This is Community. Full of life and confidence as one of the most creative and ambitious comedies on television. It was powered by the brilliance and braggadocio of creator/showrunner Dan Harmon
Unfortunately, that confidence and brilliance was a potent mix, and Dan Harmon’s style drew the ire of the companies that owned the show, Sony and Universal (which owns NBC). The style of the show was off-putting and didn’t connect well with “mainstream audiences” over its run. During its third season, Community was put on mid-season hiatus. It was quite the wound.
Community’s audience was worried about the severity of the wound, but were reassured that everything would be okay. It would be back to normal in no time. It would be allllllllright.
Well, it wasn’t. Despite some solid returning numbers, the show’s ratings tumbled as the season went on, all the way up to the season finale.
Community’s fervent followers held on hope that it would be renewed for a fourth season, and allow the show to let its characters potentially graduate from Greendale Community College (E Pluribus Anus!). They would do whatever had to be done.
And so they begged the Powers That Be for a fourth season. Calls of #sixseasonsandamovie & #SaveCommunity popped up on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. It won fan votes online from various publications and websites and solidified itself as a true cult show. The fandom wanted their cherished Community to come back. The Powers That Be heard these calls.
Community was granted a fourth season, but there had to be sacrifices. “Community will return for a THIRTEEN EPISODE fourth season, on FRIDAYS, following…WHITNEY! MWAHAHAHAHA do you wish to go forth with this, Community audience?”
Little did the followers of Community know that the Powers That Be had one more trick up their sleeve. For a fourth season, and one so important in the realm of syndication numbers, one more sacrifice would have to be made. One grander than all the others combined.
For Community to return, this show, so ambitious and revered, would have to come back without the driving force that took it from good to great (perhaps even legendary). Dan Harmon would have to be replaced as Showrunner, said Sony.
It would look like Community, and have all the same features, but it would just not have the same life behind the eyes. It would be Community in name only. Zombie Community
And while the dedicated fandom of Community wept and raged, The Powers That Be looked on at the situation with a cold heart. Theirs was a mind of business and profit, not of passion or creativity, and quite frankly, Dan Harmon could be a real asshole to work with and they didn’t want to be bothered by his managing style anymore.
Nevertheless, assholes should be allowed to be assholes if they produce work as incredible as Community. Men with the pop culture database minds and storytelling bravado that are willing to push the envelope of television do not come along often enough. Not all of them are Sorkins or Weiners and get Emmy recognition. Some, like Harmon, are on shows that their networks don’t promote, either because they’re too “out there” or the network’s marketing department is run by monkeys in suits.
And so this is what Community will become: something that can still be watched, but only as a reminder of what it was and what it could have been.
There will be tears at the thought that something called Community is still on the air without Dan Harmon running it, and there will finally come a time where a fateful decision has to be made. Fans will have left, ratings will sag lower, and Community will become another victim of the Friday Night Death Slot.
It will finally be put out of its misery, hopefully, as humanely as possible.
But mark my words, there will be vengeance, Sony and NBC. Such injustice will not stand. We are a fanbase whose influence has been underestimated and ignored for too long.
Of course, they will not believe this until action is shown by the Community fanbase. After all, actions speak louder than words.
“LET’S BURN THIS MOTHER DOWN!”
Is there enough fire in our bellies and eyes to launch another campaign? What form would it take? What would our demands be beside the obvious return of our show’s creator? What leverage do we have as fans in the details of our entertainment (who runs the show, who writes for the show, etc.)? Are we merely at the mercy of these production houses, whose financial control means more than anything else? What can we learn from Arrested Development in terms of “TV injustice?” I don’t have enough mental fortitude to answer these questions, only pose them. Certainly Community loving sites like Buzzfeed and AV Club will see this and think about what can be done. We’re at a time in the show/fan relationship where our voices are loudest. We can be an example for all other unpopular moves against greatly-loved programs. Why not?
In memory of Dan’s vision, dedication, and passion. He may be an asshole, but he’s our asshole, and we love him. He gave us something that he put his whole heart and soul into, and damnit, I want to see how he planned to send off Jeff, Annie, Britta, Troy, Pierce, Shirley, and Abed. On his own terms.
All things considered, we at least have our three great seasons of Community to always hold on to. Our gift from Dan Harmon. Thank you, Dan. We know doing what you did wasn’t easy, and you certainly were given the short shrift in your dismissal, but know that we’ll never forget your contribution to our entertainment. It is no superficial appreciation, but a deep and loving one. Cool. Coolcoolcool.