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!
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.
In a move sure to accelerate the coming of the Meta-pocalypse — in which "we" are all gonna "die," or whatever — Charlie Kaufman is making a stop-motion animated, Kickstarter-financed film with Community creator/showmartyr Dan Harmon. It's called Anomalisa; it's about a depressed motivational speaker who meets a woman who inspires him to turn his life upside down. Kaufman's writing the screenplay. Harmon, comedy writer and occasional Community actor Dino "Star-Burns" Stamatopoulos, and director Duke Johnson will executive-produce the film through Starburns Industries. That's the animation studio behind the stop-motion Community episode "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas," as well as the Adult Swim pilot Rick & Morty, Harmon's first post-Community project that isn't an unrepentant, bridge-nuking Tumblr post or a semi-repentant, crack-analogy-laced, Ugg-slippered Marc Maron interview.
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."
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.
Community’s studio, Sony, sent a memo to its cast — most of whom had already gone on Twitter-record explaining exactly how pissed off they were — providing them with sample answers for how to respond to interview questions about Dan Harmon's dismissal as showrunner. This, as far as I can tell, is actually real. Via THR:
Since we know that cast members have interviews coming up this week, I wanted to forward some messaging we hope our cast will find helpful as they navigate questions that will undoubtedly come up. I know that [new showrunners] David and Moses are reaching out to them all directly but I've also heard from some of the actors that they'd like some guidance on the topic. [Editor's note: Who? Who asked for guidance?!]
Chris Ryan and I were both traveling over the weekend, which means our “Where Were You When You Heard the News About Dan Harmon Being Fired” stories will be extra vivid. Luckily, we have a podcast on which we can share our feelings about the after-hours whacking of the Community showrunner (1:00). That surprise dismissal led to another: America’s termination of Taylor Kitsch’s contract as Movie Star (13:00). We talked about the Battleship disappointment and tempered it with more than a little excitement for the Anchorman sequel (18:45). From there, we did our usual rundown of Sunday night shows, touching on the lack of main character on Game of Thrones (22:40) and the strange behavior of Mad Men’s protagonist, Don “Plate of Cold Spaghetti” Draper (32:50). We finished up with our take on the announced line-up for Jay-Z’s “Made In America” (42:30) festival before devolving into an out of nowhere argument about parking in West Philadelphia and the merits of Pearl Jam. (Which is to say, Chris thinks they have some. I disagree.) There was just enough time for the latest entry into the Double Down Summer Book Club (48:40), Charles McCarry, and his two masterpieces of CIA intrigue and sadness, Tears of Autumn and The Last Supper. Then Chris had to go spin the black circle and I had to figure out the difference between a barbershop and a salon, then wonder exactly who was washing my hair in 1993. Here’s hoping Siri can help.
Late Friday evening — with many us already deep into our debauched, virgin-piña colada fueled weekends — word came down from NBC that Dan Harmon would not be returning as showrunner for Community’s fourth season. And the streets ran red with blood! Well, OK, no. But people were pretty upset on Twitter!
When this column began, eight long Whitney-filled months ago, it did so with a simple goal: to test the hypothesis that the inherent personality traits of prisoners and guards are the chief cause of abusive behavior in prison. Er, no. That’s not right. It was to trace the evolution of both NBC’s hallowed Thursday-night comedy lineup and the shows that populated it. If anything, the only constant has been inconsistency: Six different sitcoms have aired all or part of their seasons on Thursdays. For much of the year, NBC head Bob Greenblatt seemed unsure what to do with network real estate that had slipped so precipitously from prime to subprime to foreclosed McMansion on the outskirts of Tampa. In the fall, he attempted to goose what had become an urbane and complementary night of single-camera comedy with the wet-willie snarkcasm of Whitney. When the few remaining viewers reacted as if Greenblatt had spiked their Sauvignon Blanc with Zima, he quickly plugged the hole with the more brand-friendly Up All Night and then, mercifully, threw out the baby and the bathwater. The final weeks of the season were a muddled mess, replete with double-dips and burn-offs of remaining episodes (not that anyone is counting, but I know at least one guy who hasn’t had a rerun-filled off night in almost three months), but Thursdays did end up where they probably should have begun, with the Core Four: Community, 30 Rock, The Office, and Parks and Recreation.
Last weekend, when Community showrunner Dan Harmon accidentally leaked an embittered rant of a voice mail Chevy Chase left him, it brought up some tough questions. Like: How contentious is the seemingly happy-go-lucky Community set? What chain of events led to such intense animosity? And how would the rift affect the always-tenuous future of the geek-beloved show? But now a second embittered, ranting Chevy Chase voice mail has surfaced (this one from March 2011), and it brings up only one question: Why is Chevy Chase constantly leaving insane voice mails?
Yesterday, Community showrunner Dan Harmon addressed his feud with Chevy Chase for the first time since it blew up over the weekend. If you’re just now dropping in on this little bit of drama, though, a brief recap: Chevy walked off set during the last day of Community shooting last month; Harmon then gave a “Fuck You, Chevy” speech at the wrap party, in front of Chevy’s family; Chevy retaliated with an explicit, possibly Beaujolais-influenced voice mail chewing Harmon out; Harmon accidentally leaked the voice mail after playing it at a comedy show in L.A. Good stuff, right?
Every week in this space, Grantland pop culture correspondent Andy Greenwald will run down the happenings and mishappenings in NBC’s Thursday comedy night done mostly right. (Note: The order reflects newsworthiness, not quality. Although occasionally the two just might overlap.)
Over on Grantland’s sports blog, my friend and podcasting partner Chris Ryan has been diligently chronicling the roller-coastery ups and downs of the Denver Nuggets’ JaVale McGee. McGee, a power forward, is indisputably talented, yet often seems completely unable to harness his abilities, particularly within the framework of a professional basketball game — which, unfortunately, happens to be one of the more necessary attributes of a professional basketball player. McGee’s bumbling is often endearing and occasionally hilarious — to everyone, that is, except his befuddled teammates. And then there are days like Wednesday, days when JaVale McGee suddenly pulls it all together, dominating on the court and reminding his supporters why, exactly, they became so invested in him in the first place. With highs this high, sometimes wild inconsistency can be its own form of consistency.