Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Community" and the Case of an Axed Showrunner

 Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Lost.  Three shows that I couldn't imagine existing without their original creators.  What about Community?

Yesterday I posted about the possibility that the upcoming fourth season of Community may be its last.  I also mentioned that show has already lost the talents of Dan Harmon, the creator and showrunner, due to problems with the studio (Sony), network (NBC), and its most well known stars (Chevy Chase).

The NBC comedy's new showrunners are former Happy Endings writers David Guarascio and Moses Port.  It's not unusual for a television show to change showrunners during the course of its run.  Most long running police procedurals like CSI and Law and Order switched showrunners multiple times.  However, there are certain shows that are dependent on the voices of their original creators.  The West Wing wasn't the same without Aaron Sorkin.  Gilmore Girls moved on without Amy Sherman-Palladino for its seventh and final season.  Fans of both those show were displeased with what they saw and heard on the screen after those writers left.  Those writers had unique styles and visions which were impossible to replicate.  Dan Harmon also has a writing style, vision, and (more importantly) passion for his creation that the new showrunners couldn't possibly possess.  So as soon as the news broke about Harmon being fired, critics and fans alike began to ask if no Community at all may be preferable to a Harmon-less Community.

The answer for me is no.  First off, I want to spend more time with Jeff Winger and all the other characters Dan Harmon created. Second, I like Happy Endings and feel that Community's new writers will still be able to make me laugh.  Finally, I want to see these characters move on to the next stage of their lives.  Being the fourth season and, therefore, the fourth year of college, the characters should be moving on from Greendale Community College by season's end.  Keyword is "should."

While I want to see more Community no matter what, I understand those who hold the opposite position.  They probably share the same concern that I have as the show moves forward.  For me, I worry that I will constantly ask "what if" when watching the new version of the show.  I can't help but be curious to the plans Dan Harmon had for his creation.  What would the show looked like if he was still running things.  The Hollywood Reporter had an article yesterday in which Harmon provided a few "what if" answers to what he would have included in his fourth season.  Reading that article made me a little sad.

I wasn't a fan of Gilmore Girls when it aired but Amy Sherman-Palladino always knew what the final words of her show were going to be.  Of course, those final words were never spoken because she wasn't with the show during its final season.  It's for this reason, that many of that show's fans do not consider the final season to be a real part of the show.  Many Community fans already feel the same way about their show now that its key voice is no longer involved.  My feelings are more of a mixed bag.  But I do know that even if Community's fourth season ends up making me laugh and I enjoy the stories the new writers come up with, I will always wonder what Harmon's version would have looked like.

It sucks that Harmon was fired.  In a perfect world, he would have been allowed to work on his show to its conclusion.  Unfortunately, television is a business.  A business where most programs never see a fourth season. Taking this into consideration, "NBC cancels Community" is a headline that would have disappointed me more than the one that read "Dan Harmon Fired."


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