Though Community's fourth season has just gotten started, we now have an idea of what to expect from the remainder of its episodes, courtesy of a panel held for the show last night at PaleyFest.
Members of the cast and crew - including stars Joel McHale, Yvette Nicole Brown and executive producers David Guarascio, Moses Port, Russ Krasnoff and Tristram Shapeero - were in attendance, and offered up a number of details about the antics and adventures the study group will get into this go-round.
At the top of the list, the Greendale Seven will get the Muppets treatment in one particular installment; after crash-landing a hot air balloon in the woods, Dean Pelton encourages the gang to open up about their experiences with each other using hand puppets, which will be represented by larger versions in flashback scenes. Jason Alexander is slated to guest star as a "friendly mountain man."
We'll also finally meet Jeff Winger's father and dimwitted half-brother; the former will be portrayed by James Brolin, the latter by Adam DeVine. If that's not enough, the Oscar-winning Jim Rash has written an episode in which Troy and Abed switch bodies, which sounds potentially brilliant on paper.
Other teases were offered as well-- we're going to see Shirley's home and bear witness to her horrible taste in interior design; the truth of how the study group really came together will finally be revealed; Annie's alter-ego may surface once more, and there might even be another game of paintball in store.
Unsurprisingly, the question of the show's longevity was broached as well, with fans questioning whether Community will go on after season 4 and also inquiring as to whether the cast will actually graduate this year. Naturally, everyone kept mum on the latter note, but Joe McHale had this to say about whether we'll see season 5:
“It’s one of things where no one ever lets you know those things in advance,” replied McHale. “Believe me, I hope so.”
That's about as appropriately vague as one might expect given the show's shaky history with renewal. Community is, and probably always will be, a show that perpetually exists on the bubble. (It's worth noting that last month, NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt did say he's hopeful that there will indeed be a fifth season for the show.)
Out of all of this, though, nothing piques my curiosity more than the promise of a puppet-themed episode. We've seen the study group represented in other shapes and forms before; Community went the stop-motion animation route in season 2's "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas", while season 3 saw the cast depicted with 8-bit video game avatars in "Digital Estate Planning". If nothing else, turning Jeff, Britta, Abed, Troy, Pierce, Annie, and Shirley into puppets at least feels consistent with the show's proclivity for transmogrifying its characters.
I know that the sky looked like it was falling when Dan Harmon was fired from the show and Guarascio and Port took over as showrunners, but this all strikes me as being very in-line with the essence of what makes Community great. In fact, season 4 has thus far played really closely to the qualities that earned the show it's loyal fan base when it first premiered four years ago. If Guarascio and Port continue going forward in the direction they've been going - and it sounds like they will based on what they and the cast had to say at PaleyFest - then Community is going to end up in a good place overall.
What do you think, Screen Ranters? Does the prospect of a puppet episode get you giddy for the reason of this season of Community? Or are you still on the fence about it?
You can catch new episodes of Community Thursdays @ 8/7c on NBC.