Some of the drama behind the making of Sony and NBC's continuing education comedy show Community has been almost as fascinating to watch as the show itself. Creator and showrunner Dan Harmon was unceremoniously fired from the show after season 3, and he subsequently issued an account of his deposition in which he stated flatly: "I'm not saying you can’t make a good version of 'Community' without me, but I am definitely saying that you can’t make my version of it."
Harmon was recently reinstated as showrunner in time for the start of production on season 5, hinting in his announcement that star Joel McHale had thrown his weight around a little to help bring the show's original creator back. Anyone who was expecting Harmon to be a little more mellow with his public statements was probably being optimistic, though, as Harmon laid into season 4 of the show on his Harmontown podcast earlier this week, comparing the experience of watching the show to "being held down and watching your family get raped on a beach."
Though there is admittedly a slightly guilty pleasure in listening to a TV creative who apparently doesn't have much of a PR filter between his brain and his mouth, Harmon has conceded in the past that his habit of lashing out unthinkingly is "self-destructive."
Whether you liked the fourth season of Community or agree with Harmon's assessment of it as a pale imitation of its former self, there's no denying that Harmon's words were unnecessarily harsh and potentially hurtful to both the cast and crew who worked on the show during his absence.
Harmon acknowledged this, and has issued an apology on "Dan Harmon Poops," his personal blog:
"My apolotweets might not have fit the scale of the crime for some, so I’m following them up with one of my patented apoloblogs...
"I am first and foremost sorry to 'Community' fans that got paid nothing to stick by 'Community' and get us to a fifth season only to hear the incoming showrunner say some stuff that felt very un-'Community'... Obviously the solution is to stop talking about my job in my podcast until production is safely complete. That will protect the show you love, and your love of it, from the creator with the Mouth from PR Hell...
"Next I want to apologize to the people that did get paid to work on that season, but not enough: the cast and crew. I get personal value out of being as honest as possible, but, honestly, how honest was what I said? It was dishonest to imply that something you worked on was as hard to watch as my family being assaulted. I was riffing and tried to turn darkness into levity through shock and hyperbole... I wasn’t thinking about your contribution or describing it. I was just indulging my petty feelings about being left out. It seemed kind of funny at the time because it seemed at the time like I was the only person with feelings. Because my head was up my ass...
"Thirdly, because they got paid more, but still not enough, the season 4 writers. I’m sorry I pooped on your work. You had to do something nobody should have to attempt, and you had the option of doing it the lazy way or the sellout way and you clearly did what you did because you were thinking of the fans...
"Almost lastly, I have to address this 'rape joke' concept. I have to address it because it looks like if I don’t say anything, it could send the wrong message to people with an understandable passion for the subject. This is a subject that is, and should be, insanely volatile and provocative, because it combines the words 'rape' and 'joke"... It’s kind of hard to think of oneself as being 'pro rape joke.' Don’t want to be that guy."
The full blog post is quite long but worth a read, as it's an eloquent, funny and well-written apology (it's probably not unfair to point out, since Harmon essentially said it himself, that the reason he's good at writing apologies is because he has to make them so often). Whether or not he will hold true to his promise to think before he speaks in the future is a little more uncertain, but at least the sentiment is there.
Harmon doesn't exactly have a reputation for pulling any verbal punches, and this isn't the first time that his mouth has got him into trouble. Shortly before his departure from the show, Harmon found himself in a fairly high profile feud with star Chevy Chase, after Chase walked off the set before they could finish filming the final episode. At the season wrap party, Harmon reportedly retaliated by making a "F**k you, Chevy" speech at the wrap party in front of Chase's wife and daughter, and Chase hit back with an extremely angry and profanity-ridden voicemail.
Chase exited season 4 of the show early and it's not looking too likely that he'll return along with Harmon. Both Pierce and Jeff graduated from Greendale Community College during the last episode, and while it's almost certain that McHale will be back for season 5 on some pretense, Pierce's role in the show could be considered to have reached a decent conclusion already.
Are you satisfied with Harmon's apology? Did you agree with his original criticisms of season 4, or do you just wish he'd learn to stop putting his foot in his mouth?
Community will likely return air fall 2013 on NBC.