It’s only been about five minutes that Community fans were able to catch their breathe from the triple-episode Season 3 finale extravaganza with a beam of hope that Season 4, though abbreviated, would be one step closer to #sixseasonsandamovie. There were rumblings that there would be a big change between seasons, one that might affect the on-screen chemistry of the cast -rumors of Chevy Chase leaving-or worse yet, creator and showrunner, Dan Harmon would be replaced. Surely everything would work itself out, right? Because viewers got their fourth season and the last three episodes were incredibly funny, right?
Well, as the saying goes, you have to give a little to get a little, and the sacrifice was Harmon. David Guarascio and Moses Port (Happy Endings and Aliens in America) will take over as the new showrunners.
Harmon took to his Tumblr account in the wee hours of Saturday morning to confirm the news and explain (in his own charming way) how Sony Television replaced him and NBC will make it sound much nicer than what really happened. These excerpts are quoted directly from Harmon’s last posting:
“A few hours ago, I landed in Los Angeles, turned on my phone, and confirmed what you already know. Sony Pictures Television is replacing me as showrunner on Community, with two seasoned fellows that I’m sure are quite nice – actually, I have it on good authority they’re quite nice, because they once created a show and cast my good friend Jeff Davis on it, so how bad can they be.”
“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.”
“I do want to correct a couple points of spin, now that I’m free to do so:”
“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.”
It goes on to say that news of him signing on as an executive consultant would be just to smooth things over with the public and he would basically be rendered powerless in that role, unable to have any creative control over story or scripts. He added this:
“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.”
He goes on in great lengths to illustrate this, and does so funnily I might add (seriously, go read it in its entirety), talking about masturbating, playing Prototype 2, denying any incriminating photos that may suddenly surface, and forgetting to call his mother on Mother’s Day. But the bottom line:
“I’m not running Community for season 4. They replaced me. Them’s the facts.”
Could this change of showrunners really been the fallout of Harmon’s spat with cast member Chevy Chase? Or was it just the final nail in the coffin for Harmon who has repeatedly clashed with Sony (and NBC) over the direction of the show?
Vulture’s Josef Adalian breaks down the clashes and their affects thoroughly and cites a source that praises Harmon’s creativity but questions his management of Community, one of the tasks of a showrunner.
NBC and Sony have both wanted Harmon to make the show more accessible to general audiences but many would argue that’s part of the charm of the show. Look at the final three episodes of this past season, you’ll not find a wider variety pack in any other television show (an episode done completely in the style of an 8-bit video game, a heist episode, and a makeshift legal episode over a minor technicality). It works beautifully as is. You either get it, or you don’t. It appears that those above Harmon were ready to move on as his deal with Sony was up and they simply did not want to deal with him any longer than they had to.
Most TV viewers don’t care or even know what a showrunner is outside of regular readers of sites like ours, and turnover at the position is not necessarily a rare thing, or even a bad thing in some cases. But can Community survive without Harmon? Maybe. He is such a big part of what has defined Community the first three seasons. It’s undeniable. Some believe that the showrunner gives life to a show, and his or her voice(s) speaks through the show. Now that that voice is gone, what will Community say or sound like?
How loud will the voice of Twitter be when the alternative is no Community at all, or gulp, the new version is still funny? I’m sure hardcore fans won’t sit still but I don’t think much more can be done. Believe me, I have plenty of doubts, but fans do lose out on this one as we have no idea what changes are in store to make this more palpable to a broader audience. And I’m certainly not wishing for Season 4 to fail. But it certainly won’t be the same. News of the change will bring a heightened level of curiosity, that’s for sure and the online community will be waiting to pounce seconds after the Season 4 premiere.
With respect to David Guarascio and Moses Port, making the show appeal to a general audience may give a boost in the beginning of season 4, but will a new direction keep its most loyal viewers? The curiosity factor will be a factor now, and if the new runners make funny television and most importantly deliver higher ratings, then the only thing we will be left wondering is “What would Dan Harmon have done?”
Sony made the gamble and perhaps all of this inability to see eye-to-eye is the reason why it only got 13 episodes in the fall. If it fails, then NBC has a full lineup of mid-season replacements ready to take its place. They won’t even blink an eye. The Friday night reschedule isn’t exactly the best endorsement, but if Grimm can pull 4-5 million viewers, why can’t Community? That’s going to be the reasoning of the network. And if it works well out of the gates, then NBC and Sony can pat themselves on the shoulder by ordering another short order of nine episodes for the Winter-Spring season. Or give viewers a Season 5 and string them along next year. They can say that they saved the boat from sinking by throwing over the dead weight (Harmon) and sailing forward. It’s going to be a lot of wait and see.
We shall see just how committed they are to the show when marketing and ads begin to roll out for the fall season. Grimm somehow defied all logic and got its modest viewership (with numbers Community would die to have) despite not being supported with a ton of marketing. Friday night shows tend to get that lack of support.
Will you still want #SixSeasonsandaMovie if the seasons 4-6 and the movie has nothing to do with Dan Harmon? Do you think it will survive without Harmon’s creative spin? How mad are you at Sony Television right now? Still like that move to Friday? Share your thoughts (and emotion) below!
Photos taken by Lucky Bronson.