So, as y’all know by now of course, Dan Harmon was removed from Community. Well, he’s still gonna get some sort of production credit because he created the show, but he’s gone. Removed. Ghost.
And so what, it’s just a TV show. There are hundreds of them, they happen all the time and have for decades and will, in some form, continue for decades more. Except.
Community as a show was an example of what TV could be: Intensely personal and wildly experimental at the same time, ambitious, daring, funny, touching, and above all worth-while.
Dan Harmon started it. He birthed the show. He gave life to characters that, in a 30 minute weekly network sitcom, grew and changed as often and as steadily as we each do in our lives. And yet it was also a fairly tale, and a haunting premise that life gives us random accidents that can create family.
Harmon is, by all accounts, not easy to work for. I don’t know the man, at all, except through the bits he reveals to the public. And those bits include: He drinks too much, he rants and screams and looses his temper too often, he feels every failure as sharply as a knife to the gut, he regrets every chance he didn’t take full advantage of, and seems to truly wrestle with his own demons at every turn.
Don’t we all, though. Each of us struggles through life, imperfect sacks of slowly rotting meat, trying to find some measure of happiness and chase what dreams we can see in the gloaming as night falls and the ice weasels come.
His reward for slaving away for three years: To be fired from his own creation, without any communication to him prior regarding it.
His reward for fighting his demons and still delivering a show that honestly mattered: To be cast out of his own house and allowed to watch it get held down in a school-yard and taken advantage of by whomever the largest kid sees fit.
His reward for making us laugh and taking every possible risk: To be told that though his creation is possibly still worth something, it is only worth something if he isn’t part of it so it can be changed to something it wasn’t meant to be.
His reward for picking himself up, week after week, episode after episode and trying again though it, from all sources, often depressed and worried him when he decided things fell over more than he wanted them to: To be told that the people who owned the show, the people who he made money for, felt he was the problem, his vision was the problem.
Because yes, Community will be back next fall. It will be “more mainstream.” it will be bastardized and scrubbed clean. Sanitized for your protection and wrapped in gauze until the shuffling victim can only speak in catch phrases and predictable plots. Because of course it will. That’s what we want apparently.
Dan Harmon is each and every one us that ever dreamed big, took risks and was still, failingly and amazingly, human at all times. Did the show deserve cancellation? Probably? I mean, the ratings were not there.
But at no point did it deserve to have its head cut off, its heart cast into the rain and its soul to be stepped. But that’s what we got. That’s what Dan Harmon got and what he has to watch happen now.
So, tonight, think about how it would feel to watch your dream taken away and reshaped by someone else in front of your eyes and remember: It happens and it’s happening to Dan Harmon.
We’re all Dan Harmon, even if some days we’re ashamed to admit, like he does regularly, how often we fall down. And like all of us, like the best of us, Dan Harmon will stand back up and do something even better.
I know that.
But knowing that doesn’t mean I have to like this. Not at all.