When you think about it, hasn't everything about Community's suffering-fraught journey from its Season 3 bubble-show pickup to its much-delayed Season 4 debut — still February 7, as per the above promo clip, until it's not! — essentially been The Hunger Games in microcosm? Those living in District Greendale have been clamoring after any piece of filthy bread tossed at their feet, forced to sacrifice their tributes to the cruel network masters who toy with their lives, hoping to survive the pageantized slaughter long enough to one day overthrow the decadent autocrats responsible for the coming Thursday-night dystopia. And then Chevy Chase takes a poleax to the sternum while gathering berries, Alison Brie rides into the TCAs in a form-fitting costume engulfed in beautiful flames, and a bunch of genetically engineered helldogs with Dan Harmon's eyes tear some programming executives to pieces. See? It all lines up perfectly. You can see why they've chosen to play out this particular fantasy in the coming season.
Ah, the Television Critics Association's winter previews — that special, special time of year when broadcast networks get together and promise us that, at some vague point in the near future, the shows that they show will be somewhat less terrible. First up: NBC, which rode the stalwart back of Sunday Night Football and the resplendent deltoids of Adam Levine out of fourth and last place all the way into second. Considering the fact that The Unmistakable Stench of Failure had come to occupy a seemingly permanent home at Peacock HQ, that's no trifling matter. So can head honcho Robert Greenblatt keep the good times rolling? To the TCA highlights!
"Last year I came out here and admitted we had a bad fall," Greenblatt told the assembled TCA masses. "I'm not saying that this year CBS is down 13 percent, ABC is down 4 percent, and Fox is down 23 percent. We all know CBS still beats us among total viewers, but we're now a clear no. 2., [where] we were a distant fourth a year ago." More importantly: Responding to comments that Fox chief Kevin Reilly had made about how many network execs were clueless these days, Blatty let it be known that while "that may be true of other places I can guarantee you, we don't have our heads up our asses." To prove his point, Bob pointed first to his forehead, then to his butt, at which point it was confirmed — via much excited murmuring — that the former was, indeed, not inside the latter.
Unspeakable amounts of rain and wind damage weren’t the only thing dumped on America over the past two days: NBC also had some news to burn! On the heels of yesterday’s one-two punch of corporate crow-eating (Up All Nightgoing multi-cam and The Office spinoff buying The Farm), Tuesday brought further details on the network’s second-half plans. The biggest takeaway for those likely to be reading television news on the Internet: Community is set to return — for realsies this time! — on February 7, thus restoring it to its rightful spot as the low-rated 8 p.m. anchor of a night of low-rated, critically adored comedies.
For a while now, Community's endless fount of crises — beloved showrunner fired, time slot moved to Friday night, return of show delayed indefinitely, etc., etc. — has been kind of hilarious. Sure, yeah you feel bad for all parties involved, but they're all rich people and they all seem to be taking it well. So why not have a chuckle at the expense of a sitcom somehow attempting to re-create the Book of Job? This latest flare-up, though, is, uh, just really depressing.
Monday night, NBC announced that Community and Whitney would not be premiering October 19, as previously planned, and instead would be held indefinitely. The statement from NBC: "Given the success we’ve had for the past four weeks — including winning the first week of the season in A18-49 — we’ve decided to continue to concentrate our promotional strength on our new NBC shows that are scheduled Monday through Wednesday and have therefore decided to hold Community and Whitney Without having to launch these comedies on Friday at this time, we can keep our promotion focused on earlier in the week — plus we will have both comedies in our back pocket if we need to make any schedule changes on those nights. When we have a better idea of viewing patterns in the next few weeks, we will announce new season premieres of Whitney and Community." Ha ha, more horrible news for the beleaguered Community, right?! Well, maybe not.
With Labor Day in the rearview mirror, it’s time to focus on the main business of the fall: schoolfootball television! All week, Grantland will be previewing the new TV season, one network at a time, and evaluating the first efforts of each incoming freshman. Today: NBC.
Not losing isn’t necessarily the same thing as winning. Despite all the chaos, change, and Chelsea marring what proved to be an inauspicious debut for entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt, NBC didn’t finish the 2011-12 television season in last place. Well, OK, it did — but that’s only if you count all of the viewers. If you pour yourself a healthy tumbler of Canadian Club and consider the situation only as an advertiser, then NBC actually bested ABC in the sexiest of relatively meaningless demographics, 18-to-49-year-olds. Screw you, ABC! Enjoy life in the basement! The Peacock flies again!
At this point — three months and about 10,000 interviews after the fact — you're maybe a little burned out on Dan Harmon's Here's Why I Got Fired From Community Tour 2012. But there's a reason Harmon's still holding our attention: Every time anyone asks him about the hubbub, he seems to have another little layer of nuance about the weirdness of the showrunner–network exec relationship to peel back. Speaking with KCRW over the weekend, Harmon let go some more details about his fraught dealings with NBC and Sony. He doesn't go so far as to reveal an intricate revenge plan involving framing NBC chief Bob Greenblatt at the center of a massive sex scandal, but it's still pretty good stuff.
