It seems as though the promise of series creator Dan Harmon returning to Community for season 5 of the cult sitcom wasn't enough to keep Donald Glover a full time student at Greendale Community College, as the actor's representatives have announced he will only be appearing in a handful of episodes of the upcoming season.
Glover has been hinting at a reduced role in the series since June and now, thanks to an agreement that was reached between the actor and Sony Pictures Television (the company that produces Community), he will be able to split his time between his duties as Troy Barnes and other interests like his musical career as Childish Gambino and developing a new semi-autobiographical comedy with NBC.
Although Glover was under contract for all of season 5, according to Vulture, his commitment has now been set at just 5 of the season's proposed 13 episodes. The reduction of Glover's obligation to the series may seem like it leaves Community in a bit of a lurch, but as Sony won't have to compensate him for every episode, there'll be some cash freed up, which can be used for other things like guest stars or, possibly, additional episodes – though that sort of thing would likely be decided at a later date.
Glover's move may come as a surprise to some, since NBC just negotiated a deal in June that would have Dan Harmon and executive producer Chris McKenna return to the series after a behind the scenes imbroglio saw Harmon exit the series after season 3, while McKenna left in 2012 after signing a two-year deal with Universal Television. As most know, David Guarascio and Moses Port (Just Shoot Me, Happy Endings and Aliens in America) ran season 4, which had many fans, critics, and certainly Dan Harmon, feeling as though the show had lost much of its voice and distinctiveness. The fact that Glover was looking to reduce his role even though Sony made an effort – based partially on its desire to please the cast – to bring Harmon back suggests it wasn't creative differences or disappointment with season 4 that led to his decision, but simply a desire to move on to more personal undertakings.
Community is now set to begin a season many thought would be unlikely, but it will do so (partially) without two of its stars. Along with Glover's reduced role, season 5 will be without Chevy Chase, as he left the series last season following negative remarks he made about the show-making process and some of the series' scriptwriting, which, of course, followed coverage of Chase's rather tumultuous relationship with Harmon.
So it seems that while Harmon is returning to tell the ongoing story of Greendale Community College, the campus will be somewhat different than when he left. With any luck, he'll be able to make the most of Glover's 5 episodes and help bring back the series' rabid fanbase, so they can push for the coveted sixth season (and a movie).
Community is scheduled for a midseason premiere on NBC.