Much like slowly watching your favorite uncle pass away, fans of Community finally saw the death of their beloved show last week. As one of those said fans, I wasn’t really as disappointed as I would have expected. After all, shouldn’t five seasons warrant the Five Stages of Loss?
Even though I’ve seen quite a few sitcoms either get cancelled or end their runs, I don’t think one really gets used to watching their favorite characters and settings walk off the screen.
When Arrested Development was cancelled, I hit that Denial Stage pretty hard, re-watching all three seasons obsessively as if each episode were new (to be fair, it was a show that rewarded such behavior).
Fortunately, I never had to move past that stage, as the show was eventually resurrected by Netflix.
A lesser known sitcom on Fox, Traffic Lightwas cancelled after a short first season. I was and still am in the Anger Stage on this one. It was just too short. I can’t even re-watch this show on Netflix, because…it’s…just…errrr. Too soon.
30 Rock’s end, although sad, was much more about the Bargaining Stage. I convinced myself that this would allow Tina Fey to be in more movies and eventually create 200 more brilliant sitcoms. Or at leasttwo for now.
Although the post-Steve Carell seasons left something to be desired, the end of The Office left me in a state that was as close to the Depression Stage as any sitcom could ever create. It was just so good for so long that not having it left a hole in my sitcom viewing schedule that none have quite been able to fill since.
But for all the possible stages of grief, the loss of Community some how skipped the first four and landed smoothly into Acceptance. I share many sentiments with Time’s James Poniewozik, as the show’s run produced many more great moments and episodes than a show of its specificity and unique voice should have been allowed on a major network. If I were to relate it to food, it was a great three course meal, with two bonus courses. Sure the fourth course needed more salt and appeared to be created by a different chef, but at least the fifth course brought back some cohesiveness that reminded you of why you decided to eat at that restaurant to begin with.
However, for me, the reason I don’t feel any loss is primarily because the creator of Community, Dan
Harmon, has a weekly live show/podcast called Harmontown. Normally, we relate and attach ourselves to shows because we’re connecting with the creator/showrunner’s vision. However, this vision is generally filtered through a room of other writers, producers, network executives, and sometimes preferences of advertisers.
Not with Harmontown. The podcast gives fans an authentic taste of Dan Harmon, for better or worse. And at this point in my life, an unfiltered 90-minute podcast that I can listen to during my commute is more valuable to me than a 22-minute network sitcom.
There’s something freeing about the format and knowing that Dan is being Dan; knowing that there’s nobody looking over his shoulder, editing content, or suggesting material. Without actually doing the research to back it up, it’s also liberating to think that this type of entertainment was probably the only form hundreds (thousands?) of years ago. When there were no “shows” or “performances” other than conversations about one’s day fishing, hunting, or courting a sexy cavewoman (or man). It feels as if life is coming around, completing a Joseph Campbell-esque story circle.
Granted, I realize without Community there would be no Harmontown, but people evolve, tastes change, and you learn to accept things that you wouldn’t have accepted three years ago. And given that the nature of podcasts allow a certain freedom, fortunately we’ll never have to worry about Harmontown being cancelled by anyone other than Dan Harmon.
Evan is an alumnus of the 2013 Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop and writer of sitcoms, screenplays, and blog posts about food/film/popculture. His sitcom pilots "Faculty & Staff" and "Mergers & Accusations" have previously won Silver Prizes in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. His work has also made it to the second round of the Austin Film Festival and the semi-finals of the L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival. When not writing, Evan can be found chained to a desk in Virginia, working for a commercial finance company.