I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. Dan Harmon, the show-runner behind Community, has been fired. Is this really that shocking? No. The show has been seconds from being cancelled almost the entire time it’s been on the air. If this had happened two weeks ago, or if the show had just been cancelled it might be easier to handle, but here’s what makes this so hard. Community is an underdog, and its’ fans have expelled a tremendous amount of energy trying to save the show. Just one week ago we believed we accomplished the impossible. The show was miraculously renewed for a 4th season, something no one expected a few months ago. And then the 3-episode finale aired, and it was amazing- emotional and funny. It was obvious Dan Harmon and company wrote a series finale because they didn’t they think they were going to be renewed, but they still left really interesting story lines just in case. I was so excited to see what they would do with this final season. For the first time when it came to Community I was full of hope. That’s what makes this so hard. We had come so far, and finally things were looking up… and then the mastermind behind this amazing show was fired and replaced by two men who’ve never had any involvement with the show. So once we get past the frustration, what does this all mean?
Here’s a reminder, Studio Executives suck. They don’t care about art, just the bottom line. NBC and Sony Pictures Hollywood don’t care about the rabid fans of Community. I bet the only reason they renewed the show was because they knew they were going to fire Dan Harmon. They assumed its’ fans would keep watching the show no matter what and by making the show more generic and audience friendly they could gain more fans. All of this was schemed in back rooms. On his blog Dan Harmon addresses his final days as the show-runner on Community:
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.
…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.
The studio executives never bothered to call the man who spent the last 4 years of his life giving everything he had to this show. Jeez… I’m trying to imagine what would happen if Chris Nolan was kicked off The Dark Knight Rises half-way through production and replaced by some mediocre Hollywood director. I think the Internet would probably implode on itself, revealing this to be the darkest timeline.
So how will this affect the show? Is losing one man really going to destroy Community? Well… this question is pretty complicated. For one, people who know the behind the scenes stuff consistently say, “Community is Dan Harmon.” He fought those terrible studio execs for 3 years! He did everything he could to ensure Community didn’t become a typical sitcom. He also assembled the amazing writing staff, most of which are leaving with him… I am a believer in auteur theory and Dan Harmon was the auteur of Community. His stamp of approval was required for every single decision and he took his job seriously. He calls himself a “hands-on producer.” I’ve heard he expects an insane amount of effort and is hard to work with. But this passion and love is why we love the show. We can tell that the people making it care about their product and that’s important.With that gone, what happens? Will we keep watching? The cast is still there and it’s a brilliant cast. Some of the writers will still be writing. Can the old writers and the cast transcend everything that has happened and still make great television? I don’t know. I’ll be watching next fall, but I’ll tell you this… In my opinion, NBC would have been better off letting us have some closure because “Introduction to Finality” was an amazing finale.