year; we just think we can navigate it while keeping Greendale very much alive.
TVLINE | Let’s talk character arcs. How will Jeff finally meeting his estranged father impact him?
GUARASCIO | The absence of Jeff’s dad has been something that’s really informed who he is over many years, particularly the last few. So, the way that we’re approaching it is that it’s a big thing for him to meet his father, but maybe the real surprise is how it impacts him afterward. When you’ve been so defined by this relationship and now you’ve finally confronted it, there may be some ways that it changes him that are unexpected to him.
TVLINE | Are there any developments on the Jeff/Annie front?
GUARASCIO | This is the year of change and [of] there being some maturity for everyone in the group, so in some ways the relationships get more complicated than they were before. Troy and Britta are taking a step forward as a couple, but one of the things that always kept Jeff and Britta apart is the fact that he’s a guy with all of these walls — maybe meeting his dad helps take some of those walls down? And what does that mean for Troy and Britta’s relationship? What does it mean possibly for Jeff and Britta? Of course, it’s also going to affect Jeff and Annie, too. So, it’s a little bit more of a complicated stew going on this year that we’ll see going forward.
TVLINE | Will Annie have her own journey this season?
GUARASCIO | Annie, in her controlling nature, has a very clear outline for her own future, and now that she’s getting that much closer to it, she may make a discovery that what she had mapped out for herself isn’t quite as gratifying as she thought it was going to be. We could see her make some big shifts in what she’s planning for herself… How’s that for vague? [Laughs]
TVLINE | Britta really came into her own last year. Can we expect more of the same from the psych major?
GUARASCIO | She definitely feels like she has found herself with her focus on psychology, so we do continue that this year and bring her deeper into it. The thing about Britta is that her passion, when she’s really focused on something, can be intense and she gets teased a lot by everyone in the group for digging in as deep as she does. But we’re going to see some real positive effects of it this year. Britta’s really entwined with Jeff’s journey toward meeting his dad and figuring out those issues, which is an emotionally complicated thing to get into with a friend… It’s an interesting time to go through everything with Jeff while she’s actually dating Troy.
PORT | There’s a lot of emotional messiness that makes it the perfect time for Britta to be interested in psychology.
TVLINE | What is Pierce’s path this season?
GUARASCIO | What’s interesting about Pierce is that while everyone is thinking about the change of ending college and then the next step in their lives, Pierce’s next big change is… much more final. [Laughs] So, in that sense, his is an existential crisis where he’s facing something much darker and deeper.
TVLINE | Quick — describe his bound-to-be-unique mansion.
PORT | It’s like a tomb from the ’80s. It’s like, is it a disaster area or is it art from the ’80s? [Laughs] It’s just a weird crossover that fits perfectly.
GUARASCIO | If Anne Rice and David Lee Roth had a baby and then they ate it and then they threw it up… [Laughs]
TVLINE | Are Troy and Abed still the best friends we know and love? And are there plans to introduce a romantic interest for the Cougar Town fiend?
GUARASCIO | Abed and Troy’s relationship faces some new obstacles because they’re both growing and maturing — particularly Troy, as is represented by his relationship with Britta. But in some ways, Troy and Abed will always be the most stable relationship to the show and a window into what’s possible in this world when two people just really care about each other. Abed really is the person who created the world of Community in bringing the study group together in the pilot. So, it weighs on him more than anyone that this actually might be ending in a way that he can’t control. That will force him to think about — in very baby steps — maybe going through some changes of his own. And that may be reflected somewhat in a relationship with someone outside the group.
TVLINE | If need be, will the season’s 13th episode also work as a fitting series ender?
GUARASCIO | Whatever last episode we air this year, we want to be satisfying as a season ender and series ender. We’ll hear about more episodes before we shoot 13, so if we do get some more, we can plan for it. Let’s say we have a finale in mind now, and we find out soon enough if we get to make more; we can then slot them in and just move those over a little bit. The trick will be finding a way that it feels like we’re organically building toward the end. It’s a little tricky, but it’s the situation.