In case you missed it, since The Man did everything they could to make sure you would miss it, Dan Harmon was fired as showrunner of Community on Friday. I highly recommend you go read about it in his own words because, like so much else that he does, it's funny and poignantly sad.
Done? Okay, so here's why this sucks: they figured out a way to cut the creative balls off of Community without killing it outright. Look, clearly they've been gunning for Community for a long time. Business men don't like shows that are smart because they might have to put some actual work into properly marketing them. But when they tried to quietly kill it back in December, the Internet exploded. Fans went crazy. The comment thread at The AV Club's post for "Regional Holiday Music" exceeded 30,000 posts. Community won not only Splitsider's tournament for The Best Sitcom Episode Ever, but also Hulu's Best In Show competition. While I'm sure that the people in charge would have loved for Community to die a quiet death after airing the back ten episodes, that obviously wasn't going to happen.
Then two unfortunate things occurred. Well, one occurred a year ago when Harmon's contract was only renewed for one instead of the usual two seasons. The second was the Chevy Chase debacle. Who knows how much effect Chevy's dickishness and Harmon's poor handling of the situation had on THIS situation, but you can bet it didn't help anything. If nothing else, it provides enough reasonable doubt so bloggers like me will speculate on it since no one, not even Dan Harmon, really know all the reasons he was let go. But I think that mishandled event is more of an excuse than an impetus for this disaster.
Taking Dan Harmon off of Community is like slaughtering Khal Drogo's horse. It's like Peeta after the tracker jacker torture or McMurphy post-lobotomy. They cut out the part that fights for what is good and right in this world. They cut out the originality and the creativity and the magnificent, not-a-fuck-giving mind that created this show that speaks so wholeheartedly to my generation. And look, it's not like Community is going to be bad; I have faith that as long as Megan Ganz is in the writing room, things will be alright. It's not like the remarkably talented cast is going anywhere. But it will not be the same groundbreaking, inspiring show it has been. And that's because neither NBC nor Sony has ever shown much of an interest in supporting or marketing the show, but they also didn't want to anger all the millions of fans by cancelling it, so they first moved it to goddamn Fridays after goddamn Whitney (while The Office keeps its lazy, decomposing ass parked at 9 pm Thursdays) and then sneakily went in, cut off the head, legs, and balls, sent a press release to TV Guide at 7 pm on a Friday, and hoped no one would notice. Well, guess what? Notice taken, assholes.
So, other than the idiots who run television taking a big ol' dump on the fans and viewers that support them, why should we be pissed about this? Because Dan Harmon is a champion for a new kind of television. From its pilot episode, Community has celebrated diversity, not just in terms of race and gender and age and sexuality, but in terms of personality. Harmon, like Matthew Weiner, personally fought for more women in the writing room, and as a result developed some of the most interesting, well-rounded, and hilarious female characters on television. Community is all about diverse people coming together and forming a - what's it called? Oh, right, a community. Is there another sitcom on television that features so many actors of color? Nope. Is there another sitcom that presents a queer character who likes to cross-dress in such a loving, non-judgmental light while still celebrating his inherent humor? Sadly, no. No other show has the temerity to take on a character like Fat Neil with such studied compassion, or to use an elderly character like Leonard to such a consistently brilliant degree. Community has covered religion, lesbians, poor people, racist gardeners, racist parents, homophobic parents, plain shitty parents, racist grandparents, weight issues, bullying, class issues...and NONE of it has been preachy or saccharine. Community has dealt in human emotions and chose to focus on what unites us instead of what divides us. It has presented different kinds of people as PEOPLE, not as stereotypes.
I saw all this as the future of television. But it seems like the people in charge don't see it that way at all. Watching the upfront trailers, my stomach dropped lower and lower as white face after white face flashed on my screen (notable exception being The Mindy Project, which looks great and I can't believe NBC didn't pick it up except I can because they're obviously frittataed). Network television looks whiter than it did in the 90s. And Ryan Murphy gets to continue perpetuating his favorite stereotype that the only gays that matter are young white males. What I wouldn't give for a funny queer chick on TV....
So, yeah. I'm pissed, and sad, and currently trying to figure out what I need to do to get a job in television production so I can start changing things from within. Dan Harmon has spent the last three years challenging our ideas of what television could and should be; he has given a voice to those who have for so long been voiceless; he created Troy and Abed, two of the best television characters of all time played by two of the very best comedic actors (not that the Emmys have noticed, because, you know, racism). For me, he created a show that so clearly exemplified what I love about television that it helped me realize my passion and inspired me to work towards a career in the industry. So I will stand with Dan Harmon in whatever he decides to do next (and it hopefully involves Chris McKenna, who left the show in solidarity with Dan), and we'll just have to wait and see what happens with Community next season. Although the threat of cancellation has hung over the show all year, that thankfully allowed Harmon & Co. to pull out all the stops and fill this season with awesomeness. Yesterday when I was mourning by rewatching most of season three, I kept thinking how appropriate the theme song is, and has been to this show.
"Gimme some more time in a dream
Gimme the hope to run out of steam
Somebody said it can be here
We could be roped up, tied up, dead in a year"
Thanks for everything, Dan.
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