‘Community’ Creator Dan Harmon Talks Coming Back, Chevy’s Tantrum and Season 4
As positive as we try to stay that we have 'Community' back for season 4 at all, regardless of a reduced 13-episode order and a move to Friday nights, there's one bit that's still relatively hard to swallow. Sure, Moses Port and David Guarascio will do a fine job in his stead, but Dan Harmon represented the heart and soul of 'Community' from its very inception. With the dust settled on his exit, what's he saying now about the infamous controversies, or the possibility of coming back?
Though the various controversies that plagued 'Community' season 3 are still fresh in our memory, the worst of it seems to be over as people come to grips with the prospect of a new season, and new ideas. Dan Harmon has always been rather candid over how NBC and Sony TV handled his exit from the series, and even a few of the difficulties that mired production, but the former show-runner seems to be at his most divulgent today, answering questions from fans in a Reddit thread.
For one, Sony courteously put forth that Harmon could return to 'Community' as a consulting producer, though Harmon was adamant he would have nothing to do with it. Following up on the idea today, Harmon said:
It wouldn't do the show or me any good to be invited back to the show in "any capacity." If they thought I was bad at being in charge, they'd be even more disappointed in my ability to be not-in-charge. I'm a zero-sum personality with very little staff writing experience. I like to create stuff and if people don't like it I like to try to figure out how to make it better but I'm not great at helping other people make their stuff.
Nobody wants Dan Harmon prowling the hallways while they're trying to make Community. It would slow everything down and frustrate everyone because people would feel obligated to mince words and be political in their handling of my opinions and blah blah blah. So no.
Harmon also specified that certain ideas for stories had been juggled between seasons 3 and 4, and that the show's current writers and show-runners were indeed free to continue drawing from the existing well. He clarified that the third season was seen as somewhat of a transition year which moved more and more stories off the Greendale campus, providing other reasons for the characters to interact so as to eventually "complete" the story of Jeff Winger getting his degree.
Perhaps the most interesting controversy of the series lies between Harmon's relationship and infamous spats with series star Chevy Chase, who hadn't originally been considered for the role of Pierce. Specifically, it had been said that Chase walked off the set one day, which led to a very public eruption of the feud, but what exactly was the incident in question?
He refused to do the "tag" for the Digital Estate Planning episode (the 8 bit video game episode). In the scripted tag, Abed comes to Pierce with the thumb drive he took, and says "Pierce, I've been able to adjust some of the code for your Dad's video game and I've made a version I think you might like better." He puts the thumb drive into a laptop in front of Pierce. We cut to the laptop screen, where we see Pierce's avatar on a front lawn with the giant floating head of Cornelius. Every time Pierce presses the space bar, his avatar throws a baseball to his father's head, which gives him a thousand points and a "great job, son!" Pierce presses the space bar a few times, pauses, then leans over and embraces Abed and we fade to black.
When Adam Countee pitched that tag, tears instantly rolled down my cheeks, and in point of fact, my eyes are getting watery describing it to you. It was the most important part of the episode and possibly one of the most important moments of the season. I was very upset to hear that it wasn't shot because someone didn't feel like shooting it, especially since it was literally the last day of shooting, which meant we'd never be able to pick it up. I regret nothing about how upset I got. My job was to care about my show.
The answer I heard from the people on set was that he didn't think it was funny. After he realized how upset I was about it, he said things in voicemails like "there was no script" (untrue) and "I have a weird relationship with the name Cornelius" (dumb, he had no dialogue in the tag). The real answer, I believe, is that he wanted to go home because he was tired. He probably didn't realize he was permanently damaging the episode by doing so because he often walked off set and then we would just pick up his shots later in the week. But this was the final shot of the season. The sets came down after he walked away. So this was the one time in three years that his personality caused unfixable damage to something I really held valuable.
As sad and dividing as the incidents in question were, it's at least nice to have a bit more detail about what ultimately happened. Season 4 of 'Community' will pickup sans Dan Harmon on October 19, so tell us in the comments if you'll still be watching!