Fall TV Preview

NBC Boss Open to More Community, Insists Fans Will Get 'Same Show' Despite Dan Harmon Ouster

CommunityNBC’s top exec insists Community has not been sent to Friday night to die.

At the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, Peacock chairman Robert Greenblatt maintained that the cult fave is not necessarily heading into its final season. “I would love nothing more than for Community to have a following on Friday and continue,” he told reporters, adding that the decision to move the show off Thursdays was part of a larger plan to “broaden the audience” of its sitcoms.

“We’re in a transition with our comedy programming,” he explained. “Those Thursday comedies, which the critics love and we love, tend to be a bit more narrow than we would ultimately like as we go forward. Community has always been on the bubble, and we decided to bring it back and see what a fourth season will do for us.”

Regarding the ouster of showrunner Dan Harmon, Greenblatt said, “I think the fans of Community are going to get the same show that they have loved from the beginning. Every so often, it’s time to make a change with the showrunner. You sort of evaluate the creative and how the show is run and how the writing staff works… [and] sometimes you want to freshen the show. We just decided it was time to do that on Community. No disrespect to anyone.”

Other highlights from NBC’s exec session at press tour…

ELECTION DAZE | NBC will air two live primetime Saturday Night Live election specials on Sept. 20 and 27.

VOICE BURNOUT? | Asked if NBC is concerned about airing two cycles of The Voice per season (one in the fall, another in the winter), Greenblatt argued, “Almost every reality franchise does two cycles a season, and one could argue that American Idol and The X Factor are the same show. We’re obviously cautious about expanding it. But we’ve also done some things to the format to ensure that it’s an even better show.”

STERN WARNING | The addition of Howard Stern on America’s Got Talent didn’t exactly move the ratings needle for the network, but network reality boss Paul Telegdy isn’t complaining. “Given the television landscape,” he said, “we’re thrilled with the perfformance of the show and would be delighted if Howard wants to come back.

TODAY TROUBLES | “Shows go through transitions” that “are always difficult,” Greenblatt said in response to a question about the rocky departure of Ann Curry on Today. “We took as much care as [we] could to make this transition happen. It’s never easy.”

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  1. Felipe says:

    But who said the fans want a “freshen” Community?

  2. Babybop says:

    I hope that Community does really well this season, now that there is nothing for it to compete with on Fridays. It’s a shame that the Thursday night comedies don’t do very well. They’re all very funny. But hey, some of the funniest shows (Arrested Development is a prime example) didn’t get much love when they were on air.

  3. TV Gord says:

    I will remain skeptical until I see the new season. I reserve the right to remain closed-minded when it comes to an un-Harmon-ized Community. ;-)

    • Mcmax3000 says:

      I was skeptical, but the few things that the new showrunners mentioned in the SDCC panel about episodes they had planned for Season Four made me willing to be a bit more open minded.

      The show isn’t going to be the same, but it sounds like they also have some pretty strange ideas that fit right along with some of the stuff that Harmon did in Season Three.

      • liddad says:

        I was actually hopeful when they said they were fans, but then I realized – what could be worse than a couple of fans of the show running it? They said we go to an ‘Inspector Spacetime’ convention… But ‘Inspector Spacetime’ is only a small part of “Community” which is only referenced every so often, and it keeps the references to it funny and exciting – even on rewatching the show.
        It’s like when they tried to humanise Sylar on “Heroes”. It sounds like a good idea at first until you realise Sylar works best as a mysterious bad guy who should have been killed off after 2 or 3 seasons, so the audience doesn’t get bored of him.
        With “Community”, they don’t need to stop making ‘Spacetime’ references, but just to keep them low-key and never actually make it a major plot point so that the fans continue to love ‘Spacetime’, and don’t get bored of it.

  4. Bobby G says:

    This is so exciting Robert Greenblatt realizes that there are shows on NBC other than Smash! Wow! I believe this might be the first time since the upfronts that he acknowledged another show on the network… Good work Greenblatt, fire one of the best showrunners in TV and then tell us that everything is going to be okay. i cannot wait for the comcast brass to fire him, remember what happened to Steve McPherson at ABC, same thing will happen to Greenblatt by 2013!

