Why Firing Dan Harmon From 'Community' Was Stupid and Very NBC (Analysis)
If NBC wanted to send a message to the creative community that writing and running your own show is a job without security, then by all means, congratulations on the impressive chilling effect.
No doubt people will look at, say, Smash and think, “Well, they renewed it but changed things at the top. A mixed message there but no worries.” But now that NBC has ousted Dan Harmon from the recently renewed Community, what’s the thinking outside of Burbank? How about this: “Holy hell, they took Harmon’s show away from him without telling him. Let’s take that meeting with ABC.”
Technically you could say that Sony Pictures Television took Harmon off of his own show. Listen, there’s plenty of blame to go around here, and a good bucketful should be tossed on the head of Sony Pictures Television. Nice work, folks. Is there a paragraph in the fine print of the contract that says, “We’ll develop your show with you, but your value to this process is limited to what we say it is -- up to and including bouncing your ass into the street without warning.”
And yet, unless the tail is wagging the dog here, NBC could have said: “There is no show without Dan Harmon. He stays or we don’t pick it up.”
NBC is no stranger to monumental blunders and idiocy. It’s kind of in the DNA, at least in the past couple of decades. But Robert Greenblatt was supposed to be the new vision, the rescuer from cable who would infuse the Peacock with some kind of anti-Zucker superpowers where all decisions would be sane ones, creativity would be valued and eventually a turnaround in the culture and the ratings would happen. But now it looks like Greenblatt is in some ridiculous Kabletown skit from 30 Rock.
What, precisely, is the point in removing Harmon from Community when the show comes hard-wired from his brain? There are certain showrunners in the business where you can’t imagine someone else doing their jobs. Matt Weiner of Mad Men is a fine example. Do you want to watch Mad Men without Weiner’s exacting presence?
If you know anything about television and the continuity of quality, the answer to that is, “Of course not, dumbass.”
Arrested Development would not be going into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot without Mitch Hurwitz. Series creators are important for a reason.
Harmon is no different. Is he “erratic” or troublesome to the extent that he needs replacing? He’s certainly outspoken and his less-than-hidden feud with Chevy Chase got headlines. But when has Chase been considered the easiest person to work with? And if Harmon is actively engaged online and with his fans – a creative person prone to saying things without a filter – how does that make him any different than, say, Kurt Sutter? Is FX going to replace Sutter? Of course not. At FX, they know what to do with creative people (hint: Leave them alone).
Because NBC has a history of “pulling a Leno,” how this whole thing was mismanaged is laughably unnecessary. First, Greenblatt renews Community and then says: “I expect Dan’s voice to be a part of this show somehow; I’m just not sure if that means him running it day-to-day or consulting on it."