Word got out late Friday night that Dan Harmon, the creator and showrunner of Community, had been booted from the show by Sony Pictures Television, which produces the series. Initial reports suggested that he would remain with the show in some capacity, possibly as a “consulting producer.” Then Harmon himself took to Tumblr and said that when Bob Greenblatt, the chairman of NBC Entertainment, said that Harmon was sure “to be involved somehow,” he probably “meant to say he’s sure cookies are yummy, because he’s never called once in the entire duration of his employment at NBC.”
Suffice to say, Harmon is almost certainly not coming back. As the show’s creator, he may retain some title, as guaranteed in his initial contract for the show. But, according to Harmon, if he actually went to the office, he wouldn’t have any power. As he put it on his blog:
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.
As one may begin to suspect from that quote, Harmon’s firing seems to stem at least in part from this very management style. Several writers and producers have left the show during its three-season run, and Harmon’s handling of prickly cast member Chevy Chase has also been criticized.
But Harmon’s management style is not the only factor (or even, perhaps, the main one). Community has never gotten great ratings, and Harmon has reportedly resisted requests from both NBC and Sony to give the show a broader appeal. Of course, this may also help explain its consistent inventiveness and its wild ambition. Many fans are now rightly concerned that the new, post-Harmon Community will lack the originality of the show’s first three seasons.
The men responsible for winning those fans over are David Guarascio and Moses Port, who were half of the writing team behind the failed American version of The IT Crowd and also the creators of Aliens in America, a sitcom that ran for one season on the CW five years ago. Perhaps they can turn things around on Community, but the odds are against them: In addition to dismissing Harmon, NBC recently moved the show to Friday nights, not generally a sign of confidence for a network sitcom. For now, at least, Guarascio and Port have 13 episodes to make the case that Community should continue.