'Community': Season 4 spoilers, Season 5 plans, and life after Dan Harmon - The Paleyfest 411

community-paleyfest-2013-joel-mchale-danny-pudi-gi.jpgThe cast and producers of "Community" gathered for the fourth year in a row at Paleyfest to share insight into what began as a tumultuous Season 4, and the unsure future that is Season 5. Here are the highlights:

History 101

The panel starts with a table read, wherein the cast -- including Fred Willard as Alter-Pierce -- reenacts Season 4's premiere episode, "History 101."

The highlight was an epic tango between Joel McHale and Jim Rash, that exposed "so much butt crack" to the Yvette Nicole Brown and the rest of the cast still situated behind the table. Stay tuned for Hulu to post video from the panel. Zap2it will embed it here once it's live. (Update: The full panel session video is now posted below.)


The Elephant in the Room

The cast deflected and producers hedged any time they were asked about the departure of Chevy Chase. But Executive Producer and Director Tristram Shapeero was willing to respond when it came to the idea of Willard permanently replacing Chase as Pierce. "Who wouldn't love more Fred Willard? He was amazing, and such a gentleman to work with," says Shapeero. "So, who knows? We have to cook something up if there is a Season 5. We can't really say that until we know if there is a Season 5. Then we can have those discussions."

With regard to Willard's turn as Alter-Pierce, Executive Producer David Guarascio points out, "I think we've proven we can just say it's Pierce and move on."


community-paleyfest-yvette-nicole-brown-gillian-jacobs-alison-brie-gi.jpg Life After Dan Harmon

Guarascio was willing to tackle the question about producing a show in the absence of its creator, Dan Harmon, who was fired by NBC before production on Season 4 got underway.
 
Guarascio says as a new showrunner, he and the other producers relied on "Community's" cast members to help them keep the train on the right track.

"Once you're a writer who creates something, the heart and soul becomes the people who are performing it. So even though there was this great creative talent who was no longer with the show this year, there are multiple creative talents who continue to give it its spirit and its life," says Guarascio.

"They helped us at every turn really, when they thought there was something where we were veering off-course, or there was just something that someone felt like they weren't going to say, or something that didn't feel right, or a story that they felt like needed to be addressed," Guarascio continues. "We just felt like, 'Well, we really need to listen to them because they have been doing this for the past three years and they know the show inside and out' ... It's just the approach that we took and we're proud of the shows that we did."


Season 4 Spoilers

McHale teases some "intense" moments when Jeff finally reunites with his father, played by James Brolin in Thursday's (March 7) Thanksgiving episode, "Paranormal Parentage". Troy ( Donald Glover) and Abed ( Danny Pudi) will switch bodies in a "Freaky Friday"-themed episode penned by Rash, and the members of the study group will be immortalized as puppets in a spring episode that sees Jason Alexander guest starring.


Season 5 - Is there any hope?

The cast insist they are always the last to know when the show gets picked up for another season. Pudi says he usually hears it from the fans. "I will find out from one of your tweets," Pudi says. "Usually we're in the makeup trailer or something and we're like, 'Hey did you guys get this weird tweet?,' 'Did you just get this weird tweet?,' 'I guess we're back.'"

Brown takes the time to address the fans, saying, "When I hear people say -- if we end -- 'You only got four years,' four years is great. We made it to syndication, and we got to meet all you guys, and we've been to Paleyfest four years in a row. Like, this has been a great run," Brown says. "We're in the gravy years of our careers and the gravy years of this show. So if we get to continue into another year it will be an awesome blessing ... So remember that, whatever happens in May. We made it four years, and we made it together, and that's a great thing."

Photo/Video credit: Getty Images