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'Community' Without Dan Harmon And 'Animal Practice' Scoop From Anthony Russo

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Can 'Community' survive without Harmon? Can a monkey carry 'Animal Practice'?
Can 'Community' survive without Harmon? Can a monkey carry 'Animal Practice'?

How do you go from directing NBC's "Community" to taking on a superstar monkey to directing "Captain America"? Why not ask one of the directors of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and executive producer of NBC's new comedy "Animal Practice," Anthony Russo?

Anthony Russo was at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour on Tuesday to talk about "Animal Practice," a new NBC comedy that he and his brother Joe are both executive producing. You may know their names from "Community" and "Arrested Development," which are among the projects the Russos have directed. When their names were announced as the directors of one of Marvel's biggest franchises, many were surprised. But Russo talked about getting the gig, his experience thus far and what to expect in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" here.

The "Animal Practice" panel wasn't as formal as others, given that, at one point, Crystal the monkey (one of the stars, if not the star of the show) riding atop a tiny ambulance on the stage of the Beverly Hilton. "Animal Practice," also stars Justin Kirk as a top-notch vet with a goofy staff and a potential love interest in a character played by Joanna Garcia Swisher.

"It has all those interesting, devious sensibilities that my brother and I always like to play with, and at the same time, the animals layer makes the show very accessible, hopefully to a wider audience," Russo said. "Our big problem in our career is that we work on these shows like 'Arrested Development' or 'Community' that have a very passionate audience base, but aren't necessarily the most popular shows. We keep striving -- when you're on prime time television, you really have to hold a big audience. We think this show might be the sweet spot between an interesting, fun, comedic sensibility and also more widely accessible."

Russo also addressed Dan Harmon's departure from "Community" and what fans might expect from the fourth season of the comedy. "It was very surprising and it was a very difficult situation," Russo said. "But as a show grows, the cast carries more and more weight in terms of selling a show week to week. That's what, I think, people ultimately fall in love with. So the core cast is there, many of the best writers are still on the show. It'll still be 'Community' in its essence, but at the same time, it's a big change. I think there's a lot of very, very talented people still involved with the show." Russo added that he and his brother are no longer involved in "Community," but if Dan Harmon had a new project and they could help out in any way, they "absolutely" would.

Tune in to see the premiere of "Animal Practice" on Sun., Aug. 12 after the Olympic Games Closing Ceremonies and again in its time slot on Wed., Sept. 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET. "Community" Season 4 makes its debut on Fri., Oct. 19 at 8:30 p.m. ET.

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