When “Community” was picked up for a fourth season last week, one of the few storm clouds on that otherwise bright, sunshine-y day was the fact that a deal had not yet been reached with showrunner Dan Harmon. There was speculation at the time, and a pretty ominous sounding quote from NBC bigwig Bob Greenblatt, that indicated he may not be brought back. Well, now it’s official: Dan Harmon is out as showrunner, and will be replaced by a team previously unaffiliated with the show.
Dan Harmon will not be returning as showrunner of NBC’s “Community,” and whether he’ll remain involved at all with the series he created at remains very much in doubt. Sony Pictures Television, which produces the series with Universal Television, has closed a deal with “Happy Endings” writers David Guarascio and Moses Port to join “Community” as showrunners and exec producers. The deal comes less than a week after Vulture broke the news that Harmon hadn’t been signed on for season four and that no negotiations between him and Sony had taken place. Vulture hears that now that Sony made its deal with Guarascio and Port, it plans to ask Harmon to remain involved as a writer and consultant — but not as the person in charge of the show. [Vulture]
There you go. Harmon’s exit comes on the heels of executive producers Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan leaving the show, and late last night as this was all shaking down, longtime writer Chris McKenna also announced he would not be returning. I don’t know if this is the darkest timeline, but it’s definitely one that blows a whole bunch.
As he often does, Harmon took to Tumblr to explain the situation. In doing so, two things became very clear: 1) Sony never had any intention of bringing him back. 2) Harmon has no intention of staying with the show in a diminished capacity:
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.
You may have read that I am technically “signed on,” by default, to be an executive consulting something or other – which is a relatively standard protective clause for a creator in my position. Guys like me can’t actually just be shot and left in a ditch by Skynet, we’re still allowed to have a title on the things we create and “help out,” like, I guess sharpening pencils and stuff.
However, if I actually chose to go to the office, I wouldn’t have any power there. 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.
I’m not saying seasons 1, 2 and 3 were my definition of perfect television, I’m just saying that whatever they’re going to do for season 4, they’re aiming to do without my help. So do not believe anyone that tells you on Monday that I quit or diminished my role so I could spend more time with my loved ones, or that I negotiated and we couldn’t come to an agreement, etc. It couldn’t be less true because, just to make this clear, literally nobody called me. Also don’t believe anyone that says I have sex with animals. And if there’s a photo of me doing it with an animal – I’m not saying one exists, I’m just saying, if one surfaces – it’s a fake. Look at the shadow. Why would it be in front of the giraffe if the sun is behind the jeep?
Where was I? Oh yeah. I’m not running Community for season 4. They replaced me. Them’s the facts.
When I was a kid, sometimes I’d run home to Mommy with a bloody nose and say, “Mom, my friends beat me up,” and my Mom would say “well then they’re not worth having as friends, are they?” At the time, I figured she was just trying to put a postive spin on having birthed an unpopular pussy. But this is, after all, the same lady that bought me my first typewriter. Then later, a Commodore 64. And later, a 300 baud modem for it. Through which I met new friends that did like me much, much more.
I’m 39, now. The friends my Mom warned me about are bigger now, and older, bloodying my nose with old world numbers, and old world tactics, like, oh, I don’t know, sending out press releases to TV Guide at 7pm on a Friday.
So what does all this mean? Well, first and foremost, it means that “Community” will be a different show next year. That’s not to say it will definitively be better or worse — because we won’t know for sure until we see the new iteration of the show — just that it will be … different. Under Harmon, the show was a weird, quirky, smart, unpredictable comedy that was unlike anything else on television, and that was due almost entirely to his vision. You can’t pull that piece out of a Jenga tower and not expect at least some pretty serious wobbling. But he was also notoriously difficult to work with, especially when it came to dealing with the studio and network that cut his checks. No one’s hands are perfectly clean here, but yoinking a guy off something he created and lived and died with for three years without so much as a phone call is definitely a 7 or an 8 on the Dick Move Scale. (NOTE: The Dick Move Scale only goes to 5.)
More as this develops. Until then, everybody freak out.