    • Dizzle says:

      Being a good showrunner and making an incredibly funny TV show are not the same thing, unfortunately…. I have no doubt Dan Harmon is a gifted writer and creator but to be a good showrunner you have to know how to navigate the system and work with the people who pull the pursestrings… by all accounts this is something Harmon unfortunately didn’t learn/want to learn, and regardless of how talented you are, if there’s antagonism there then one side will eventually give. And the people with the money will never be the ones to go. It’s sad and unfortunate but not wholly surprising. I’m just thankful NBC kept Community around rather than just scrapping the entire thing!

  5. TigerNightmare says:

    “No disrespect to anyone.”
    Except for Dan Harmon? I can’t believe this guy. You can’t silence the largest, most important creative force behind something and then say it’s the same. It’s the corn industry taking away sugar all over again.

  6. Oki says:

    They brought in new showrunners because Dan Harmon refused to do the show the way the network and studio wanted. And now we’re supposed to believe that the show will stay the same? Unlikely.

  7. Jake says:

    All of you fans of community have zero right to complain– you are lucky the show is even coming back given its insanely low ratings– 2.5 million viewers and around a 1.3 demo???

    • mcmax3000 says:

      As much as I love the show, and wish Harmon had continued to be a part of it, I can’t deny that this guy makes a pretty good point.

    • TigerNightmare says:

      Oh, I’m sorry, Jake, are we not allowed to have an opinion that’s disagreeable with you?

      • Evolution says:

        Obviously everyone has the right to have their own opinion. And Jake’s is right on the money… I LOVE Community.. but it has ABISMAL ratings.. Out of the Big Four, only NBC would (and has) kept it alive! We ARE lucky it’s coming back!

        • TigerNightmare says:

          I feel like I won a new car without an engine. NBC is lucky they could put a show there that is watched with numbers AS good as Community’s. 30 Rock was there, ratings were worse. I don’t even remember what show they put there before Community debuted. It wasn’t Joey, was it? They should just give up and put The Voice there since that’s the only thing people seem to be watching on the network. At least, people tethered to the all-important Nielsen box.

    • Sally says:

      It’s not our fault we don’t have Nielsen boxes, or that we don’t live in the US. (Canadian here…)

    • Angela says:

      Well, I think we do have the right to say the way things have been handled with the show this year haven’t exactly been brilliant. The show may not have been lighting the ratings on fire, but we had a good niche thing going.
      That being said, however, you are right-we wanted the show back and we got it back. Why abandon it now just because there’s some changes happening?
      I’m hoping Fridays won’t be a death knell for the series, either. I continue to remain optimistic about how these changes will affect the show. And even if this does turn out to be the show’s last season, if it’s full of great episodes, well, then, we’ll have gone out on a great note, at least.

    • Britta Unfiltered says:

      Jake, perhaps you were not aware that Community was its 2nd-highest rated comedy after The Office last spring. NBC is just a very low-rated network, but compared to its other shows, Community was doing quite well.

    • TV Gord says:

      Sorry, Jake. WE fans have EVERY right to complain. Who doesn’t? All of the morons who don’t watch. It’s absurd to blame the people who HAVE been watching? You rolled the die, and it landed on its edge. ;-)

  8. Dizzle says:

    Personally, I love Community BUT… I also felt like sometimes it was too twisted for the sake of just being different, rather than because it was the funniest angle of the story. Im interested to see how the new guys take this on, they’ve got a great comedy pedigree so I’m confident they’ll work out!

  9. Mikaylah says:

    As much as I love Community, I don’t think I’ll be watching it and talking about it with the same zeal I was before. Maybe I’ll catch episodes on Hulu if I’m bored. I just really hate the way networks make decisions and handle situations like this.

  10. Chris says:

    Obviously without the show’s soul, Dan Harmon, we Community fans will NOT be getting the same show. To think we would buy that line, show just how out of touch they are with the fans. The question for the fans will be — do we want a “same” Community without Dan Harmon or are will to except a new Community? And, yes, many Community fans recognize how lucky we are to have the show return due to it’s low ratings — the other question is — should NBC have just let the show end as opposed to bringing it back with new show runners? We’ll find out Oct 19.

  11. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Greenblatt is a pompous liar. The show didn’t need to be freshened. It was not stale in any way. I’m really scared the show comes back next season and we end up seeing a sanitized, cookie cutter version of the show. Some of the ideas they have for plots next year do sound intriguing, but I doubt very much they will have quite the creative spin that Dan was always able to put on them. And it’s not just that they’re losing Dan, they’re also losing a lot of their other producers and writers (like the Russos and Chris McKenna).

