It's no secret that Community creator Dan Harmon won't be back for the NBC comedy series' fourth season this fall (producers David Guarascaio and Moses Port are taking over), but the producer is finally speaking out and reflecting on the network's decision to fire him from his own show. Basically, it comes down to show business and the need for high ratings in order to keep a series alive. Harmon knows that he was not giving NBC or Sony Pictures Television the results they required and admits, "I would have fired me."
Harmon's not looking to apologize or beg for another chance at the Peacock network. In fact, the firing really didn't affect his career in TV outside of Community. Harmon talked to KCRW's The Business (via THR) and said:
"All of the networks came a-calling. Everyone in basic cable, especially. Once you have a three-season show, it really doesn’t matter that there's some rumor circulated out there by the people who made the strange decision to fire you -- of course they’re going to create the idea that we were difficult to work with."
And while Harmon doesn't flat out admit that he's not an easy guy to work with (his public fight with cast member Chevy Chase probably didn't help) he does touch on some of his potentially "self-destructive" behavior that might make it seem like he's difficult to work with, mainly his writing of blog posts and public statements that started with claims that he wasn't good at his job. It was that kind of talk that Sony believed and Harmon comments, "Sony was always so bummed out about the way I wrote and thought, and they always fantasized about doing the show without me."
And for those who were glad that Community didn't get canceled in addition to Harmon's firing, his talk about the reasoning might make you change your tune. Obviously, Harmon is bias when it comes to this matter, but he points out that the network ordering only a 13-episode fourth season (which brings the total to 88 episodes) is basically them saying, "We’re going to smother it with a pillow very quietly." The partial season order is mostly due to the fact that it'll make the show more appealing for syndication.
NBC will consider more episodes for this season, or perhaps even a whole new season, if the show performs. With Community being bumped from Thursdays to Fridays however, an air date that usually spells doom for most series (Fringe being the biggest recent exception to the rule), expectations on future seasons are considerably low.
Harmon knows that when it comes down to it, he wasn't getting the kind of response, at least in ratings, that the network or studio wanted to see.
"Sony’s job is to take that shot clock and do whatever they can with it. They’re not going to hand the ball to the guy that spent three years losing in the ratings race and not turning a script over until I felt it was finished. If your ratings are high and there’s money being made, you’re allowed to be a perfectionist in television."
And if the new showrunners fail, then the network will be even more justified in their short order for Community's assumed final season without Dan Harmon, and there won't be any regrets. Well, there is one regret. As Harmon says, "I think I would have made a little bit more of fun with the people that I’ll obviously never work with again."