9:21pm PT by Philiana Ng
'Community' to Feature All-Puppet Episode in Season 4
They did it with claymation, a paintball war and a video game; now NBC's Community is about to be immortalized in puppet form.
During Tuesday night's raucous PaleyFest session, the cast and producers debuted a never-before-seen first look at the study group in puppet form before bringing out the actual puppets to the crowd's delight. The episode, airing in April, features the previously announced guest appearance of Seinfeld alum Jason Alexander, who will play a friendly mountain man.
In the episode, the study group recounts their adventures in the woods, which has left them feeling a little awkward with one another, and Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) encourages them to speak about their experience with the use of puppets. Expect to see Jeff (Joel McHale), Pierce (Chevy Chase), Britta (Gillian Jacobs), Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), Abed (Danny Pudi), Annie (Alison Brie), Troy (Donald Glover) and Chang (Ken Jeong) in puppet form.
The puppets were designed, built and operated by Scott Johnson, Drew Massey and their team of operators.
Executive producers Russ Krasnoff, David Guarascio and Moses Port joined in on the chaos at Beverly Hills' Saban Theatre, along with director Tristram Shapeero and writer Andy Bobrow and the majority of the cast -- and they addressed the possibility of a season five. "We made it four years, and that's a great thing," Brown told the crowd should a renewal not come to pass
McHale -- who admitted that news like that is something "no one ever lets you know ... in advance" -- thanked the fans for keeping the show alive, with fan conventions and an art show: "Really, without you guys none of this will be happening ... so we're going to give you each $5."
Some panel highlights and teases for season four of the NBC comedy:
It's father time: Thursday's Thanksgiving episode marking the introduction of James Brolin as Jeff Winger's father will be "intense," McHale said. "It ends up being pretty heavy." Workaholics star Adam Devine plays Jeff's younger brother. Guarascio added that the story felt like "years in the making." (On a semi-related note, a fan said if Brolin, who guest starred on Castle as Richard Castle's father, is Jeff's father, does this mean Castle is Jeff's half-brother? "If there is a season five, we end up on Serenity," McHale deadpanned to major applause. "That was a nerd-jaculation.")
The origin story: An episode focusing on how the study group came to be will shed light on the time before we were introduced to the Greendale gang. Guarascio teased that viewers will go back to "how it came to be." Expect Annie's boobs (the monkey) to make a cameo.
The Dean writes an episode: Rash, an Oscar-winning scribe for The Descendants, penned an episode that pays homage to Freaky Friday. McHale called the episode "one of the best we've ever done." It will feature besties Troy and Abed, with a heavy body-switching element.
More Shirley: Brown teased that there's something coming up that's "bigger coming than Malcolm-Jamal Warner playing my husband." Let the speculation begin.
Chevy who? There were several mentions of former castmember Chevy Chase, who departed the show late in production last year. (His character, Pierce, will appear in nearly all the episodes.) At the beginning of the table read of the season four premiere, McHale joked: "This is just like a real table read because Chevy isn't here." And when Brie started on her revolutionary smoking girl bit -- which ran through the entire panel -- the moderator dropped a Chase zing: "It's like Chevy's still on the panel." And when asked about Chase's exit, one of the producers asked, "I'm sorry the departure of who?" before praising special guest Fred Willard (who played alternate-Pierce in the premiere).
Community airs at 8 p.m. Thursdays on NBC.