Saturday, May 19, 2012

IT'S MORE LIKE TIMELINE #3: As you've almost assuredly heard, unless you live under a rock, Dan Harmon, who created and steered Community through its first three seasons, will not be returning for the fourth (and presumptively final) season-- Vulture has a good solid and fairly even-handed report with background, Harmon's issued a statement/rant, and Dan and Alan both have analysis.  A few things I wanted to note, though:
  • "Dan Harmon is incredibly talented and creative" and "Dan Harmon is kind of an ass" are not mutually exclusive ideas here.  By his own admission, Harmon is not the easiest person to work with and for, and wants things done his way.  Admittedly, when "his way" works, we get some great television, but Community is a power swinger--always aiming for the homer, and hitting a bunch, but also striking out with more regularity than you'd hope.
  • When these stirrings first were heard, I was hopeful that Hilary Winston, who wrote the finales of the first two seasons, and who moved on to Happy Endings, might take over.  (She had a pilot which didn't get picked up, and apparently has a deal with Sony.)  However, we're getting David Gurascio and Moses Port, who created Aliens in America, ran Just Shoot Me for a number of years, and were on staff at Happy Endings this year.  Actually, they're a pretty good choice--Aliens and Happy Endings both started as pretty conventional sitcoms, but quickly got weird.  I don't think they're going to wholesale turn the show into a traditional sitcom. 
  • I think the pickup of Community had less to do with NBC wanting to be in the Community business than keeping certain talent happy--NBC and Universal both want to be in business with McHale, Brie, and Glover in particular for the foreseeable future.  However, I'll be interested to see if this actually backfires on those aims--in interviews, the cast generally seems resolutely pro-Harmon.
  • Harmon's statement makes plain that he has basically zero interest in staying on at Community without total control.  I hope he'll reconsider.  Harmon's a great, great, idea guy, but (by his own admission) terrible at other things.  Ideally, he'd be allowed to continue coming up with funny/strange ideas, while Gurascio/Port focus on the nut and bolt side of the business.  I think that could be helpful for the show.


  1. Carmichael Harold2:20 PM

    I'm bummed by the news, though I guess I shouldn't be surprised as any other network would have cancelled it.  I would, however, be surprised if Sony, after making this move, would offer Harmon an opportunity to stay on in any meaningful capacity.  I don't think it's a choice that Harmon gets to make.  He'll get his consulting producer credit and fee, but I'd expect that's about it.

    I would probably place the show's slugging percentage much higher than Matt does (if a strike out means the same thing for Community as it does for any other non-P&R show, I don't think it's had more than a handful), and so am not optimistic about it being run by someone else.  That said, I do think it'll be interesting to see what the new team does with it, and so am looking forward to watching it.  

  2. Anonymous2:49 PM

    Maureen Ryan has more, including an interesting perspective on the creative/ass aspect.

    Basically, my take is this was an incredibly stupid move.  "Hey, devoted fans!  We'll renew it, but we're dropping the main guy whose name you know and think of, right or wrong, as the voice of the show!"  Way for NBC and Sony to snatch defeat from the jaws of relative victory.

  3. I'm with Carmichael on the batting average point.  But I'm not sure I'm looking forward to a new half-season run by others.  I thought we went out on a very high note this week (I liked the closing trilogy of episodes more than Alan did), and I suspect I will come to wish they were the end of the series (assuming it had to end either here or in 13 more episodes).

  4. I get the sense that they felt forced to pick between Chase and Harmon and as studios are wont to do, they went with the visible talent.  It's too bad because Harmon is the reason for the real success of the show.  

    There is a slight bitterness to Community, which is all Dan Harmon.  But that's what makes it great - wondering if anyone else can keep that up.

  5. Roger1:48 AM

    I consider this the end of the show, which luckily went out on a hot streak. If next year's bizarre televised fan fic is any good, it's a bonus.

  6. This is a fine example of how there are divas in every area of life, every industry, often with lots of good stuff to contribute. It's a sign of a good organization that it can find a way to get the most out of them without falling apart or pissing off everyone else.

  7. Goghaway12:30 PM

    <span>Weirdly, this is something Tina Fey seems to do very well. Not a slam on Harmon, because they are different people and she certainly seems to have had more internal support than he did (e.g., Lorne Michaels in her corner), but being a good manager of talent is just something she seems to have a gift for. Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan combined had some pretty major meltdowns that she handled like a pro publicly, without seeming to compromise herself or her standards.</span>

  8. Andrew2:03 PM

    The Simpsons had some major staff turnover around season 3 (including original showrunner Sam Simon leaving and many of the original writers departing) and the second generation of writers made the show even better. 

    Of course, The Simpsons had James Brooks and Matt Groening to ensure that the show had a consistent philosophy and sensibility, and I'm not sure that there will be anyone on Community to do that. But I could see a world where a new production team takes the personal stories, the deep love of pop culture and the anarchic spirit and make something that is wholly recognizable as Community without some of the more visible Harmon neuroses. Am I optimistic that it will happen? Not particularly, especially since if the first episode isn't the most amazing episode ever and then the ratings for 13 episodes on Friday night will let the show slip off quietly and quickly.