I'm in love with everything in this picture. Yes, that includes three quarters of Donald Glover's face.
If you don’t watch the TV show Community, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice – both because it’s a spectacular, ballsy, hilarious show with a great cast and a fair amount of Alison Brie cleavage, but also because this update is going to be about Community, so if you haven’t watched the show there’s a good chance you’ll have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.
The gist of the show, for those of you who don’t watch it, is this: A disbarred, asshole lawyer has to take classes at a dysfunctional community college. He winds up in a zany, racially diverse study group, and they proceed to have shenanigans of the highest order, including, but not limited to, sailing a boat on a trailer through a parking lot, throwing a dead body out a window, a paintball war, a massive blanket fort, Dungeons and Dragons, claymation, another paintball war, multiple divergent timelines, and making out with Alison Brie (once, or maybe more than that if we count the divergent timelines).
It’s a great show. In five or ten years, we’ll be talking about it the way we talk about Arrested Development now.
A lot of Community’s brilliance can be traced to the perfect union of a spectacular cast, spectacular-er writers, and creator/showrunner Dan Harmon, whose previous credits include co-creating The Sarah Silverman Program and a pilot for a show called Heat Vision And Jack, in which Jack Black plays a renegade superhero astronaut who gains super intelligence whenever he’s in direct sunlight and has a sidekick named Jack who is a talking motorcycle, voiced by Owen Wilson. (For whatever reason, the pilot did not get picked up for a full season.)
If you didn’t get the hint from the thing about the talking motorcycle show, let me tell you upfront: Dan Harmon is a weird dude, and his weird helming is what, I think, has made Community so great. He never plays it safe and swings for the fences with just about every episode, doing stuff you’d never see on another TV show. One Community episode was an extended parody of My Dinner With Andre - a highly philosophical art film that exactly seven people in the world have seen. Dan Harmon, like the honey badger, doesn’t give a fuck – he just makes the TV show he wants to make, which is why Community is so often groundbreakingly hilarious.
That said, the My Dinner With Andre episode of Community was arguably one of the worst episodes of the series. And, sadly, there have been some real contenders in that department. Community, for as much as I love it, is admittedly inconsistent – some episodes should win Nobel Prizes, some are pretty funny, and a few have sucked harder than [trashy celebrity] at [location – e.g. CMA’s/handicapped stall at Olive Garden].
I, personally, am fine with that. I’d much rather watch a show that sucks sometimes because they swung for the fences and missed than a show that plays it safe and is too tepid to appeal to anyone – commonly known as Don’t Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23 Syndrome.
However, the people writing the checks tend to favor consistency over innovation, and on Friday it was announced that Dan Harmon had been removed as Community’s showrunner, an act that has drawn considerable derision from Community’s cast and the whole Internet.
Now, I’m as pissed as any Community fan that the driving force behind the show has had his baby forcibly removed from him, like the Cylon/human hybrid child in season 2 of Battlestar Galactica, but at the same time I can kind of understand the reasoning behind taking it away, just like I did in season 2 of Battlestar Galactica when they took the Cylon/human hybrid child away.
Dan Harmon is a genius, yes, and I’d love to meet him, but by all accounts, including his own, he’s a pretty difficult guy to work with. His relentless perfectionism leads to a lot of long nights and frayed nerves that often explode into fights during the production cycle. He drinks constantly and routinely threatens to commit suicide. In his defense, if I was in charge of a TV show of my own creation I’d probably be drinking and threatening to kill myself too.
More recently, he’s been rather publicly butting heads with Chevy Chase, who is apparently one of the worst people in the world. Chevy seems to be the one cast member who isn’t BFFs with all the others, and has been openly critical of Dan Harmon’s scripting, which resulted in Harmon delivering a fairly hostile speech at the cast Christmas party, the gist of which was apparently, “SCREW YOU, CHEVY!”
So I can understand why Sony pulled Dan Harmon. He’s a renegade cop who doesn’t play by the rules – Jesus I use that analogy a lot! – helming a risky show with sub-par ratings. In Sony’s eyes, something had to change for this venture to become less troublesome for them.
Regardless of whether Dan Harmon comes back, I think we, as Community fans, should focus on the good:
1) The New Showrunners Are Pretty Good
Harmon got replaced by David Guarascio and Moses Port, who previously worked on critical darlings Happy Endings and Just Shoot Me. Keep in mind, Happy Endings is the show that some critics were saying was better than Modern Family. These guys don’t seem to be idiots, which is why we should be thankful that…
2) At Least It Didn’t Get Cancelled
Community’s shitty ratings have put it in considerable danger of being cancelled from pretty much day one, and it’s a testament to NBC that they’ve kept it around for as long as they did, hiatus and truncated fourth season episode order notwithstanding.
Now, I’m sure a great many fans would rather see the show cancelled then have it continue, Scrubs style, as an unfunny embarrassment that cheapens its former greatness. I, however, still have some hope.
As established, the new showrunners aren’t idiots. They’re good at their jobs, so presumably they know what Community is and why people like it. Community’s writing staff remains fully intact, and I have reason to believe they’ll be allowed to be just as weird as they were being before.
Community will undoubtedly be different under new management, but I don’t take that to automatically mean that it’ll be bad. Community has always been different from everything else on TV, and it’s been great – usually. Now Community is going to be different from previous seasons of Community. On a show this meta, that’s bound to be a comedy goldmine.
Truman Capps would immediately quit watching the show if Alison Brie were no longer on it.