On Tuesday, NBC's Bob Greenblatt took the podium at the Television Critics Association Press Tour to quietly announce a change of direction. As Andy Greenwald explains, "Greenblatt 'heaped praise' on his ratings-challenged, critically beloved Thursday-night comedies, but then quickly qualified his enthusiasm: Returning shows like Community and Parks and Recreation, he said, 'Tend to be a bit more narrow than we'd ultimately like going forward.' In their place, Greenblatt is banking on broad, from the monkey high jinks of Animal Practice to the shrieking emotional babies (and the cute newborns they've fathered) of Guys With Kids." Consider the timing, then, for this announcement: TV Guide is reporting that ex-Community showrunner Dan Harmon, the goddamn king of narrow, is in talks to create a new comedy for Fox. A multi-camera new comedy. Well then!
When the ship’s going down, any piece of flotsam can look like a life raft. So it was yesterday at NBC’s executive session at the Television Critics Association Press Tour, where, according to Alan Sepinwall, Peacock President Bob Greenblatt crowed about his network’s recent third-place finish in the much-desired 18-to-49-year-old demographic. But it doesn’t take overpaying for the Olympics to know that the bronze medal is hardly good enough. With that in mind, Greenblatt went on to describe his vision for NBC’s future, and it was wildly different from its recent past.
There’s softball, there’s whiffleball, and then there’s what happened at Comic-Con on Friday morning, when Moses Port and David Guarascio, Community’s newly installed replicant showrunners, faced tough questioning from a room full of people dressed as Nightcrawler. (This isn’t a cheap Comic-Con joke. Someone dressed as Nightcrawler actually asked a thoughtful query about Asperger’s syndrome. She then teleported away in a burst of smoke and brimstone.) It was both a smart play and a gentle public debut for the two scribes who, despite perfectly sterling comedic résumés, have their hands full attempting to replace visionary lunatic Dan Harmon (and his penchant for crack metaphors) at the helm. Even with the presence of the cheery, quippy cast, one might have expected a few zings and arrows to be directed at the new guys, something about how everything that was good, or occasionally great, or often-frustrating-yet-always-interesting, about Community was a direct data dump from Harmon’s idiosyncratic, gin-soaked brain, that ordering a shortened, zombie season of the low-rated, Internet-adored series makes about as much sense as hiring a Moby impersonator to DJ your bar mitzvah, that Community without its creator would be like Troy without Abed in the morning.
Dan Harmon has been nothing but up-front about the whole "getting fired as showrunner of Community" thing. But this time Harmon's not chatting on his Tumblr, as is his standard M.O., but in an actual, real human conversation.
As Chevy Chase has revealed over the course of several (possibly drunken) voice mails, he doesn't think Community is particularly funny. As he's succinctly put it, it's "just a fucking mediocre sitcom." As far as your average TV viewer goes, Chevy is certainly in the majority. The show, mostly unknown by the masses, is dismissed even by a lot of dedicated TV nerds for its quirkiness and refusal to say consistent in tone, genre, and form. Where Chevy is, presumably, in the minority with his negative opinion on Community, however, is within the group of humans currently starring in Community. And as recently as April, Chevy was giving interviews where he predicted he "won’t be around that much longer."
On Wednesday, Marvel Films announced the director for Captain America 2: The Return of the Sepia-Stained Pectorals, due to be released in 2014. Make that directors: Brothers Joe and Anthony Russo were given the gig over fellow finalists Tim Story (Fantastic Four) and George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau). At first blush it may seem strange that the fraternal filmers responsible for the “Advanced Gay” episode of Community and the Arrested Development episode in which Jason Bateman and Will Arnett endeavor to track the seal that ate their brother’s hand would be given the keys to such an expensive, if retro, sports car. (The first Captain America made over $368 million worldwide in 2011. Take that, globalization!) But from a purely creative perspective, the Russos — whose previous feature credit was 2006’s failed bromance You, Me and Dupree — are actually an inspired choice. Their time on manic sitcoms like Happy Endings and especially Community provided opportunities to direct everything from bottle episodes to full-on paintball bloodbaths, and their zippy sensibilities are a good fit for the winking pop propaganda that made the first installment a surprising success. But there’s an equally clever business sense at play here as well. After dabbling with proven cinéastes for the opening chapters in their ever-expanding multiplex multiverse — Shakespearian Kenneth Branagh for Thor, '40s fetishist Joe Johnston for the first Cap, and aging swinger Jon Favreau for Iron Man — Marvel has turned to another medium entirely to find the talent capable of keeping the party going, and, more importantly, the costs down: television.
It's only been days since the Internet was rocked by the news that showrunner Dan Harmon would not return to Community, the sitcom he created, for its truncated fourth season (his departure having been ordered for reasons the show's stars must not disclose). And given that Twitter is the platform to which so many Community fans have taken to go through the stages of grief together, it's no surprise someone among them has found a sixth (#sixstagesandamovie?) to help cope with the pain. To wit: @guarascioport. The parody feed purports to come from David Guarascio and Moses Port, the new Community showrunners (most recently of Happy Endings), the premise being that these two men haven't the slightest clue about the show they've inherited. Here's a look at some of the account's most inflammatory tweets.