Let’s Talk about Friday-night ‘Community’ and Dan Harmon’s Lack of a Contract for a Minute

First, let me say, I love what NBC is trying to do. They could have easily cut costs by surrounding The Voice with reality and competition shows, but they are going with real television shows, some with very distinct voices. And I love them moving Community to Friday, at least I do conceptually and only if the bring Dan Harmon back, who currently/ominously remains unsigned for next year.

Though, it’s hard to get a sense if the Friday move should be interpreted with a dread or enthusiasm. Currently, there are conflicting messages behind the decision. NBC bossman Bob Greenblatt told Deadline:

“There is an opportunity for comedy on Friday if we put on shows like Community and Whitney that have built-in audience. Friday may be a death lap for some, but we keep trying. Grimm is the No. 1 scripted series on the night. For us, it is a place to build.”

Yet, Vulture reported that the message they received from Greenblatt was that the move was, “simply a means of helping out Grimm at 9 p.m., supplying it with a more male-skewing lead-in.”

In one, Community is a hopeful exercise in post-appointment television and in the other, Communtiy is a pawn to be discarded as soon as the network gets some use out of it. I tend to look at it positively, because 1) The alternative is a bummer 2) It’s what I’ve hoped the network would do for a while.

Since season two, I’ve argued Community should move to Friday. The show has always done very well for itself in terms of DVR and Hulu numbers so they might as well turn into the skid. Forget Must See TV, Community is Much Eventually See TV. By moving to Friday, there are fewer expectations to get big ratings so it would be more about the overall picture.

Moreover, it just kind of feels right. Partly, the move seems like NBC’s way of saying to Community fans, “Hey Nerds, it’s not like you go out on Friday nights anyways.” To NBC’s credit, they are kind of right; the main thing I did last Friday night was watch the Community episode I missed the night before. It’s a new TGIF for the 20-somethings who grew up spending their Friday nights watching TGIF, instead of going to their respective Arnold’s, Peach Pits, or The Maxs. Similar to how Fringe has been able to survive after a very similar move to Friday, so could Community. Three million viewers isn’t a lot for a Thursday but it is for a Friday, considering their fans are almost all diehards that will follow the show anywhere.

If Dan Harmon doesn’t comeback as showrunner, however, all bets are off. It’s hard to say how serious these rumors are, as Greenblatt told Vulture, “I’ve been so busy looking at our new shows and putting together the schedule, that hasn’t come to me yet.” However, he added, “Shows lose showrunners all the time and do well,” which is frightening. He told Deadline, “I expect his voice to be part of it,” and then added maybe that would be in a consulting capacity. This is a hard pill to swallow, as the general perception is that Dan Harmon is Community. The show is defined by his writing, comedic sensibility, and maybe more than anything else, his relationship with popular culture and how it affects how he relates to people.

Speaking of relating to people, Greenblatt was careful to make clear that this decision has nothing to do with the whole Chevy Chase dust up. He is probably telling the truth and also somewhat not doing so. This one Chevy Chase feud, in of itself, is not huge problem, but it does reflect the bigger issue that Harmon might just be a pain in the ass to work with. This week he wrote a piece for Vulture, predicting what television will be like in 2032, which features a sizeable amount of talking shit about NBC and though it might be very funny, he does sound like a jerk. It’s one thing to be an asshole when you’re responsible for hits (see: Lorre, Chuck) and another when your show gets beat by reruns of that first asshole’s shows. Dan Harmon is a genius – a difficult genius, but to NBC, he might not be worth the trouble.

What would Community look like without Harmon? Beyond knowing what the show itself would be like, it’s hard to guess what would happen behind the scenes. Until recently, Harmon’s likely replacement would have been his right-hand men Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan but earlier this month they signed a deal with Fox. This would leave Chris McKenna as the most likely choice, being he is the only executive producer left with writing experience. However, earlier this month also, McKenna signed a deal with Universal TV, and even though Universal owns NBC, Community is a Sony show, which makes the whole thing fairly complicated and confusing.

So please, NBC, make things easy for us, just bring Dan Harmon back. We want to be 100% super happy about the fall schedule so that needs to happen. We understand the show might have to go through some changes. We’ll even promise to watch Whitney each week too…maybe.

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