One day after the final three episodes of Community‘s third and most tumultuous season aired on NBC – and about a week after the news of its renewal for an abbreviated fourth season hit the Interwebs – Sony Pictures Television announced that the show’s creator Dan Harmon would not be returning next season in his current position as showrunner.
Harmon soon after took to his Tumblr blog to clear up any misconceptions Community‘s fan base might have regarding this surprising development.
“Why’d Sony want me gone? I can’t answer that because I’ve been in as much contact with them as you have. They literally haven’t called me since the season four pickup, so their reasons for replacing me are clearly none of my business. Community is their property, I only own ten percent of it, and I kind of don’t want to hear what their complaints are because I’m sure it would hurt my feelings even more now that I’d be listening for free.”
Harmon also stressed that despite vague reassurances from the NBC brass that he would maintain some involvement in the show’s productions the reality is anything but:
“The important one is this quote from Bob Greenblatt in which he says he’s sure I’m going to be involved somehow, something like that. That’s a misquote. I think he meant to say he’s sure cookies are yummy, because he’s never called me once in the entire duration of his employment at NBC. He didn’t call me to say he was starting to work there, he didn’t call me to say I was no longer working there and he definitely didn’t call to ask if I was going to be involved. I’m not saying it’s wrong for him to have bigger fish to fry, I’m just saying, NBC is not a credible source of All News Dan Harmon.”
In addition to Harmon Community will also be losing several integral members of its creative personnel: producers Neil Goldman & Garret Donovan, episode directors Anthony and Joe Russo (currently in the running to direct the Captain America sequel), and the show’s longest-serving writer Chris McKenna. Assuming Harmon’s role as showrunners will be David Guarascio and Moses Port, who in the past have labored behind the scenes of shows like Just Shoot Me, Aliens in America, and most recently the ABC sitcom Happy Endings.
The reasons for Harmon’s sudden firing vary, but in recent months the Community creator has been involved in an ongoing feud with actor Chevy Chase, one of the show’s valuable comedic ensemble, that led to rumors that the comic legend would be leaving the cast. Harmon’s admitted perfectionism, which often resulted in delays and cost overruns on a show that was hardly earning enough ratings and advertising revenue to justify its existence in the eyes of Sony and NBC executives, may also have factored in the studio’s decision to issue him a pink slip.
Whatever the reason may have been for his firing Harmon wants his supporters and fans of Community to understand that he had absolutely no say in the decision. In fact, in a sterling example of professional courtesy in Hollywood the studio failed to notify him of his dismissal; he found out about it at the same time the rest of us did.
“I’m not saying seasons 1, 2 and 3 were my definition of perfect television, I’m just saying that whatever they’re going to do for season 4, they’re aiming to do without my help. So do not believe anyone that tells you on Monday that I quit or diminished my role so I could spend more time with my loved ones, or that I negotiated and we couldn’t come to an agreement, etc. It couldn’t be less true because, just to make this clear, literally nobody called me. Also don’t believe anyone that says I have sex with animals. And if there’s a photo of me doing it with an animal – I’m not saying one exists, I’m just saying, if one surfaces – it’s a fake. Look at the shadow. Why would it be in front of the giraffe if the sun is behind the jeep?”
The past year has not been the most pleasant for the cast and crew of Community. For several months, the show’s return for a fourth season was in doubt; despite fostering a loyal and rabid fanbase since its premiere in the Fall of 2009 and earning critical raves the show has not been the ratings smash that NBC would expect of its Thursday night comedy line-up. The recent news that the show would indeed be coming back for a 13-episode season four gave Community fans (myself included) hope that Harmon’s creation would endure, but now that Harmon won’t even be a part of the show’s future we have to wonder what the world of Greendale Community College will look like when it returns this fall. Having lost the show’s creator and several of its most important creative talent Community might still be a very funny show, but it’s highly doubtful that it will retain that weird and wonderful quality that made it an addictive watch for its first three seasons. Only time can tell now.
In the meantime I’ll be rewatching every episode from season three and soaking in every nuance, every in-joke, every Easter Egg, while I still can.