How Dan Harmon Handled His Return To Community

"Community" had a lot of turbulent behind-the-scenes drama, with the constant arguments with Network Executives eventually leading to Dan Harmon, the creator of the show, parting ways before its fourth season. "Community" season 4 was the first and only season not to have Dan Harmon involved in any capacity, which led to viewers and fans of the show considering the season to be the weakest in the whole series. Harmon would return for the show's final two seasons, and the Harmon-less fourth season was comedically referred to as the year of the "gas leak."

The season 4 slander wouldn't end there, either. In the series finale, "Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television," the movie-loving Abed (Danny Pudi) says one "cool" for every season. When Chang (Ken Jeong) asks to do it again, Abed says the fourth "cool," immediately followed by a fart from Chang. The show's irreverence to itself is part of its charm, with Harmon and the rest of the team behind the show recognizing the drop in quality between seasons. The question remains, how difficult was it for Harmon to reintegrate himself into the world of Greendale Community College following his return for season 5? The short answer is: not that hard at all.

A natural comeback

In an interview with The Mary Sue, Dan Harmon talked about returning to "Community" after taking such a long break from the characters. Lucky for Harmon, none of the fundamentals of the show had changed, making a comeback easier on the creator:

"It felt natural enough to come back. Season four didn't redefine so much that any kind of juggling act needed to happen creatively. Canonically speaking, Jeff graduated, which was a good thing, and Pierce left the show. So those were the only things we had to figure out."

"Community" had its premise centered on Jeff Winger's (Joel McHale) need to get a legitimate bachelor's degree so he could continue his law career. Season 4 finally brought that big story point to a close so as not to feel like the characters were stuck in place or the show was dragging. Chevy Chase's uneasy relationship with the cast and crew of the show led to his departure, which would need to be explained in the show. While the fundamentals of "Community" hadn't changed, there were loose threads that Harmon would have to deal with when writing the first episode of season 5.

New structure, same characters

Harmon would elaborate on figuring out the narrative of the season 5 premiere, stating that this far into the show's lifespan, the characters are already well-developed enough on their own. It was only a matter of deciding where the story would take them:

"Writing the first episode was kind of difficult narratively, to figure out what the story would be and how to structure it. But in general, those actors are in charge of themselves, and those characters are already alive. You can't really do much about them. You just kind of come up with stories and jokes for them."

Season 5 would take a different approach to the structure of "Community," with the premiere episode titled "Repilot." Jeff would move from being a student at Greendale to becoming a teacher, while the rest of the study group would re-enroll at Greendale to pursue new majors. Dan Harmon returned to the show like he never left, providing a fresh new take on the series while staying true to the characters audiences had grown to love.

The sixth and final season of "Community" would continue the structure introduced in season 5 while also providing closure to the series. While Dan Harmon may have missed a season, that didn't stop the creator of the show from using it to his advantage for meta-jokes that fit all too well with the brand of humor you expect from a show like "Community."