Dan Harmon was fired as showrunner of “Community”; or, what happens when you give an Internet commenter a television show.
Snark aside: Is anyone surprise that NBC and Sony decided to part ways with Dan Harmon before season four of “Community”? This is a man who seemed to willfully refuse to make his show more accessible to anyone outside of the internet bubble that obsessed over the comings and goings of the Greendale 7. A man who publicly feuded with the cantankerous and notoriously prickly Chevy Chase to such an extreme extent that he actually managed to make Chase look sympathetic. A man who just last week wrote a satirical piece for New York Magazine that called his then-employer the “‘Cock.” (Peacock, get it?)
It’s all fun and games until you realize television is a business, and networks and studios aren’t going to allow someone like Harmon to continue working unless he has the numbers to back his bad behavior up. He didn’t, he’s gone.
What’s funny to me — besides everything — is the reaction. Comparing Harmon’s ouster to Aaron Sorkin leaving “The West Wing” after four seasons has been done … seriously. By writers! Who you respect! Meanwhile, the two guys who will replace Harmon (David Guarascio and Moses Port), are being called “scabs” (not how that word is used), and chastised for producing other crappy television shows, like the failed pilot for “The IT Crowd.” Because, you know, working with Joel McHale and Richard Ayoade, plus consulting on “Happy Endings” (a show everyone loves), means these guys are total hacks.
The big question many are wondering is: Why did Sony and NBC decide to make this move now, rather than just cancel “Community” outright? (The thought being that “Community” fans will ignore the show without Harmon, a hilarious bit of nonsense that recalls Bill O’Reilly asking viewers to boycott France.)
Here’s the likely reason: with 71 episodes already aired — an amazing accomplishment for a show with such small viewership — Sony and NBC are just 29 episodes away from the magical syndication number of 100. Considering that the ratings for “Community” are terrible anyway — and that even a test pattern on Friday nights, where it will move this fall, could probably get around 4 million viewers — the mythical Powers That Be probably decided they could squeeze out another 29 episodes (13 episodes in the fall; a back-nine order to push season four to 22 episodes; then a short final season in the fall of 2014) without having to deal with Harmon. It’s a win-win for the network, which can either hit the syndication threshold with “Community,” or not, and just get rid of the show altogether … without having to listen its showrunner ever again.
Or maybe that’s giving the terrible decision makers at NBC too much credit. Maybe it’s just them giving Dan Harmon the ultimate middle finger. After all, he might have a Tumblr, but they have his show.