I am a fan of Community. Let’s get that out of the way first, so I can wave my bias flag freely while trying to make one or two incredibly important points (And a few minor little tidbits)… Hell, this is a rant, really.
Community is one of the few shows on TV that can make me laugh out loud… actually, let me correct that- it is one of the few things anywhere that can make me laugh out loud at all. It surprises me, it can be unpredictable, and I cannot think of anything else like it on TV today. And for that point alone, it is refreshing and a highlight of my week.
To catch up, for those that don’t know, the creator of the series was pretty much fired from the show on Friday night, the day after the season finale. Oh, the people in power said he would still consult; but Dan Harmon, the creator, doesn’t see it that way, and vocally shared with the masses his experience being ousted (you can read his post here).
The funny thing is a lot of what I was seeing TV bloggers and the like write about the incident over this weekend (and I read them like drinking water, since I wanted someone to say what I was thinking, which they didn’t) was not about how Harmon was treated and what it says about the culture around writing and creating for TV, but more of a “Gee, will the show seem different with his departure?”
Yes, the show will be different!
What a stupid thing to ponder.
The creator and visionary behind it is gone! I don’t care how good those writers are that are replacing him (human beings, by the way, that probably knew they were being interviewed to replace him and couldn’t say anything…making them a little questionable in their character, doesn’t it?), it won’t be his direction, his show.
Community, a show that has been building up to a graduation for three years will now have someone else writing the ceremony. Making the next season, truthfully, no better than fan fiction, and that to me is incredibly sad.
Why This Should Make All Artists Angry
Imagine if you will this scenario: After Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book of Harry Potter, the publisher didn’t like the fact that Sirius Black was killed and Harry became all dark and moody. And why did it have to be so long? So they fire JK Rowling and hire another writer to replace her for the rest of the series.
No, you argue that would never happen… Well, it just did to Dan Harmon and Community! The only difference is one was on TV, the other on paper. Breaking it down, it is just simply a creator and their creation being forced apart.
No, Beethoven, someone else can finish the ninth symphony! Your fifth symphony was, I don’t know, a little too dark for us. Bum Bum Bum Baaaa… Really, Ludwig, really?
I’m sorry, Paul and John, the White Album was too out there. We want the Beatles to be more catchy and fun. So we’ve replaced you with the two nice guys from the Turtles. Have you heard “Happy Together?” Doesn’t that make you smile?
Leonardo, this smile… or smirk… or whatever… The museum has decided they don’t like it. We don’t like to confuse our contributors.
Across all artistic mediums, in whatever ridiculous scenario like above, it sucks. And it says something sucky about what it means to be a writer for TV… and that sucky message is you are replaceable.
Sucky, sucky, sucky.
Yes, the writing market is congested. Very congested and has been that way ever since people though they could teach it like a trade via a college course. And TV, more than any other medium chews up and spits out writers like nobody’s business. Don’t want to write for this bad show? You can be replaced. Don’t want to work late? You can be replaced. You want to take your show in a different direction? You can be replaced.
Over the years, I’ve seen people I have respected, not just in writing for television but writing overall, be treated badly by television executives: Aaron Sorkin, Joss Whedon, and now Dan Harmon. And those are just the ones that make the news.
While TV is one of the few avenues where a writer can bring in a paycheck each week; again, this shows it is a not a friendly environment for those wanting to be creative. Consider yourself warned, future writers.
How Not To Fire Someone
I know this conflict around the arts, in one form or another, has been going on since man did his first cave drawing and someone tried to sell tickets to see it.
It’s right brain people vs. left brain people again. Neither side respects the other, or particularly enjoys what the other does (And both think the other can be replaced- We can get another writer! We can get another accountant!). It’s just that with the new social media these clashes have rarely seemed so public before… and so cruel.
Consider, as we learned from that reaction from Dan Harmon that he did not know of his being booted until HE READ IT like everyone else on TV Guide’s Web site! Yes, I have heard the stories that he was difficult to work with and was very hands on and aggressive. And, yes, I think it was not cool to share Chevy Chase’s voicemail with the world, but to fire someone like this for the entire world to see is awesomely bad form.
Think of it this way, would you want to be fired via a Facebook status for all of your friends to see? Well, times that by a few million fans, fellow colleagues, and others and you get why I really feel for Dan Harmon, not just as a writer but as a human being.
That was not cool.
They could have at least attempted to call him before releasing the press release. Yet, the funny thing is they knew what asses they were being to him. If they were ignorant of that fact they would not have released it at 7 PM on a Friday night. No, that time shows they were being sneaky… and, well, bastards.
Granted, after Harmon’s response he will probably not work on TV again, but I would be surprised if he would want to. If this is how little TV executives think of creators and writers, I’m surprised more writers aren’t right now looking into better options for escaping the boob tube. It shows a lack of respect for their skills and talent, and, no matter what NBC may think, not any TV writer can create Community… or a Joss Whedon show… or an Aaron Sorkin show.
What really astonishes me about how this was done is that someone in NBC and Sony must have been expecting this anger from the Community fans and Dan Harmon. This show thrives on its fan and its use of the social media. They could not have been that ignorant. And if they weren’t that mind-numbingly ignorant, it says something even more heart wrenching to the fans-
They just didn’t care how we would feel.
Now I know I am just an average joe with a blog (nothing special with writing aspirations), but when I was studying writing at the University of Southern California I had the choice whether to try my hand in television, and I decided not to. This firing is another moment when I feel confident I made the right call.
Goodbye Community, you were a fun trip.
If you liked reading my article, why not check out some of my books? I had two novels published in the last few years, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here. Thanks for reading!