  12. godzilla's foil says:

    It’s all a little game. They’d never say anything that remotely resembles “Community has been sent to Friday night to die” and we all pretend we believe, but everybody knows the truth at the same time.

    • godzilla's cling wrap says:

      Ding ding ding! we have the correct answer
      Seriously only the internets could have a story about a tv exec saying exactly what he’s expected to say. Hell Ausiello probably could have scripted the response before he even asked the question.

    • Dizzle says:

      TV is a business, first and foremost. And it makes zero business sense for a television network to actively try and “kill” a show. First of all, why throw money at a four year old show when bringing a freshman series in will be cheaper? Second, why spend time driving that timeslot’s ratings into the dumpster when there’s potential for growth with another show? If NBC were trying to kill Community, they would have just cancelled it. Not renewed it for a fourth season.

      Ten, 15 years ago, Fridays and Saturdays aired some of the weeks best TV. Profiler, Freaks & Geeks, even Everybody Loves Raymond started on Friday nights. Look at Fringe, Grimm and Nikita – three genre shows that would die on any other night with those ratings, but on Fridays their fanbase proves solid and dependable, and the respective networks have kept them on Fridays because on that night, they deliver. I doubt Community will do any worse than it has done on Thursday nights – a 1.4 demo rating on Thursday is a death sentence, but on Fridays that’s above average. Community is a cult show however you cut it, and it’s audience (myself included) will follow it anywhere.

      • TigerNightmare says:

        Fringe, Grimm and Nikita are bad examples. First of all, they’re perpetually on the bubble. Second of all, Fringe’s ratings were something like double or triple they were when it was on Tuesdays. Plus, The CW is a network that probably has the lowest expectations in terms of non-cable ratings, but even their most popular shows get lower ratings on Fridays when they were once on another weeknight.

        As mentioned already, Community is the second-highest rated comedy on the network. If NBC had any of their new shows breakout and get better ratings, Community would be toast. You don’t put a show on Friday to build a larger audience, you put it there to have low expectations.

        While Fridays used to be a more hospitable place for shows, these days, it’s where shows go to die. Fringe ends next season. Smallville moved there for its last season (to predictably lower ratings). Friday Night Lights would have died there two years earlier had it not been for DIRECTV. What I don’t get is why the networks don’t put their megasmash hits on Fridays. If one network tried to be competitive on the night, then the others would follow. Despite what I’d like to happen, I know Idol would survive on Fridays.

        • Dizzle says:

          Yes, Fringe and Nikita got higher ratings on other nights. But the ratings they were getting on those nights were not enough to guarantee longevity. By moving the shows to Friday nights, where they can deliver a smaller BUT solid and reliable audience, it gives them a chance to live a decent run. Would Fringe have made it 5 seasons with those ratings, and the inevitable erosion, on Tuesdays? 100% the answer would be a no. Sunday – Thursday primetime slots are too valuable to leave underperforming shows in them, with Fridays you’ve got room to breathe.

          To counter your point about show’s going to Fridays “to die” – yes there is a certain aspect to this, but –

          Smallville ran for 2 seasons on Friday nights, and had already aired 8 previously. Arguably the show simply being 10 years old is what “killed” it, not airing on Fridays.

          Fringe has run for 2 seasons on Friday nights, and will stay there for it’s final season.

          NBC has launched Grimm on Fridays and kept it there; CBS still has competitive dramas like Blue Bloods and CSI: NY with no signs of them slowing down; ABC is relaunching TGIF with Last Man Standing. None of these networks are purposefully scheduling these shows here so they can die. The hope is that they can get enough eyeballs to justify the advertising dollars, and with Fridays the advertising isn’t as costly, so ratings expectations are lesser. Meaning struggling shows with a devout audience can survive a lot longer than during the week.

      • The Critic says:

        I agree with you. NBC and its executives are fans of the show. They wanted to place the show in a less competitive night to give way for new shows that could have potential, while placing Community in a night where it could most probably survive.

        Community is a cult show much like Grimm. Placing them on Fridays would ensure the shows’ success.

  13. Jason says:

    Anyone with a brain sees this for what it is; an ultimatum. Do as well or better on Fridays or die. Not buying this “freshen” up garbage either. The show was the most original thing on anywhere and not losing an ounce of steam. Even if that were the case Dan Harmon would be the one to make that call, not some suits who think ripping out the heart and changing days will bring in the masses. Writing is on the wall here.