Whither COMMUNITY? Creator Dan Harmon Out as Showrunner
Fans of U.S. TV show Community were cheered by recent word that it would be returning for a fourth season, but that reaction has been tempered by news late Friday night that creator Dan Harmon will not be returning as showrunner.
According to reports at Vulture and TV, Sony Pictures Television hired David Guarascio and Moses Port (from broadcast TV sitcom Happy Endings) to run the show, having already made the decision to oust Harmon from that role. Harmon will be credited as "consulting producer," but whether he'll actuallly remain involved with the show as a writer and consultant -- which is what Sony wants -- is up in the air.
Harmon provided his perspective via Tumblr. First, regarding Sony...
... next, in regard to NBC executive Bob Greenblatt ...
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.
... and, if he returned, what his role would be:
However, if I actually chose to go to the office, I wouldn't have any power there. Nobody would have to do anything I said, ever. I would be "offering" thoughts on other people's scripts, not allowed to rewrite them, not allowed to ask anyone else to rewrite them, not allowed to say whether a single joke was funny or go near the edit bay, etc. It's....not really the way the previous episodes got done. I was what you might call a....hands on producer. Are my....periods giving this enough....pointedness? I'm not saying you can't make a good version of Community without me, but I am definitely saying that you can't make my version of it unless I have the option of saying "it has to be like this or I quit" roughly 8 times a day.
To make it absolutely clear, he concludes: "I got fired."
Now, the flip side of Harmon's creative abilities are the questions about his management abilities. And then there's the not-so-little matter of his leaking voice mail message from Chevy Chase and their ongoing feud. Chase is but one element of the show's success -- an increasingly smaller one this season, as Harmon and his team gave him less and less meaningful work to do -- but Harmon's conduct is not easily excused, especially in view of his position as showrunner. Chase himself may not have the best of reputations, but Harmon dug a deep ditch for himself with his actions.
Still, I'm disturbed by the news, especially because reports indicate that Sony and NBC are making the change, not only because they're tired of dealing with Harmon, but because they want a show with broader appeal that could conceivably last beyond the 13 episodes of Season 4 and thus get closer to the quantity of episodes needed to more easily sell as a syndication package.
The final three Season 3 episodes of Community, broadcast one after the other this past Thursday night, showcased the strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes the show pushes the boundaries too far conceptually and free falls in inexplicable nonsense, yet even more often it produces a brilliant episode like "Digital Estate Planning," in which the gang is transformed into players in an 8-bit video game.
Don't expect anything like that in Season 4.