Upfronts 2012: 'Community' Showrunner Dan Harmon's Status Still In Flux
NBC has picked up Community – the Joel McHale comedy that has a small but devoted following – for a 13-episode fourth season. And while it’s moving to Fridays next season, where it will be paired with freshman laugher Whitney, it’s unclear if Community creator Dan Harmon will be back as showrunner.
NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt told reporters during a conference call on Sunday that conversations with Harmon “are happening as we speak.”
“I except Dan’s voice to be a part of this show somehow,” said Greenblatt. “I’m just not sure if that means him running it day-to-day or consulting on it.”
But Greenblatt denied that Harmon’s feud with series star Chevy Chase has anything to do with Harmon’s indeterminate status.
“I know that was blown up into something,” said Greenblatt. “I don’t really think that would determine him running the show or not - based on one of the actors. I think it’s larger issues that have to do with a lot of things.”
Greenblatt did not elaborate on what exaclty those "larger issues" are. Meanwhile, well-regarded writers-executive producers Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan have exited Community for an overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV.
Harmon’s spat with Chase spilled into public view when Harmon released audio of a profanity laced voice mail during which Chase threatened to “kick [Harmon’s] teeth in.”
Harmon alluded that Chase was drunk when he left the message but apologized for playing it during his Harmontown stage show last month.
"I made the horrible, childish, self-obsessed, unaware, naive and unprofessional decision to play someone’s voicemail to me," Harmon wrote on his blog. "He didn’t intend for 150 people to listen and giggle at it, and I didn’t intend for millions of people to read angry reports about it. I was doing what I always do, and always get in trouble for doing, and always pay a steep price for doing. I was thinking about myself and I was thinking about making people laugh. I was airing my dirty laundry for a chuckle."
Separately, Greenblatt noted that the abbreviated 13-episode orders for multiple returning shows including 30 Rock was not a hedge against the shows’ quality, but rather reflected a priority to get more comedy on the schedule overall. (He also disputed reports that next season would be the last for 30 Rock saying he has not made a decision about an end date for the Tina Fey comedy.)
NBC will open up two more comedy nights – Tuesday and Friday – for four nights of comedy next season with seven new laughers and six returning series including The Office, Parks and Recreation and Up All Night.
“Nothing would make us happier than seeing these 13-episode orders expand to 22 because they’re doing well,” said Greenblatt. “And then we really have an embarrassment of riches. We picked up a lot of new comedies, which is something I wanted to do. The only way to make the math work was to make some of these shows slightly smaller orders.”