There are many shows I watch regularly on TV (too many probably). Community on NBC is one of the few shows I truly look forward to. Community sits on my DVR no longer than a day. Community is creative, hilarious, and has been an absolute joy to watch these past few years. Sadly, Community has never been strong in the ratings, and has always been on the verge of cancellation. To my relief, it was recently announced that Community has been renewed for a fourth season, and will return in the fall. Sadly, a few days ago, Dan Harmon, who is the creator/executive producer/driving force behind Community was let go.
My initial reaction was shock and anger. How, how could they renew a series then tell the most important person behind said show to get lost? It made no sense. Now, Dan Harmon has a reputation for being difficult to work with, but Community is still his baby, so he should be allowed to stay, no? Apparently, the situation was much worse than expected, as summarized in this article from vulture.com.
At Wondercon in March, I was able to attend a Community panel. 3 of the actors from the show, a writer, and Dan Harmon were on the panel. Everyone involved adored Harmon, and it was clear that they loved their jobs. It was obvious to everyone in the room that Dan Harmon IS Community. However, Harmon violated one of the cardinal rules of employment, and that is to keep your bosses happy (I speak from experience). From a business standpoint, I understand why his contract was not renewed, and even agree with the decision. I love Community, and wish Dan Harmon could remain, but being a show that’s perpetually on the bubble, the decision makes sense. So what does it mean for the future?
If the majority of the writers are retained, the transition should be seamless. Supposedly Harmon is to have an “advisory” role, and this could be a boon. James Patterson manages to crank out a novel with his name somewhere on the cover nearly every month. I’m convinced he writes the first and last chapters, then the individual who’s name also appears on the cnver (usually in smaller print) writes the remainder. A similar method could be used for Community: Harmon provides a general outline for the season’s story arc and the writers fill in the rest. The writers already know and love the characters, and should be able to make some tweaks to keep the higher-ups happy without losing the soul of the show. I have high hopes.
Admittedly, this season was a bit wacky, even by the show’s standards. The video game episode from last week, which I found delectable, could be a bit of a turn off for the casual viewer. (Quick side note: did anyone else notice that Jeff’s avatar moved and jumped exactly like MegaMan? Small things like that are icing on an already marvelous cake.) Likely this next season will pull back a bit on the zaniness, and focus on building relationships between the characters to bring in more viewers. If the ratings can get to an acceptable level, maybe in seasons 5 and 6 we’ll get more themed episodes.
The business of television is awful. If you’re not a medical show or cop drama, life is tough. Many great shows get cancelled before they get through the first season, and Community was very nearly one of them. Dan Harmon was given 3 seasons of good faith by NBC, and his failure to compromise cost him his job. I applaud him for standing behind his convictions, but the business of business is business, and hopefully, fingers crossed, we will get our 6 seasons and a movie. I will watch Community in the fall on Fridays at 8:30 ( or rather my DVR will), and can’t wait for the return of one of the best second-tier characters ever: Starburns. Or as he prefers to be called, Alex.
(Another side note: I hypothesize that one of the reasons that Community had such bad ratings this year is because it had to compete with Big Bang Theory on CBS, another show I watch. They’ve moved the show to Friday, which hasn’t been a viable time slot since the Olsen twins were in diapers, and this is supposedly a nail in the coffin. But aren’t DVR’s a regular thing now? Do time slots really matter that much? Am I wrong in this thinking? *quick google search later* In 2011, DVR usage only accounted for 8% of all TV viewing, so yes, time slots still matter)
Here’s wishing Dan Harmon the best of luck; I thank him for creating such an original masterful show; and here’s to the future, may it be as great as the past 3 seasons were.