If you spend any time on the Internet (what a great opening to this post, which is being written on a blog that exclusively exists on the Internet; we’re already off to a great start, let’s see where else this sentence takes us), you know that Dan Harmon, the creator of the television program “Community,” was fired from the show last year and has been rehired for the show’s upcoming fifth season. (Okay, so I guess the sentence ended up in a rather pedestrian information dump sort of place. That happens.)
You might be wondering why he was rehired, since he is the exact same person and he is returning to a very low-rated show. Josef Adalian, as he is wont to do, explains a little of Sony’s logic in this useful post. I’m not going to excerpt from it at length or even really explain much of what it says here because quite frankly that would dissuade you from even clicking the link, and you should click the link since Adalian did the reporting and wrote the story and I am merely referencing it (and, let’s be honest, if you care at all about the issue involved you already clicked the link, so excerpting it also seems pointless).
I will say that “Community,” as it existed through its first three seasons, was a wonderful supernova of a show, a bizarre and perfect little gem that was not for everyone but was, for people who felt a connection with the material (at least as much connection as you can feel with a TV show), a special, bizarro kind of perfect. The fourth season was, as many have said, a pale imitation, the televised version of going to a restaurant where you have a favorite sandwich only your regular person isn’t there and the new person uses the same bread and the same ingredients but everything just tastes a little off. (Good metaphor, very robust and relatable.) The episodes were neither good nor bad, but they were so slight that I keep forgetting I still may have one or two episodes left on my DVR. The fifth season may or may not reclaim what made the show, at its peak, such a marvel. But at least now it is imbued with a promise that wasn’t there before.
These days the people who make television are expected, for a variety of promotional and fan base–stroking reasons, to engage in something resembling dialogue with their viewers. But Harmon was the first showrunner who seemed like he was creating a TV show in order to have that dialogue. Community was Harmon shooting off a flare gun to attract like-minded weirdos, articulating a worldview — institutions are bad, individuals are good, normalcy is an illusion, people who feel uncomfortable on the planet constitute a kind of sociocultural 99 percent, what we all have in common is our brokenness. Every character represented a facet of his personality; every episode was packed with callbacks and homages and fractalized sub-references aimed at people who, like him, had been warped and saved by pop culture at an early age. And he wanted us to know he was doing this. He didn’t just want the attention that came from blogging, tweeting, Reddit-ing, and annotating every episode for the A.V. Club — he seemed to need it, for reasons deeper than ego or vanity. He wanted to be out there in direct communication with the small but passionate group of people who liked his TV show because he wanted to connect.
Alex Pappademas spent 36 hours with the fascinating Dan Harmon, creator of “Community” (he was fired after the show’s third season) and a person who is widely considered to be “difficult.”
Dan Harmon, the deposed creator of “Community,” did a Reddit AMA on Wednesday. Would it shock you to know that Harmon was funny, open, bitter, caustic and seemed happy to delve into things like his creative process, his vaguely infamous feud with Chevy Chase and whether he’ll be watching this year? No, it probably wouldn’t shock you, because that’s what Harmon does*. If you are endlessly curious about Harmon (and I am), it’s a really entertaining AMA.
* – I’m not complaining! It’s nice seeing someone in his position being so open and accessible — or seeming to be that way, anyway, because this could all be a shtick to sustain an online fan base, I recognize that, and while I do not think that is the case here I am aware it is possible. I vastly prefer his style to the evasiveness of Matthew Weiner or the petulance of Ryan Murphy.
The Firing of Dan Harmon continues to be the great drama of our time. (And by “great drama,” I mean “regrettable but ultimately, sadly understandable severing of a business relationship involving a show that very few people watch.” Also, most people are probably unaware that this drama is even taking place, because most people do not know much about this “Community” or this “Dan Harmon,” but we can ignore that because you are reading something on the Internet and therefore an interest in all things “Community” is assumed.
Anyway! Since the firing was such a public and maligned mess, and since the show’s cast contains many talented individuals who have other projects and therefore other opportunities to answer questions from the media and the public, Sony realized that there was a danger of these cast members speaking honestly about their feelings w/r/t the Harmon Saga. So rather than let someone comment on the fact that, say, Harmon was fired without so much as a phone call, Sony has decided to tell these cast members how to respond.
The Hollywood Reporter snagged a memo containing the talking points Sony sent to the cast and crew. I would assume this sort of thing happens fairly often — I can only imagine the “Luck” talking points memo was about 40,000 words long, about half of that specifically dealing with Nick Nolte-related answers — but it’s still interesting to see it come out in public. I recommend reading the whole thing (it’s not long), if only so you can try to see how Sony wants every cast member to repeat the phrase “‘Community’ comes back this fall” from now until “Community” comes back this fall. (Hey, look at that. It sorta worked!)
As I said in an earlier post, I was traveling for much of the weekend and unable to post here. This means I am way, way late on the whole Dan Harmon thing, which means you have probably read every conceivable take on the subject, which means the last thing you want to do on a Tuesday is read about what someone has to say about the weekend’s old news. I get that, so if you want to skip this, go right on ahead. I understand. Anyway, here are my thoughts: Continue reading