Chevy Leaves Community: I continue to shrug
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(Lainey: last May, Maria and Sarah point-counterpointed about Community. Click here and here for those articles. This is Maria’s counterpoint to Sarah’s article, posted earlier today, about Chevy Chase’s departure.)
After a protracted temper tantrum, Chevy Chase has finally left Community. The show is pretty much done anyway, with most thinking this season will be the last (EW reported that the season finale has been filmed, with Chevy included, but there are still two more to shoot; TV is confusing).
Sarah wrote earlier that it sucks that Chevy was the bigger dick [in relation to Dan Harmon] and he got to stick around until the (almost) end. Mostly, yes. Chevy was quick to voice his dislike of the show and writing, and even though I agree with his take on the creative aspects of the show, I am loathe to side with a batsh-t crazy old dude who has received very few kind words from colleagues. Chevy’s a turd to work with, and this has been proven time and again (he recently went on a set rampage and used the N-word in reference to how much he dislikes the racist direction of his character – way to prove your point, I guess?).
Chevy wasn’t the least bit interested in the show as an actor or comedian, didn’t think it was funny and was probably avoided (and disliked) by the rest of the cast. Chevy’s not “in” on the joke, so does that make him the source of all discontent? I picture him more as a grumpy old fart yelling to everyone within earshot about craft services running out of his favourite snacks. But Harmon loyalists and Community fans can now have the perfect scapegoat in Chevy.
Dan Harmon did engage in the Chevy Chase nonsense, it was never just about Community. He has a giant ego too and he’s said himself that his self-destructive behavior led to a reputation of him being difficult. A profile in Wired last year described him to be “dismissive of some of the show’s directors, has meltdowns in the editing bay, and drinks during the day, a fact he attributes to his unusual hours”, though the writer noted that “despite having been around Harmon while he’s drinking—and drinking with him—I’ve never seen him actually drunk”. Fans say Community’s magic came from Harmon, so… is it safe to say some of the nastier parts came from him, too?
But I come back to my original take on Community: I don’t like it because it’s the smuggest guy in the room. And that smugness stemmed from Dan Harmon, who knew he was creating a show most networks would scoff at airing. He reveled in it, as it gave him great range to do whatever the f-ck he wanted. He kept Chevy after issues started popping up, when he could have had fired him or reduced his role. It’s not like it would have been hard to get rid of him either -- Chevy didn’t seem too keen on staying. If Harmon exercised such control over the show, why not fire Chase or reduce his role? Chevy was an actor in an ensemble; if Chuck Lorre replaced Charlie Sheen, you’re telling me Dan Harmon couldn’t replace Chevy Chase?
So was Harmon a glutton for punishment, a martyr, or just naïve to the network’s dislike of him?
Community knows it’s smarter than most network shows, and it played to that again and again. But being smart doesn’t make you the funniest thing on TV. I get the feeling that it’s a very clever set, and everyone thinks they are just doing the most subversive work on TV – as if they are purposely building a cult classic.
Ultimately, these behind-the-scenes issues will only make the Community myth stronger -- and Chase and Harmon get to play villain and martyr. It’s something the fans can argue about and analyze for years -- how the drama played into and inspired the show. They get to play “What if” ad nauseam. What if Chevy had never been cast? What if Dan didn’t get fired? What if Dan had Chevy replaced?
If this last season sucks, it’s because Harmon left. If it’s really great, it’s because Harmon laid the groundwork for brilliance. A legend is born.