Cast members in attendance included Joel McHale (Jeff Winger), Gillian Jacobs (Britta Perry), Danny Pudi (Abed Nadir), Alison Brie (Annie Edison), Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley Bennett) and Jim Rash (Dean Pelton). Fred Ward made a special appearance, Donald Glover (Troy Barnes) was missed and Chevy Chase's (Pierce Hawthorne) absence was no surprise, given his recent departure from the show.
You can tell this is a cast that genuinely gets along and likes each other, given how much they riffed with and teased each other throughout the panel, presented to a standing-room-only crowd of hundreds of loyal fans. These are some really funny, quirky people - right on par with the tone of the show, now amid it fourth season. There was much talk of - and hopes for - a potential fifth season, ever on par with the goal to reach "six seasons and a movie" (inside Community joke).
Unlike other PaleyFest panels, which usually provide a clip or two from the featured show, we were blessed with a true gem: a live table read by the cast of an episode from this season (the season premiere, actually). It was amazing! Throughout the reading the cast ad-libbed, cracked each other up, gave tidbits from when the episode was actually filmed and even re-enacted certain moments - some pimped for directly by the audience - including a hilarious tango by McHale and Rash.
Afterwards, we were treated to a discussion with the cast and the executive producers, where they covered such topics as story ideas past, present and future, Dan Harmon's departure, gratitude for fans' support throughout the years, the effort to tell stories and be referential (i.e. nods to pop culture) at the same time, and more.
A Q&A with the audience led to a re-enactment of Britta's "pizza dance"; a question as to whether - because James Brolin is playing Jeff's father in this week's episode and recently played Rick Castle's father on ABC's Castle - Jeff Winger and Rick Castle are half-brothers (McHale responded "yes, and in season five we'll all end up on Serenity." - way to please the fans, sir!); the return - albeit short - return of paintball; and whether the gang is going to graduate this year ("stay tuned," we were told).
Then, for icing on the cake, we were given a sneak peek of an upcoming plot element. One word: Muppets.
After a clip, the muppet counterparts of the cast were brought out and it became playtime with puppets. It was awesome and ... a little naughty. There may have been a little puppet molestation ... but all in good fun.
It was a fantastic event with a terrific group of wonderfully comedic misfits. But hey, that's Community!
Catch Community Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.