Many a fan of NBC's cult comedy series Community is probably uncomfortably familiar by now with the saga of costar Chevy Chase stirring up trouble behind the scenes, the most infamous example being his tempestuous relationship with ex-showrunner and creator Dan Harmon.
Moreover, Chase's public disparaging of the show-making process - and dismissal of the show as amounting to "a sitcom on television, which is probably the lowest form of television" - has left members of Community's limited, but fiercely-loyal, fanbase waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, it appears as though it has at last.
Deadline has been informed that Chase and the Community producers (which also includes the newly-appointed co-showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port) are indeed "parting ways by mutual agreement." This announcement follows on the heels of a report from last month, revealing that Chase dropped the N-word during a recent on-set tirade - one prompted by his disgruntlement over scripted lines for his character, Pierce Hawthorne, which the actor deemed too offensive.
To be frank, Chase's premature departure from Community has seemed inevitable for a while now. The show's second season concluded on a cliffhanger, with Pierce acknowledging that he no longer wanted to be a member of 'The Greendale Seven' after both his and their dysfunctional behavior over the past year. Thereafter, the character was brought back for season three; however, his role in the over-arching narrative (and even episodic proceedings) was noticeably downplayed - with few exceptions, such as Pierce's discovery that he has a half-brother in the "Digital Estate Planning" episode.
By the sound of it, the Pierce character in season four isn't so much stagnant (like in season three); rather, he actually regresses back to his clueless non-PC antics in the first couple of seasons. Hence, it might be for the best that Chase just steps away from the series - even without taking his off-screen deeds into consideration - as the Community showrunners seem unable to create any more compelling material for him (unlike the rest of the core cast).
Deadline is reporting that the majority of filming on season four of Community has been finished by now, so presumably steps have been taken to account for Pierce's absence from the show in the last handful of episodes. Indeed, his departure might be one of numerous developments that take place in order to properly wrap things up on the show - which, in all likelihood, won't be getting a fifth season, due to its niche appeal and smaller ratings (and that prediction comes from someone who is a steadfast supporter of the series).
Harmon did take steps to bring some closure to the lives of the oddball students at Greendale Community College in the show's season three finale (in case it wasn't renewed for a fourth season). Hopefully, the additional episodes won't diminish the satisfying vibe left by the last one that was produced under Harmon's watch - not to mention, avoid invoking the love-it-or-hate-it reactions from fans that the unexpected fifth season of Fringe has prompted.
Community season 4 will premiere on Thursday, February 7th, 2013 @ 8 p.m. on NBC.