There are lots of big changes in store for Community fans in the fall. Series creator Dan Harmon was (very publicly) fired, and replaced by two new showrunners. The length of the upcoming fourth season has been reduced to thirteen episodes, instead of the usual twenty-two to twenty-five. And last but definitely not least, Community will be moving to Friday nights, with the dreaded Whitney as its new lead-in program.
NBC brass seems unmoved by the incredibly negative fan reaction to these changes, and Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, was dispatched to defend the network's decisions to a gathering of the Television Critics Association earlier today:
"We’re in a transition with our comedy programming and trying to broaden the audience and broaden what the network does. Those Thursday comedies, which the critics love and we love, tend to be a bit more narrow than we’d ultimately like as we go forward. Community has been a show that’s always on the bubble [to return] and we decided to bring it back again and see what a fourth season would do for us. The reason we did 13 episodes [of Community and other shows] is we wanted to get more comedies on the schedule … which isn’t to say we couldn’t decide at some point to extend those seasons longer.”
So, the door has been left open for Community to receive its "back nine" episodes. Normally, I wouldn't much stock in a statement like that, but with NBC's continuing failure to create new hit shows, the odds are actually fairly good we'll see a normal length season of Community. The question now is, will we still want to?
Greenblatt continued - "I think fans of Community are going to get the same show they have loved from the beginning. Every so often it’s time to make a change with a showrunner … you evaluate the creative … sometimes you want to freshen a show and we decided to do that with Community – no disrespect to anyone. I would love nothing more than Community to have a following on Friday and be able to continue [beyond season four]. Shows like Whitney and Up All Night were steps in the right direction and that’s why they’re back. It [can] take more than a couple seasons for a show to creatively find itself.”
While I wish Harmon had returned, I still can't really blame NBC too much for his exit. I mean, you can't just publicly insult your co-workers and boss and expect to remain employed. I can't say as I agree with the choice of David Guarascio and Moses Port as the new creative heads, but I'm willing to give them a chance. Although I can't help but laugh at the idea that the nearly universally reviled Whitney is somehow a step in the right direction for NBC comedy.
Will Community still be as funny when it returns?