Community: No Honour Amongst Studio Executives
NOTE: THIS POST HAS BEEN CHANGED ALMOST IN ITS ENTIRELY IN RESPONSE TO SERIES CREATOR & SHOWRUNNER DAN HARMON BEING FIRED VIA PRESS RELEASE.
The previous version of this post was critical of Community in the way that only a despondent fan would choose to be; focused on my ambivalence towards the commissioning of a fourth season given that the third was more inconsistent in quality than its predecessors. But in the shadow of a cowardly piece of politicking by Sony Pictures Television and the light of a three part season finale which was both brilliantly funny and incredibly touching, that critique seemed embarrassingly entitled, seemed unfairly harsh. Whilst these episodes reminded me what I would be missing if the programme had been cancelled, the news of Dan Harmon’s abrupt dismissal firing made me more livid than I would have guessed possible.
I was a huge fan of Community (PROOF!) from the first time I saw it, a smart character comedy which I hyped and proselytised about to friends, friends of friends and the friends of friends who were mainly fans of Friends. I was even glad that the first season and change had already aired; it just meant I could watch all the episodes I’d missed in a glut, gorging myself on twenty minute bursts of exceptional comedy. Soon (too quickly) I was caught up, and so I had to learn patience (tempered with repeat viewings to prevent brutal withdrawal) as I waited eagerly for each new episode, always slightly resentful of any activity or event which meant I might have to wait a few days longer.
Dan Harmon created Community, and fought the studio at every turn in order to deliver a programme as close to his ideal as possible and, given that the only other writer from the first season and two key producers have also departed, can the programme really be anything other that a pale imitation of its former self? To quote part of Dan Harmon’s disproportionately gracious response to the news which he himself heard via the internet reporting on the press release the studio sent out: “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.”
So what are we, the devoted audience, to do? Do we boycott season four out of principle, or because to watch it seems likely to be as though we are watching the jerking, unnatural movements of a loved one’s revenant? Do we watch and scorn, showing Sony how badly they’ve misstepped by trampling over something we love and a creator we trust? Should we expect the cast and crew to quit en masse and heap opprobrium on any or all who stay on? That last one’s a “no”, obviously; but if someone takes one of your favourite things and smashes it to pieces before handing it back should you be expected to say “thank you”? The audience doesn’t own Community, even Dan Harmon only owns 10% of it, but just as that 10% is essential the calibre of fans the programme has deserved and attracted (for the most part) has been vital.
We’ve taken up the hashtag sixseasonsandamovie on Twitter, used blogs and Tumblr and every social network and community platform going, and we’ve shared our enjoyment with friends and family and total strangers alike. Community was something we shared in too, but the heart of the show has been torn out in an incredibly callous and calculated fashion in service to a bottom line which cares nothing for creativity, sentiment, or even quality. The new showrunners, without even the meagre contractual protections offered to Dan Harmon, will be bullied into kowtowing, into making the programme the way the studio wants to see it. Except that ideally they don’t want to see it, they just want to sell it, which means bland homogenisation, the death of ideas. It means Community in inexorable decline.
~ by Thom Dicomidis on 12/05/2012.
Posted in Essay-Type Stuff, Just... Stuff
Tags: Abed Nadir, Alison Brie, Annie Edison, Ben Chang, Britta Perry, Chevy Chase, Community, Creative Control, Dan Harmon, Danny Pudi, Dean Pelton, Donald Glover, Gillian Jacobs, Jeff Winger, Jim Rash, Joel McHale, Ken Jeong, NBC, Pierce Hawthorn, Ratings, Shirley Bennett, Troy Barnes, Yvette Nicole Brown