If "Community" premieres in the fall without Dan Harmon at the helm, does "Community" really premiere in the fall?
As Andrew Wallenstein of Variety reports, Harmon's role with the NBC sitcom, whose fourth season will take it to Fridays for the first time, is unclear at this time –– though Harmon's feud with series co-star Chevy Chase does not appear to be the reason.
"I expect Dan's voice to be a part of the show somehow, I'm just not sure if that means he's running it day to day or consulting on it," NBC entertainment prexy Bob Greenblatt said today.
Few TV programs are as indelibly tied to their showrunner as "Community" is to Harmon. There are other combos, such as Matthew Weiner and "Mad Men," Vince Gilligan and "Breaking Bad," but on the comedy side, "Community" is perhaps more unique than any other broadcast network offering. The only halfhour shows that might be harder to imagine without their creators are cable do-it-all projects such as Louis C.K.'s "Louie" on FX or Lena Dunham's "Girls"on HBO.
Adding to the chasm is that two "Community" lieutentants, Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan, are moving on to an overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV, and two more -– Anthony Russo and Joe Russo -- have a new sitcom, "Animal Practice," to focus on. While changes occur at the top rung of TV shows all the time, this isn't like a new season of "Law and Order." No matter where "Community" heads, if it heads there with Harmon in a significantly diminished role, the core viewers will always be wondering if it's the real deal. And of course, without its core viewers, "Community" practically has no viewers at all.
TV negotitations being what they are, perhaps this will end up being only a ripple. After the dust settles, Harmon re-ups in some capacity of sufficient influence, and the next big challenge for "Community" becomes a familiar one: trying to survive beyond its 13th episode of the next season. (The final three episodes of the current season, by the way, all air this coming Thursday.)
But should Harmon's role with the show be ceremonial at best, the outcome will be a smallscreen existential crisis worthy of a "Community" meta-plotline: Ceci n'est pas une "Community."