Dan Harmon Credits The Fans For Keeping Community On Track In His Absence

If there is one thing that has kept "Community" relevant for this long, besides its clever writing and direction, it's the dedicated fan base. From the #sixseasonsandamovie movement that's still going strong to this day to the show's final season being saved by a defunct streaming service, the fans' vocal support has helped keep "Community" going.

The fans' loyalty throughout the behind-the-scenes drama of "Community" also helped to play a significant role in creator Dan Harmon's return to the show. Departing after season 3 ended, new showrunners replaced Harmon after another disagreement with executives had him removed from the series. A fourth season that felt like a caricature of the Greendale cast did not get the best response from fans.

Following the end of "Community" season 4, Harmon would return to the show for the final two seasons, keeping in the spirit of what came before while also reinventing the show and dynamics of the group to help keep it fresh. According to Dan Harmon, while season 4 may not have been the best received, it helped keep the show true to itself, mainly because of the fans.

The fan service season

"Community" season 4 is the least popular season in theseries, but it still retained the manic energy and attitude that fans had expected from the show up to that point. And Harmon believes that those very fan expectations were a big part of why the show tried so hard to stay true to itself at that point.

Speaking to The Mary Sue when talking about his absence from "Community" season 4 and the approach to the story, Harmon recalled:

"Yeah, I was very flattered and confused by their decision to do what ultimately felt like fan service. [At San Diego Comic-Com 2012, showrunners Moses Port and David Guarascio] stepped out in front of 3,000 people, and I think that energy that hit me a long time ago hit them. And they're like, 'Holy crap, we have to make a certain kind of show for these people. We have to make it personal for them.' That's the positive spin ... And I think they didn't do it because of altruism, [but] because of the viewers."

Harmon's outlook on "Community" season 4 as a labor of love trying to appease fans paints the "gas leak year" of the sitcom in a slightly better light.

Reverse engineering a story

When talking about his process of writing the series in the same interview, Harmon once again brought it back around to being in the point of view of the fans:

"I try to imagine that the characters are real, and I try to imagine myself watching something on television and reacting by saying, 'Holy s***, I can't believe this is on television. This is so good, this is making me so happy.' Then I reverse engineer what would make me react that way."

Dan Harmon understands that fans of "Community" have certain expectations for the format and characters, as did the showrunners on season 4. However, there's also a standard for the quality of the story. The homages, meta-commentary, and dynamics within the Greendale group are all a big part of what makes the show work, but if the story is lacking, fans will have the same adverse reaction they did when season 4 first aired. Plot points, such as Jeff finally meeting his father, wouldn't be explored as fully or as cleverly written compared to previous work on "Community" with Harmon at the helm.

Still, Harmon's glass-half-full attitude regarding season 4 makes sense. Fans of the show expected a level of fun and pop culture homages that they received in large doses with season 4, and that helped to keep the show on track to a certain degree until Dan Harmon's return for the last two seasons.

Now, all we need is that movie.