Boob Tube Breakdown – Danny Pudi and Alison Brie talk Community season four

“It’s a tough thing to learn that your showrunner is not coming back to the show,” Alison Brie told reporters in a recent conference call to promote the new season of the cult NBC show Community.

Brie, who plays Annie Edison, was joined on the conference call by costar Danny Pudi, who plays Abed Nadir. The two made it clear that they have a lot of love for Dan Harmon, the show’s creator and former showrunner, who was let go at the end of last season, but are also putting their trust in new showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port.

“Dan Harmon is such a big part of the show, so I think we were a little nervous and didn’t know what to expect, but that’s not really a new feeling, having worked on our show for four years now,” said Brie.

“So I mean when we met the new guys, they really stressed a lot how much they loved the show and wanted to keep it the same and some of our writers were still the same, so we all were certainly very vocal this season to sort of speak to what our characters would or wouldn’t do and the way things might go on the show,” Brie added. “We were all sort of working together to keep the show intact.”

Pudi echoed those sentiments.

“I think for us the one thing that we wanted to do and make sure that comes across this year is that our genuine love for the show,” said Pudi. “I think you’ll see that with us this year. Still there is an extra level of responsibility we have to us as actors to really make sure that we’re still staying true to who these people are and the world around Greendale. But it’s definitely like you can’t replace Dan Harmon. And I think he created something that’s pretty amazing and so and I’m forever thankful for that.”

The two talked a lot about change, both the change in leadership and the changes their characters are going through on-screen this year. Brie and Pudi’s characters, along with the rest of the Greendale 7, are entering their senior year of community college. Already this season, we’ve discovered that the group leader Jeff Winger took summer classes in order to graduate a semester early. That means that big external changes are in store for these characters, even a character like Abed, who doesn’t really go through internal changes.

“I think the thing about senior year at Greendale is that whether or not we change much as individuals, our circumstances change and our environments change,” said Pudi. “So I think that is something that we have to at least address.”

Pudi feels that this approach is more true to real life. While films and television shows have characters going through huge emotional shifts, Pudi believes people in real life tend to be more static characters.

“When I look at the world around me, I think most of my friends and the people I know they’re, at their core, essentially the same people,” Pudi said. “You do grow, but in many ways the things that grow is literally just the fact that you’re a little bit older now and you have to have a job, and you have kids and a family, and you’re no longer living at home. Your responsibilities in the world around you changes and it’s your ability to adapt to that that I think is interesting and I think that’s what we explore in season four.”

Brie talked about Annie’s relationship with Jeff, which the show explored this season in “Conventions of Time and Space.” The episode found Annie in a hotel room playing the role of Mrs. Jeff Winger, which Jeff seemed rather nonplussed about. Brie believes that this allowed Annie to come to terms with her feelings for Jeff, which will likely remain unrequited.

“I think that Annie will always have a crush on Jeff and I don’t know that Jeff will ever be fully comfortable really getting together with Annie, or if that’s even a primary focus on Jeff’s radar as it probably is on Annie’s and that’s fair,” Brie said.

She added: “I think this season is sort of like them just acknowledging and almost moving past it in some ways to being good friends. But at the same time for fans there are some ways, without them actually getting really close, there will be some interesting things for fans later this season just between Joel [McHale] and I, some certain, see I don’t know I’m trying not to tease too much, but like some certain things [taking place] in an alternate reality.”

Unlike Abed, Brie hinted that Annie is in store for some personal growth this year.

“She gets hung up on guys, she gets hung up on the friend group and trying to keep the study group together because she’s never had friends like this before and she’s never had guys interested in her before,” Brie said.

“So we’ve seen those kind of detours with Annie,” she continued. “And this year she’s sort of returning to her studious roots and she’s discovered a new major, forensics, that she’s now interested in and feeling really passionate about again. And so we sort of see her returning to being that figure for the group, to being kind of driven and to being kind of the voice of reason for the group and that’s how she changes this year.”

The two also gave a preview of what’s in store for the show as a whole this season. Brie was enthusiastic about the Christmas episode, which she said is an homage to the Alfred Hitchcock film Rope. She also mentioned a Freaky Friday inspired episode, written by Academy Award winning screenwriter Jim Rash, who plays Dean Pelton on the show. But she was particularly excited to talk about this year’s finale.

“This is what I’ll say about change, ‘Hang in there fans.’ Because I think the finale is such a special treat and it’s written by Megan Gans and it’s one of my favorite episodes this season and I think that it has a lot of elements in it that just are really just made for the fans. Because it was sort of written as if it might be our last, so there’s a lot of heart in there from all of us,” Brie said.

She also offered a bit of reassurance to the fans struggling to cope with the changes to the show that have occurred since Harmon left.

“I do think that the episodes get better and better throughout the season,” Brie said. “So keep tuning in guys.”

And another thing …

Here are a few other fun tidbits from Pudi and Brie’s 30-minute conference call …

  • Brie on if the show will become a cult classic like Arrested Development: “I’ve always felt that it’s a show that is better the second time you watch it because there’s so much going on that you catch it again later and that’s how I always felt about Arrested Development. I could watch it again and again. I sort of caught up – I was a person who caught up with it late. I caught up with Freaks and Geeks late, so I hope that we can be a show like that. Certainly our fans are amazing right now, but there’s not that many of them. If we could reach more people later that would be even better.”
  • Pudi on if the show will become a cult classic like Arrested Development: “And Arrested Development is – I mean it’s my favorite comedy over the last 10 – 15 years. So I also came around to it late, watched it on DVD actually, and I was blown away by it.

    “And I think that is part of the reason why I was able to also buy into that show and its nature is because I was able to watch it in bunches and I heard about, it’s a word of mouth show, and then I was able to kind of go in being like, ‘I’m going to give this show a full chance. I’m going to watch all three seasons right now.’

    “And immediately I had a common language with a bunch of people who watch Arrested. I can say, ‘Annyong’ and immediately everyone would laugh, you know, that kind of thing. And I think there is an amount of that within Community as well, where people will start watching the show and I think saying, ‘Pop, Pop’ to each other ten years from now and it will be a nice little secret language.”

  • Brie on who makes her laugh the most on set: “Danny targets me. And here’s the problem, because we’re so close and there’s inside jokes inside other jokes it’s like Danny just lifts an eyebrow across the table to me and I just lose it. So it’s kind of like – and it’s not even in just scenes where it’s just the two of us. It’s like because we sit across from, I mean not directly across, but we are across from each other at the study room table, so when we’ll be – we’ll have moments. Also, I think we’re probably the two worst in terms of cracking ourselves up.”
  • They were also asked who their dream guest star would be. Brie said Jason Bateman, Pudi said Zach Galifinakis. Then they both decided the ultimate get would be to have Bruce Willis guest star in a paintball episode. “We could do like a Looper. Oh, that would be amazing,” said Pudi.

Written by Joel Murphy. Community airs Thursday nights on NBC. You can contact Joel at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com.

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